Santa Clara County Expressway System

Santa Clara County Expressway System

The Santa Clara County Expressway System is a unique system of high-capacity, partially controlled-access roads in Santa Clara County, California (in the United States). The routes were built by the county government and carry county route numbers beginning with G.


The expressways are as follows:

;Almaden Expressway (G8) :a north-south route from near Downtown to the Almaden Valley in San Jose. Intersects with SR 87, Capitol Expressway, and SR 85.

;Capitol Expressway (G21) :a north-south route from East San Jose officially terminating at SR 87 in San Jose. Intersects with I-680, US 101, SR 82, and SR 87. Not to be confused with "Capitol Avenue", beginning at an intersection with Capitol Expressway, ending in Milpitas.

;Central Expressway (G6):an east-west route from Santa Clara, through Sunnyvale and Mountain View, to Palo Alto. At the Palo Alto border, it becomes Alma Street, which does not meet expressway standards. Intersects with San Tomas Expressway, Lawrence Expressway, SR 85, and SR 237. As Alma Street in Palo Alto it intersects with Oregon Expressway and El Camino Real (SR 82).

;Foothill Expressway (G5):a southeast-northwest route running diagonally from Los Altos to Palo Alto. Intersects with I-280 and Page Mill Road/Oregon Expressway.

;Lawrence Expressway (G2):a north-south route from Sunnyvale, through Santa Clara, Cupertino, and San Jose to Saratoga. Intersects SR 237, US 101, Central Expressway, SR 82, and I-280.

;Montague Expressway (G4):an east-west route from Milpitas through San Jose's North Valley neighborhood, to Santa Clara. Intersects with I-680, I-880 and US 101. Continues from the western terminus as San Tomas Expressway.

;Page Mill Road / Oregon Expressway (G3) :a north-south route in Palo Alto. Intersects with US 101, Central Expressway (as Alma Street), SR 82, Foothill Expressway, and I-280. Formally called Page Mill Road to the west of Birch Street (between El Camino Real and the Caltrain tracks) and Oregon Expressway to the east of Birch Street.

;San Tomas Expressway (G4):a north-south route from Santa Clara through San Jose, to Campbell. Intersects with US 101, Central Expressway, SR 82, and SR 17, and continues from the northern terminus as Montague Expressway.


The expressways are the result of a "trafficways" study conducted by De Leuw, Cather and Company at the request of the county Board of Supervisors in July 1957. [Charles S. McCaleb, "Rails, Roads & Runways: The 20-Year Saga of Santa Clara County's Transportation Agency," (San Jose: Santa Clara County Transportation Agency, 1994), 117.] The study took over a year and the final report was submitted to the Board of Supervisors on January 15, 1959. [Charles E. De Leuw, Letter to the Board of Supervisors, "Trafficways Plan for Santa Clara County, California" (San Francisco: De Leuw, Cather and Company, 1959), i.]

The De Leuw study was further developed into a complex three-phase plan by a County Trafficways Committee convened in July 1959. [McCaleb, 119.] In August 1960, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the three-phase plan and integrated it into the County General Plan. [McCaleb, 119.] A $70 million bond issue backed by local property taxes was approved by the electorate in March 1961, and construction on Phase I began that same year. [McCaleb, 119-120.] The current network represents nearly all of what was planned for Phase I. [McCaleb, 122.]

Like all California expressways, the county expressways have minimal driveway access but are dominated by at-grade intersections. There are also a few true grade-separated intersections and interchanges. However, only Central Expressway has several such intersections in consecutive order, so that portions of it are like a small freeway (this was because the city of Sunnyvale demanded that its portion of Central be grade-separated and paid for the extra cost). [McCaleb, 121.]

County engineer Jim Pott is credited for leading the development of three major innovations: the planting of flowers in the expressway medians, the "square loop," and the construction of bike lanes along most of the expressways. [McCaleb, 122-123.] The square loop ramp design refers to the "squaring" of what would normally be two separate cloverleaf ramps (one for a left-turn movement and one for a right-turn movement) into a single two-lane road with a very sharp right-angle bend. Although this design is somewhat slower and less safe, it enabled the county to sell the land inside the loop to private owners, who could then develop it for productive use.

Most of the expressways have speed limits of 45-50 mph (70-80 km/h). Although most of the system is covered by local police, the county hired the California Highway Patrol to patrol expressway segments with HOV lanes, because local police were too busy to enforce the special HOV restrictions. [McCaleb, 126.] In 1997, the Legislature authorized the county to hire the CHP to patrol any segment of the system. [ [ California Vehicle Code § 2400.7] .]

The county expressways are frequently confused by bewildered visitors with freeways, so that they often characterize Silicon Valley as overrun with freeways when half the lines on the map are really expressways. See the articles on freeways and expressways for more information about the difference between the terms.

Phases II and III would have resulted in the upgrading of the expressways to full freeway status, but in 1967, the Board of Supervisors made the decision to finance Phase II with a $10 vehicle registration fee on all vehicles registered in Santa Clara County. [McCaleb, 123.] Within a year, county residents had passed a referendum canceling the fee, and the tax revolt movement of the 1970s would soon make the issue of financing Phase II politically dangerous. [McCaleb, 123.] Since then, the county has concentrated on maintaining the existing system and making incremental improvements like adding carpool lanes and adding grade separations at the most congested intersections. [McCaleb, 125-127.]

Expressways not under county control

In addition to the county expressways, there is Southwest Expressway, which travels from I-280 in the Midtown neighborhood southwest to Bascom Avenue near Campbell. However, Southwest Expressway is a San Jose street, paid for with city, not county, funds. It is patrolled by the San Jose Police Department. Housing fronts directly on this street, and the Vasona light rail line and freight railway run immediately parallel to the roadway.

ee also

* List of California State Routes
* List of California County Routes
* Santa Clara County, California
* Blossom Hill Road (G10), no longer maintained by the county and is now city street along its entire length.

External links

* [ Comprehensive County Expressway Planning Study (]
* [ - County Routes "G"]


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