By Patrick R. Frank - Founding member - Route 99 Association of California
The historic route 99 began as a horse and stagecoach trail extending from Mexico to Canada. Originally, it was called the Pacific Highway, the Golden Chain Route and the Highway of Three Nations, linking from Mexicali (Baja California), Mexico, through the States of California, Oregon, Washington, and ending in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada.
As automobiles were being mass produced during the early 1920's, a definitive United States Highway system was needed for the promotion of commerce and tourism.
The year was 1926, when the Pacific Highway was designated to become US No. 99, a part of the U.S. road network. However the U.S. highway shields didn't occur in California, until January of 1928. The division of Highways assigned the signing responsibility to the Automobile Clubs, at the organization's expense, until 1934.
These National Highways brought growth and prosperity to the States. Many towns and businesses developed along these corridors, making it convenient for the tourist and businessman alike. With the advent of the Interstate system, many towns and businesses were nearly dealt a death blow, when the faster freeways bypassed or inundated the areas.
The corridor was in full operation until May of 1964. After that, it was the twilight years of the US highway 99 system.
In California a route renumbering program (called the Collier Senate Bill No.64) was passed by the State legislature on September 20th, 1963. The purpose of this act was to eliminate shields of multiple routes on one highway and make it a simpler system.. This law authorized the beginning of the de-certification of US 99. The first section to have shields removed was from Mexicali to Las Angeles, being replaced by Routes I-10 and California State Routes 86 and 111. In early 1967, US 99 was down graded (on the section from Wheeler Ridge to Red Bluff) to State Highway status. The rest of it was replaced by I-5, renumbered and relinquished to the local jurisdictions.
Starting in 1967, Washington did the same thing as California. Finally, in 1972, Oregon declassified the final portion, which brought an end to the US 99 era. Over the years, as towns were drying up and losing tax base moneys, nostalgia minded people were conducting studies on trying to bring back tourism, businesses and the re-certification of US 99. Finally in 1993 a private group called the Historic Route 99 Association of California was formed. That year the group, under the direction of Doug Pruitt, President of the Association, initiated a movement called the Historic US 99 Concurrent Resolution No.19. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Stan Statham of Oak Run, California. After all the hearings through the different committees, the resolution was passed and filed (under Chapter 72) with the Secretary of State on September 3rd, 1993. This passage allows Historic US 99 shields to be erected on former sections of the route, with non state funds. Cal-Trans may accept contributions from private and local agencies, individuals, and federal grants.
Many historic markers have already been placed in cities such as Calexico, Indio, Redlands, Los Angeles, Glendale, Burbank, San Fernando, Cottonwood, Dunsmuir, and Shasta Springs.