California State Route 78

California State Route 78

State Route 78 marker

State Route 78
SR 78 heads east from I-5 past I-15 and passes near Brawley before slowly curving north to Blythe, ending at I-10.
State Route 78 highlighted in red
Route information
Defined by S&HC § 378
Maintained by Caltrans
Length: 215.39 mi[2] (346.64 km)
Existed: 1934[1] – present
Major junctions
West end: I-5 in Oceanside
  I-15 in Escondido
SR 79 at Julian
SR 86 in Brawley
East end: I-10 near Blythe
Highway system

State highways in California(list • pre-1964)
History • Unconstructed • Deleted • Freeway • Scenic

SR 77 SR 79

State Route 78 (SR 78) is a state highway in the U.S. state of California in the United States (U.S.) that runs from Oceanside east to Blythe, traversing nearly the entire width of the state. Its western terminus is at Interstate 5 (I-5) in San Diego County and its eastern terminus is at I-10 in Riverside County. The route is a freeway through the heavily populated cities of northern San Diego County and a two-lane highway running through the Santa Rosa Mountains to Julian. In Imperial County SR 78 travels through the desert near the Salton Sea and passes through the city of Brawley before turning north and passing through an area of sand dunes on the way to its terminus in Blythe.

SR 78 was one of the original state highways designated in 1934, although portions of the route existed as early as 1900. However, it was not designated east of Brawley until 1959. The freeway section in the North County of San Diego that connects Oceanside and Escondido was built in the middle of the twentieth century in several stages, including a transitory stage known as the Vista Way Freeway, and has been improved several times. There are many projects slated to improve the freeway due to increasing congestion in that region. An expressway bypass of the city of Brawley is also under construction.


Route description

State Route 78 is designated as Ronald Packard Parkway (after a former Congressman named Ronald Packard from the area) from I-5 in the city of Oceanside to I-15 in the city of Escondido,[3] and Ben Hulse Highway (after a former state senator named Ben Hulse) from SR 86 near Brawley to I-10 near the city of Blythe.[4] The portion of SR 78 from SR 86 in Brawley to County Route S3 (CR S3) near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is designated as part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail auto tour route, promoted by the National Park Service.[5][6] SR 78 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System,[7] although only the metropolitan section of SR 78 is a freeway. The section of SR 78 from the western junction of SR 79 to the western junction with SR 86 is designated by the California State Legislature as eligible by law for the State Scenic Highway System;[8] however, only the section in Anza Borrego Desert State Park has officially been designated by Caltrans as being part of the system.[9]

State Route 78 begins in Oceanside as a continuation of Vista Way. As it encounters a traffic signal and crosses over I-5, the route becomes a suburban freeway traveling east through Oceanside.[10] The freeway loosely parallels Buena Vista Creek before entering the city of Vista. The freeway then turns southeast, continuing into the city of San Marcos near California State University San Marcos and entering Escondido, where it has an interchange with I-15. After passing the Center City Parkway (I-15 Business) interchange, the freeway abruptly ends at the intersection with Broadway. SR 78 then makes a turn south onto Broadway and continues through downtown Escondido by turning east onto Washington Avenue and south onto Ash Street, which becomes San Pasqual Valley Road.[11]

Under clear skies, vehicles travel on the freeway. Brush surrounds the freeway, but buildings can be seen in the distance.
State Route 78 in Oceanside at El Camino Real overpass

Turning east once again, SR 78 leaves the Escondido city limits and enters the San Pasqual Valley as it provides access to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and San Pasqual Battlefield State Park. After leaving the San Pasqual Valley, the road follows a serpentine alignment, heading south to enter the community of Ramona as Pine Street. In Ramona, SR 78 intersects SR 67 and makes a turn east onto Main Street, going through downtown Ramona. The highway leaves Ramona as Julian Road, which continues on a winding mountain alignment through Witch Creek to Santa Ysabel where it meets State Route 79.[11]

SR 78 runs concurrently with SR 79 across the headwaters of the San Diego River and through the hamlet of Wynola, briefly entering Cleveland National Forest before reaching Julian as Washington Street. SR 78, still concurrent with SR 79, turns east onto Main Street and travels through downtown Julian before SR 79 diverges south towards Cuyamaca and SR 78 heads northeast as Banner Road. The road intersects with County Route S2 (CR S2) in what is known as Scissors Crossing; CR S2 runs concurrently in a wrong-way concurrency. Shortly afterwards, SR 78 enters Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and is designated as a scenic highway for its length in the state park. Although this route travels many miles south of the town of Borrego Springs, it provides access to the town via CR S3. SR 78 travels through the town of Ocotillo Wells before exiting the state park and entering Imperial County.[11]

In Imperial County, State Route 78 intersects with State Route 86, running concurrently with it southwest of the Salton Sea and northwest of San Felipe Creek. SR 78 passes through the desert community of Elmore Desert Ranch before entering the city of Westmorland. SR 78, still concurrent with SR 86, enters into the city of Brawley as Main Street, where SR 86 splits off to the south towards El Centro. After going through downtown for several blocks, the highway intersects with SR 111 and runs concurrently with it for about a mile, where SR 111 turns south again. SR 78 then intersects with SR 115 east of Brawley, running concurrently with it as well for a brief distance. Shortly after passing through the small community of Glamis, the road turns northeast and eventually north towards Blythe, passing near the Chocolate Mountain Naval Reserve. As it nears the Colorado River and the Arizona border, SR 78 briefly passes through Cibola National Wildlife Refuge before entering the community of Palo Verde, where the river turns away from the highway and SR 78 enters Riverside County.[11]

As it nears Blythe, the highway makes a sharp turn east onto 32nd Avenue before turning north on Rannels Boulevard. It makes a right on 28th Avenue before turning north on Washington Boulevard and passing through Ripley. SR 78 continues north for a few more miles to its terminus at I-10 a few miles west of Blythe.[12]


Before construction

Before the designation of SR 78, a road known as the Brawley-Westmorland-Julian-Oceanside Highway (connecting Oceanside, Escondido, Ramona, Julian, Westmorland, and Brawley) existed during the early twentieth century. This road roughly followed the current routing of SR 78 from Escondido to the east of Brawley, although it traveled along a different routing from Westmorland into Brawley.[13][14]

No road connected Brawley with Glamis at this time; it was necessary to travel north through Calipatria to reach Blythe. East of the Sand Hills, there was a road from Glamis passing by Smith Well into Palo Verde, which roughly follows the routing of SR 78.[14] Around the 1930s, the road from Escondido to Ramona was a gravel road, and the portion from Julian to U.S. Route 99 (US 99), which is currently designated as SR 86, was a dirt road.[15]

SR 78 was originally formed along with the originally signed state highways in California (Sign Routes) in 1934; however, it only extended to what was then US 99 near Kane Springs.[1] In the North County, SR 78 was legislatively designated as Legislative Route 196 from then-US 101 (present-day I-5) to Vista, and as Legislative Route 77 from Vista to U.S. Route 395 in Escondido. SR 78 was legally known as Legislative Route 197 from Escondido to Ramona, and Legislative Route 198 from Ramona to US 99, which is now SR 86. From US 99 in Brawley to SR 115, SR 78 was defined as Legislative Route 187.[16]


SR 78 continues east from I-5 and turns slightly northeast before making a ninety-degree turn southeast at the western junction with US 395. SR 78 and US 395 continue southeast past Escondido, where SR 78 turns south.
SR 78 in 1947 before the freeway was built

During the 1940s, US 395 ran concurrently along the portion of SR 78 from Vista to Escondido before continuing along Santa Fe Avenue to Bonsall and Fallbrook and rejoining its alignment during the 1970s. At this time, all of SR 78 that existed had been paved.[17]

Before the present-day freeway was built, SR 78 was routed on the Vista Way Freeway (which was an expressway) from Oceanside east to downtown Vista. After this, it followed Santa Fe Avenue and Mission Road east (now signed as CR S14), continuing onto Grand Avenue in Escondido. After intersecting US 395, SR 78 turned south on Ash Street and rejoined the current alignment of the highway.[18]

The Vista Way Freeway opened in April 1962 between I-5 and Melrose Drive, but was not entirely grade-separated.[19][20] The first section of the SR 78 freeway from San Marcos to west of Vista was completed in early 1963, at a cost of $3.9 million (about $28 million today).[19] The rest of the freeway between San Marcos and Escondido was constructed between 1963 and 1968.[21] The section from I-5 east to Melrose Drive (along the routing of the Vista Way Freeway) had been upgraded to full freeway standards as of 1973.[22] The College Boulevard diamond interchange on this western segment opened to traffic on October 24, 1967, and functioned to connect the recently opened MiraCosta College to the freeway. The interchange, previously an at-grade intersection, improved traffic flow to the college. The construction of the interchange cost $800,941 at the time (about $5.27 million today).[23]

The missing portions of the current SR 78 routing in Imperial County were constructed after 1963, when the state legislature allowed for a road to be built from SR 115 to the Riverside County line.[24] This portion of the road was specifically designed to address the challenges of building it through sand dunes. The engineers routed the highway according to the terrain and made cuts in the sand up to eighty feet deep.[25] In 1957, the United States Navy obtained ownership from Imperial County of the road running through the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range for $660 thousand (about $5.15 million today). This money was used to fund the construction of what would become SR 78, which Ben Hulse (who later had the highway named after him) predicted would become a state highway.[26] Following this, in 1965, the newly constructed section was signed as Imperial County Route S78.[27] Legislatively, it was designated as Legislative Route 146 from the Riverside county line into Blythe, and eventually was signed as SR 195 from Palo Verde into Blythe; the SR 195 and Legislative Route 146 designations continued along the path of current US 95 to the Nevada state line.[1][16] In 1959, the rest of the current routing of SR 78 between Brawley and Palo Verde was added to the state highway system as SR 195 and Legislative Route 146.[28] The section from Palo Verde to Blythe shows up as part of SR 78 on maps as early as 1965, and the section from southwest of Midway Well to Palo Verde is shown as part of SR 78 as early as 1966.[29]

In 1969, plans to extend the freeway portion of SR 78 east from the Broadway interchange through Escondido were delayed by Caltrans director Jacob Dekema due to a lack of funding; however, these plans fell through, as the bypass does not exist today.[30] Finally, in 1971, the entire routing of SR 78 as it is today began to appear on highway maps.[31]

Following initial construction

During the last decade, several significant improvements have been made to SR 78 in the North County. A new interchange with Vista Village Drive was opened in 1998, and the College Boulevard interchange in Oceanside was revised along westbound SR 78. In addition to this, a new interchange was constructed at Las Posas Road in San Marcos, which opened in 2006.[32][33]


The western portion of SR 78 in North County is currently slated for several improvements. There were plans to construct an additional interchange at Rancho Del Oro Road in Oceanside;[32] however, the Oceanside City Council decided to cancel these plans in 2005, despite studies suggesting that this would be detrimental to the traffic in the region.[34] There are also plans to improve the interchange with I-5, which currently involves a traffic signal connecting Vista Way and SR 78 with the ramps to I-5 southbound. Plans call for adding more lanes to I-5 and SR 78 as well as for the construction of a new ramp from SR 78 westbound to I-5 southbound and from I-5 southbound to SR 78 eastbound.[10] In the past, there was a direct ramp from SR 78 westbound to I-5 southbound which avoided this traffic signal; however, it was removed to construct a park and ride lot.[35] The interchange at Nordahl Road will also be improved.[36]

In the Imperial and Riverside County portion from Brawley to Blythe, the road goes through several washes. During the monsoon season, these washes can be left with several inches of water, sand, and rock debris following rainstorms. There is a proposal to improve drainage by raising the roadway and installing culverts.[37]

There are plans to build a bypass around the downtown portion of the city of Brawley. An expressway would carry the routing of SR 78 north and east of the city, with an interchange at SR 111, before intersecting with the current alignment of SR 78.[38] A Swedish company began construction on this bypass in April 2008;[39] the second phase of the bypass was projected to take until late 2010 to complete. However, on the third phase of the project, construction only began in late 2010 and is expected to take until early 2013 to be finished.[38] This project was identified in August 2010 as a project that could be affected by California state budget cuts.[40]

Major intersections

Note: Except where prefixed with a letter, postmiles were measured on the road as it was in 1964, and do not necessarily reflect current mileage. The numbers reset at county lines; the start and end postmiles in each county are given in the county column.

County Location Postmile
Destinations Notes
San Diego
SD 0.00-95.31
Oceanside 0.00 Vista Way – Oceanside Continuation beyond I-5
0.00 1 I-5 (San Diego Freeway) – Los Angeles, San Diego Interchange; signed as exits 1A (south) and 1B (north) westbound; no exit number eastbound
West end of freeway
0.74 1C Jefferson Street Signed as exit 1 eastbound
1.50 2 El Camino Real (CR S11)
3.32 3 College Boulevard
3.58 4A Plaza Drive Eastbound exit and entrance
Vista 4.38 4B Emerald Drive Signed as exit 4 westbound
5.94 6A Melrose Drive Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
R6.19 6B Vista Village Drive (CR S13) Signed as exit 6 westbound
6.94 7 Civic Center Drive Some signage still bears the former name Escondido Avenue
7.71 8 Mar Vista Drive
9.08 9 Sycamore Avenue
San Marcos 10.61 11A Rancho Santa Fe Road (CR S10)
11.18 11B Las Posas Road
12.13 12 San Marcos Boulevard (CR S12)
12.91 13 Twin Oaks Valley Road
14.24 14 Barham Drive, Woodland Parkway
15.49 15 Nordahl Road
Escondido R16.54 17 I-15 (Escondido Freeway) – Riverside, San Diego Signed as exits 17A (south) and 17B (north) eastbound
R17.27 17C Centre City Parkway (I-15 Bus.) – Central Escondido Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; former US 395
East end of freeway
N17.68 Broadway, Lincoln Parkway
T17.82 CR S14 (Mission Avenue)
T19.27 CR S6 (Valley Parkway) – Valley Center, Palomar Mountain, Downtown Escondido
San Diego 20.64 Bear Valley Parkway – San Diego
R22.56 San Pasqual Road, Cloverdale Road – San Diego
Ramona 35.52 SR 67 south (Main Street) / 10th Street – San Diego
  41.96 Sutherland Dam Road – Lake Sutherland
Santa Ysabel 51.11 SR 79 north / Washington Street – Lake Henshaw, Warner Springs, Hemet West end of SR 79 overlap
Julian 58.13 SR 79 south – Lake Cuyamaca, Cuyamaca Park East end of SR 79 overlap
  69.69 CR S2 south (Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849) – Agua Caliente County Park West end of CR S2 overlap
  70.01 CR S2 north (San Felipe Road) – Warner Springs, Hemet East end of CR S2 overlap
  76.84 CR S3 (Yaqui Pass Road) – Borrego Springs
  85.61 Borrego Springs Road – Borrego Springs
IMP 0.00-80.74
43.56[N 1]
SR 86 north – Indio West end of SR 86 overlap
Westmorland 27.51[N 1] CR S30 (Center Street)
CR S26 (Boarts Road)
Brawley 20.63[N 1]
SR 86 south (1st Street) – Calexico East end of SR 86 overlap
13.80 SR 111 north / CR S31 (8th Street) – Calipatria West end of SR 111 overlap
Best Road, Old Highway 111 Old Highway 111 was former SR 111 south
  15.04 SR 111 south – Calexico East end of SR 111 overlap
  18.65 SR 115 north (West Road) – Calipatria West end of SR 115 overlap
  21.02 SR 115 south – Holtville East end of SR 115 overlap
  CR S32 (Butters Road) – Holtville
  CR S33 (Green Road)
  52.35 CR S34 (Ogilby Road) – Ogilby
RIV 0.00-16.17
  16.17 I-10 Interchange
  16.17 I-10 Bus. east (Neighbours Boulevard) Continuation beyond I-10
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
     Concurrency terminus     Closed/Former     Incomplete access     Unopened
  1. ^ a b c Indicates that the postmile represents the distance along SR 86 rather than SR 78.


  1. ^ a b c California Division of Highways (1934). "State Routes will be Numbered and Marked by Distinctive Bear Signs". Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b California Department of Transportation. Log of Bridges on State Highways, April 2008. Retrieved on April 11, 2009.
  3. ^ Jenkins, Logan (April 27, 2006). "Political heritage precedes hopefuls for 74th". The San Diego Union-Tribune (Union-Tribune Publishing Company). Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  4. ^ Miller, Jim (May 16, 2007). "Bill would reassign highway-naming duties to Caltrans". The Press-Enterprise (Press-Enterprise Company). Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Guide: San Diego County". National Park Service. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Guide: Imperial County". National Park Service. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  7. ^ "CA Codes (shc:250-257)". California State Legislature. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  8. ^ "CA Codes (shc:260-284)". California State Legislature. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Officially Designated State Scenic Highways and Historic Parkways". California Department of Transportation. December 7, 2007. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  10. ^ a b "I-5/SR-78 Interchange Improvements Fact Sheet" (PDF). San Diego Association of Governments. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c d Thomas Brothers (2009). San Diego County Street Atlas (Map). 
  12. ^ Thomas Brothers (2009). Riverside County Street Atlas (Map). 
  13. ^ West Coast Map Company (circa 1900). Brawley-Westmorland-Julian-Oceanside Highway Map and Information (Map). 1"=7 miles. 
  14. ^ a b Automobile Club of Southern California (1919). Automobile Road Map Touring Imperial County, California (Map). 1"=5 miles. 
  15. ^ Texaco (1932). California and Nevada (Map). 1"=25 miles. Cartography by Rand McNally & Company. 
  16. ^ a b "An act...relating to...the addition of certain highways to the State system.", 1933 chapter 767
  17. ^ RPM Motor Oil (1947). California Points of Interest and Touring Map (Map). 
  18. ^ Thomas Brothers Maps (1959). Street Map of San Diego and Vicinity (Map). 
  19. ^ a b "Vista Area Expressway Progresses" (Microfilm). The San Diego Union (Copley Press). November 19, 1962. 
  20. ^ Texaco (1962). California (Map). 
  21. ^ Shell Oil Company (1968). San Diego, Southern California, Mexico (Map). 
  22. ^ Rand McNally (1973). San Diego (Map). 
  23. ^ "MiraCosta Interchange Nearly Ready" (Microfilm). The San Diego Union (Copley Press). September 24, 1967. 
  24. ^ "An act...relating to routes on the state highway system.", 1963 chapter 385
  25. ^ Lowe, George (March 21, 1957). "Trip of the Week: Highway Skirts the Highs, Lows" (PDF, fee required). The Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Archived from the original on January 17, 2009. Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
  26. ^ "Check Spurs Plans for Desert Road" (PDF, fee required). The Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). February 23, 1969. Archived from the original on April 6, 2009. Retrieved April 11, 2009. 
  27. ^ Shell Oil Company (1965). California (Map). 1"=20 miles. Cartography by The H.M. Gousha Company. 
  28. ^ "An act to amend...the Streets and Highways Code, relating to state highways, providing for a California Freeway and Expressway System...", 1959 chapter 1062
  29. ^ The H.M. Gousha Company (1966). California (Map). 
  30. ^ Brown, Peter (January 16, 1969). "Dekema Sees Road Delays at Escondido" (Microfilm). The San Diego Union (Copley Press). 
  31. ^ American Oil Company (1971). California (Map). 1"=28 miles. Cartography by Diversified Map Corporation. 
  32. ^ a b "SR-78 Upgrade Schedule". California Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  33. ^ Garrick, David (June 23, 2007). "Las Posas interchange getting rave reviews". The North County Times (Lee Enterprises). Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  34. ^ Sisson, Paul (June 29, 2006). "Oceanside council pans Rancho del Oro study". The North County Times (Lee Enterprises). Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  35. ^ Automobile Club of Southern California (1978). Street Map of Oceanside-Escondido and Vicinity (Map). 
  36. ^ "Fact Sheet - Nordahl Bridge Widening at SR 78" (PDF). San Diego Association of Governments. January 2008. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  37. ^ "Proposed upgrades to Imperial County portion." (PDF). Imperial County. April 29, 2005. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  38. ^ a b "Brawley Bypass fact sheet" (PDF). California Department of Transportation. January 2004. Archived from the original on June 28, 2008. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  39. ^ Associated Press (April 7, 2008). "Construction firm Skanska gets US$68 million contract to build highway in California - International Herald Tribune". The International Herald Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  40. ^ Hawkins, Robert (August 13, 2010). "State budget impasse could delay road work" (HTML, fee required). The San Diego Union-Tribune (Union-Tribune Publishing Company). Retrieved March 21, 2011. 
  41. ^ California Department of Transportation. State Truck Route List (XLS file). Retrieved on January 31, 2009.
  42. ^ California Department of Transportation. All Traffic Volumes on CSHS, 2005 and 2006. Retrieved on April 11, 2009.
  43. ^ California Department of Transportation (2008-11-07). "State Route 78 Freeway Interchanges" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-03-05. 

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