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State Route 17 (SR 17) is a state highway in the U.S. state of California that runs from State Route 1 in Santa Cruz to Interstates 280 and 880 in San Jose. SR 17, a freeway and expressway, carries substantial commuter and vacation traffic between Santa Cruz and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area.

State Route 17 marker

State Route 17
SR 17 highlighted in red
Route information
Defined by Streets and Highways Code § 317
Maintained by Caltrans
Length26.49 mi[2] (42.63 km)
Major junctions
South end SR 1 / Ocean Street in Santa Cruz
North end I-280 / I-880 in San Jose
CountiesSanta Cruz, Santa Clara
Highway system
SR 16SR 18


Route descriptionEdit

From its southern terminus with SR 1 in Santa Cruz, Route 17 begins as a five-lane freeway (narrows to four lanes after Pasatiempo Drive). From there, it proceeds through Scotts Valley. At the north end of Scotts Valley, it becomes a four-lane divided highway, with access at various points without interchanges, and begins a winding ascent of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The road crosses the Santa Clara/Santa Cruz county line through the Patchen Pass, commonly referred to as "The Summit", at an elevation of 1,800 feet (549 m), where there is an interchange with SR 35. Just north of the summit, a winding descent of the mountains begins, again with access at various points, mostly without grade separations, as far as Los Gatos. At Los Gatos, SR 17 becomes a freeway again. It expands to six lanes after an interchange with SR 85. This interchange has three levels; in a similar fashion to SR 99 at U.S. 50 in Sacramento, SR 17 is at-grade, with the other levels below-grade. The number of lanes later expands to eight shortly before reaching its northern terminus at Interstate 280, where it continues as Interstate 880.

SR 17 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System,[3] and is part of the National Highway System,[4] a network of highways that are considered essential to the country's economy, defense, and mobility by the Federal Highway Administration.[5] SR 17 is eligible to be included in the State Scenic Highway System,[6] but it is not officially designated as a scenic highway by the California Department of Transportation.[7]


Looking downhill from the Summit Road overpass; brake lights can be seen as cars slow down before the curve known as "The Valley Surprise".

SR 17's combination of narrow shoulders, dense traffic, sharp turns, blind curves, wandering fauna such as deer and mountain lions, and sudden changes in traffic speeds have led to driving conditions that result in a number of collisions and fatalities, leading to the reputation of SR 17 as one of the most dangerous highways in the state. In the winter months, because SR 17 crosses a high precipitation area in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the roadway can become slippery from rain, snow or ice, especially at the summit.

Despite having fewer curves than in Santa Cruz County, certain sections of SR 17 in Santa Clara County are so dangerous that they have been nicknamed. The first long sweeping turn North of Summit Road with its sharp angle and steep entering downhill slope is called "The Valley Surprise" for the fact that so many strike the median shortly after having entered the Santa Clara Valley. The most infamous is called "Big Moody Curve". This curve is named after Big Moody Creek below, slightly greater than a 180 degree turn, and bracketed by additional 90 degree turns. The inside surfaces of the median barriers in both of these turns are normally chipped up and black with tire rubber.

Efforts to improve safety have included adding electronic speed monitoring signs and warnings lights on curves, removing trees to improve visibility around blind curves, and increased patrol and enforcement of traffic laws. The portion between Los Gatos and Scotts Valley has been designated the Highway 17 Safety Corridor by Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.

Gillian Cichowski Memorial Overcrossing Bridge, over SR 17 near Los Gatos at Lexington Reservoir, was named by California Senate Concurrent Resolution 32, Chapt. 70 in 1994. Gillian Cichowski was killed in an accident at this location in 1992. This is one of the few highway constructions in California named for a woman. The overpass was in response to a campaign by friends of Gillian Cichowski to make the intersection (with Bear Creek Road) safer. The overpass was open to northbound traffic July 18, 1996 and opened to southbound traffic August 29, 1996. Margaret Green of Sunnyvale, California died in a similar accident near the same location during overpass construction.

Gillian Cichowski Memorial Overcrossing.

SR 17 in Santa Cruz County is named after California Highway Patrol Lieutenant Michael Walker. Walker was setting flares to direct traffic around an auto accident on New Year's Eve 2005 when he was struck and killed.[8] Partly in response to this accident near the Glenwood Road intersection, Caltrans began work in 2008 to widen the shoulder to eight feet.[9]


The earliest connection between Santa Cruz and San Jose was an old Native American foot trail. The first road that could be navigated by a wagon was a dirt toll road built by Charlie McKiernan,[10] known as "Mountain Charlie" by locals, some time around 1853. Portions of this road still exist as Mountain Charlie Road, to the west of Highway 17 and south of Summit Road. Several other stage lines were built as competitors, such as the San Jose Turnpike (1863), which follows the approximate route of present-day Soquel San Jose Road.[11] After realignment to increase the road width; many sections of the original stage route were cut off. These sections became side streets named with variations containing Old Turnpike. Some of these now dead end streets have retained the look of narrow stage coach roads.

SR 17 was opened in 1940, replacing several other modes of transportation, including the old Glenwood Highway from 1919 (which still exists in Glenwood), and the railroad which went all the way from Santa Cruz to San Francisco and Oakland. The railroad stopped operating in 1940 and the tunnels that it passed through were sealed soon after. Nearly all the tunnel entrances still exist, but are unusable as the tunnels themselves are collapsed. The rise in the use of automobiles made the railroads unprofitable. The city of Glenwood, founded by Charles C. Martin in 1851, gained notoriety for hot springs in the area.[12] The Glenwood Highway, which passed through town, was deserted when the "New 17" was built, and the town became a ghost of its former self.[13] The town has but one resident left, Mrs. Ed C. Koch, who is the great-granddaughter of the founder.

Parts of the original SR 17 lie underwater in Lexington Reservoir. When the reservoir was built, the highway was rerouted to higher ground, and the two towns along its path (Alma and Lexington) were abandoned.[14] When the reservoir levels are extremely low, the old highway pavement is visible as well as some stone and concrete foundations of buildings.

Until the mid-1980s, SR 17 extended from its current southern terminus at State Route 1 in Santa Cruz through Oakland and across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to San Rafael. The roadway still exists (apart from the 1.6 mile-long Cypress Freeway in Oakland, which had collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) but parts have been redesignated. The section between Interstate 80 and US 101 in San Rafael was renumbered as an extension of Interstate 580. Prior to the redesignation, this part of SR 17 followed Richmond streets, including an expressway called Hoffman Boulevard, to the bridge; a freeway built to Interstate standards was completed in 1990 after the corridor became 580's northwestern leg. Additionally, SR 17 between Interstate 280 in San Jose and the freeway's new northern terminus in Oakland was re-designated as Interstate 880 later that year. Since the late 1990s, an infamous misconception for some commuters and businesses in San Jose, Campbell, and Los Gatos is that SR 85 serves as the northern terminus of SR 17 and the southern terminus of I-880. Although not planned, it is possible to truncate SR 17 further to SR 85 due to the segment meeting interstate standards as well as I-880 still terminating at its parent interstate, I-80, in Oakland.

Before the freeway was built in Milpitas, Fremont, Hayward and Oakland, SR 17 followed what is now Old Oakland Road (San Jose), Main Street (Milpitas) and Warm Springs Boulevard (southern Fremont); from the Irvington section of Fremont, the route proceeded along what is now Fremont Boulevard, which becomes Alvarado Boulevard in Union City. From there, the route proceeded along Hesperian Boulevard in Hayward and Washington Avenue in San Leandro, joining with East 14th Street as it proceeded into Oakland. From Oakland, SR 17 would follow US 40 along San Pablo Avenue up to its split in Albany. SR 17 then followed what is now Interstate 580 over the San Rafael Bridge (formerly a ferry crossing), terminating at US 101 in San Rafael.

Major intersectionsEdit

Except where prefixed with a letter, postmiles were measured on the road as it was in 1964, based on the alignment that existed at the time, and do not necessarily reflect current mileage. R reflects a realignment in the route since then, M indicates a second realignment, L refers an overlap due to a correction or change, and T indicates postmiles classified as temporary (for a full list of prefixes, see the list of postmile definitions).[15] Segments that remain unconstructed or have been relinquished to local control may be omitted. The numbers reset at county lines; the start and end postmiles in each county are given in the county column.

Santa Cruz
SCR 0.00-12.55
Santa Cruz0.001  SR 1 – Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Watsonville, MontereySouthbound exit and northbound entrance; signed as exits 1A (north) & 1B (south); southern ternminus; CA 1 exit 441B northbound, 441 southbound; Trumpet interchange.
0.741CPasatiempo DriveSigned as exit 1 northbound
2.18El Rancho Drive, La Madrona DrivePresumed to be exit 2; interchange conversion cancelled
Scotts Valley3.443Mount Hermon Road
5.455Granite Creek Road, Scotts Valley Drive (SR 17 Bus. south)
6Santa's Village RoadNorthbound exit and entrance
North end of freeway
Santa Clara
SCL 0.00-13.95
0.11  SR 35 north (Summit Road)Interchange
1.25Redwood EstatesInterchange
4.06Bear Creek RoadInterchange
Los GatosSouth end of freeway
6.1619Santa Cruz AvenueNorthbound left exit and southbound entrance
7.0720AEast Los Gatos (CR G10)
7.0720B  SR 9 south – Los Gatos, Saratoga
8.8921Lark AvenueNorthbound entrance cannot access SR 85
9.3522  SR 85 (West Valley Freeway) – Mountain View, GilroySR 85 exit 11 northbound, 11A southbound
Campbell10.5023Camden Avenue, San Tomas Expressway (CR G4)
12.3425Hamilton Avenue
San Jose13.9526  I-280 (Junipero Serra Freeway) / Stevens Creek Boulevard – San Francisco, Downtown San JoseNorthbound exit and southbound entrance; signed as exits 26A (south) and 26B (north, Stevens Creek Boulevard); northern terminus; I-280 exit 5B; I-880 exit 1B-C southbound; stack interchange.
13.95  I-880 north – OaklandContinuation beyond I-280
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ California Highways: State Route 17
  2. ^ a b California Department of Transportation (July 2007). "Log of Bridges on State Highways". Sacramento: California Department of Transportation.
  3. ^ "Article 2 of Chapter 2 of Division 1 of the California Streets and Highways Code". Sacramento: California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  4. ^ Federal Highway Administration (March 25, 2015). National Highway System: Santa Cruz, CA (PDF) (Map). Scale not given. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
    Federal Highway Administration (March 25, 2015). National Highway System: San Jose, CA (PDF) (Map). Scale not given. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  5. ^ Natzke, Stefan; Neathery, Mike & Adderly, Kevin (June 20, 2012). "What is the National Highway System?". National Highway System. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved July 1, 2012.
  6. ^ "Article 2.5 of Chapter 2 of Division 1 of the California Streets & Highways Code". California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  7. ^ California Department of Transportation (September 7, 2011). "Officially Designated State Scenic Highways and Historic Parkways". Sacramento: California Department of Transportation. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  8. ^ Lt. Michael Walker Killed New Year’s Eve While Aiding Motorist , accessed August 26, 2008
  9. ^ Caltrans Public Notice Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine (PDF), access August 26, 2008
  10. ^ Beal 1990, p. 70
  11. ^ Beal 1990, pp. 70–72
  12. ^ Beal 1990, pp. 44–6
  13. ^ Beal 1990, p. 48
  14. ^ Beal 1990, p. 21
  15. ^ a b California Department of Transportation. "State Truck Route List". Sacramento: California Department of Transportation. Archived from the original (XLS file) on June 30, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  16. ^ California Department of Transportation, All Traffic Volumes on CSHS, 2005 and 2006
  17. ^ California Department of Transportation, California Numbered Exit Uniform System, State Route 17 Freeway Interchanges, Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  • Beal, Richard (1990). Highway 17: The Road to Santa Cruz. Aptos, California: The Pacific Group. ISBN 0-9629974-0-4.

External linksEdit