State Route 178 (SR 178) is a state highway in the U.S. state of California that exists in two constructed segments. The gap in between segments is connected by various local roads and State Route 190 through Death Valley National Park. The western segment runs from State Route 99 in Bakersfield and over the Walker Pass in the Sierra Nevada to the turnoff for the Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark. The eastern segment runs from the southeasterly part of Death Valley to Nevada State Route 372 at the Nevada state line.
|Defined by Streets and Highways Code § 478|
|Maintained by Caltrans|
|Length||166.81 mi (268.45 km)|
|West end||SR 58 / SR 99 in Bakersfield|
|East end||Trona Road near Trona|
|West end||Death Valley|
|SR 127 at Shoshone|
|East end||SR 372 towards Pahrump, NV|
|Counties||Kern, San Bernardino, Inyo|
SR 178 serves many different purposes. It connects Downtown Bakersfield with East Bakersfield and Lake Isabella. It is one of three crossings over the Sierra Nevada south of Yosemite (SR 120, Tioga Pass Road), connecting the southern San Joaquin Valley with the upper Mojave Desert and the Owens Valley. This also provides access to Death Valley National Park. If the unconstructed portion were built, it would also provide an easy route between Ridgecrest, California and Las Vegas, via Pahrump, Nevada.
SR 178 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System, and through Bakersfield and Ridgecrest is part of the National Highway System, a network of highways that are considered essential to the country's economy, defense, and mobility by the Federal Highway Administration. It is eligible for the State Scenic Highway System, but it is not officially designated as a scenic highway by the California Department of Transportation.
The first segment starts at State Route 99 just west of Downtown Bakersfield. The road continues as 24th Street but then splits at B Street, utilizing 24th Street for westbound traffic and 23rd Street for eastbound traffic through Downtown Bakersfield. SR 178 becomes a freeway as it leaves Downtown and winds through East Bakersfield. The freeway then travels east as it enters Northeast Bakersfield. A mile east of the Morning Drive interchange, the freeway segment ends with the first at-grade intersection at Canteria Drive. The highway continues through the rural, but growing Rio Bravo section of Bakersfield, crossing SR 184. Turning northeast, the road narrows to a 4-lane highway and continues to the mouth of Kern Canyon (which is also the northeastern city limits of Bakersfield). For the next approximately 8 miles, the route is a narrow 2-lane road (average width of 18 ft. to 24 ft.), as it ascends the lower Sierra Nevada. Average speed is 35 mph, with sharp turns and steep dropoffs. After approximately 8 miles, the road becomes a much gentler 4-lane, 60 ft. expressway. The route continues east and reaches the town of Lake Isabella, which is just south of the Lake Isabella Reservoir. The road briefly expands to a divided freeway through Lake Isabella, before narrowing to a 2-lane conventional highway at the intersection with Lake Isabella Boulevard. The road continues to wind until it ascends to Walker Pass, an elevation of 5,250 feet (1,600 m). The highway then descends from the mountains to its junction with State Route 14. It then proceeds eastward across US 395 into the city of Ridgecrest. The constructed highway then ends east of Ridgecrest at the turnoff for the Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark. The right-of-way then continues north as the county-maintained routes of Trona Road, Trona-Wildrose Road, and then Panamint Valley Road, running through the community of Trona to SR 190 east of Panamint Springs.
The second segment resumes four miles (6 km) west of Salisberry Pass in the southeasterly part of Death Valley National Park in Inyo County at what had been the former boundary of Death Valley National Monument until 1994. It then meets up with State Route 127. SR 178 then branches northward from SR 127 to the California-Nevada State Line. In Nevada, the roadway continues as State Route 372 ending at State Route 160 near the center of Pahrump in Nye County.
The segment of State Route 178 from State Route 127 to the California-Nevada state line, as well as all of Nevada State Route 372, are both known as the Charles Brown Highway. Charles Brown, a former California State Legislator, was a major proponent for the incorporation of the segment of State Route 178 between State Route 14 and the California-Nevada state line into the California Highway System.
SR 178 was one of the routes created with the third bond act of 1919. It defined a route 202 miles long between Santa Maria and Freeman Junction through Bakersfield. Freeman does not exist today; it was originally located near (and later at) the junction of SR 178 and SR 14. The route was defined as Legislative Route 57. The 1919 bond act also created the first segment of LRN 58. The route was extended several times since 1919. In 1933, the final segment was added to LRN 58, which created a route from US 101 near Santa Margarita to the Nevada state line via Bakersfield. Construction on the route between Bakersfield and Isabella through Kern Canyon started in 1922. Progress moved slowly, as sheer rock walls had to be blasted with dynamite. In 1931, 9 years after construction started, the 26-mile highway segment was completed.
In 1933, with the creation of signed routes, portions of LRN 57 and LRN 58 would be signed as Route 178. LRN 58 would be signed between Route 33 and US 99, and LRN 57 would be signed between US 99 and US 6. Later, in 1947, LRN 212 was created, and defined to run from LRN 23 (signed as US 6) near Inyokern, east to the Nevada state line. It was an unsigned route.
From 1950 to 1953, a portion of SR 178 in Lake Isabella was rerouted around the Isabella Auxiliary Dam. The dam was built over the old route and parts of it are inundated by Isabella Lake. The new route goes over the dam's southern abutment and along the shoreline of Isabella Lake toward Onyx.
In 1964, all of the California routes were renumbered. LRN 58 was dropped from Route 178 and combined with the eastern portion of the decommissioned US 466 (also defined as part of LRN 58) to create SR 58. The remaining Route 178 was combined with LRN 212 to create SR 178. It was originally defined to start at SR 99 in Bakersfield, but later that year it was changed to simply start in Bakersfield. This change was probably done to avoid a cosign with SR 58 along 23rd/24th St. After SR 58 was moved to the freeway south of Brundage Lane in 1976, SR 178 was extended west to SR 99.
Construction on the initial freeway in Bakersfield was completed in 1968. It ran from M St, on the eastern edge of Downtown, through East Bakersfield to Haley Street. Eastern extensions have been constructed since 1968, one interchange at a time as the need arises. In the Kern Canyon section, which is between Bakersfield and the Kern River Valley, a bypass route was identified in 1964. By 1968, a deed from the US Forest Service issued an easement to the State for the construction of the highway through National Forest lands. The first phase of construction was completed in 1974, which created a short freeway near Lake Isabella and a 60’ wide expressway extending west to China Garden. Subsequent phases were not funded.
Abandoned western freeway extensionEdit
The freeway portion of Route 178 ends as it approaches downtown Bakersfield from the east, causing a large volume of traffic congestion foreseen since the freeway's inception in the late 1950s. Weak public support and subsequent lack of funds hindered efforts to complete the freeway through downtown and Westchester to its proposed terminus at the beginning of the recently completed Westside Parkway. Although freeway alternatives through various neighborhoods have been studied several times following the existing portion's completion in 1968, the city of Bakersfield has never formally endorsed a route. Although Caltrans formally announced preference for an alignment through downtown and Westchester in 1973, fierce public opposition coupled with the historic integrity of the neighborhoods slated to be demolished greatly hindered momentum of the project. By the time then-Governor Jerry Brown issued a moratorium on all new freeway construction in 1977, any realistic hope for a completion date for a downtown freeway had completely evaporated. Formal studies on possible routes continue to be studied, however, resulting in recommendations of a more southern alignment near Truxtun Avenue executed by the Kern Council of Governors (KernCOG) in 1986, and most recently in 2001 as a part of the Bakersfield System Study. Despite the studies, SR 178 as a limited-access highway through downtown is unlikely to come to pass anytime in the near future.
A Westchester alignment would have extended the freeway west from its current terminus at M Street and through Downtown Bakersfield in the vicinity of 23rd street. As it continued through Westchester the freeway would turn southwest, cross under SR 99 and terminate at the newly completed Westside Parkway.
A southern alignment would start at SR 178 at Baker Street, about 0.7 miles east of its current terminus. From there, it would turn southwest and run parallel to Baker Street, through East Bakersfield, to the BNSF railroad yard. It would then turn west and run south of the railroad tracks through the southern end of Downtown Bakersfield. At Bakersfield High School, it would run north of the tracks (avoiding the high school). It would continue under SR 99 and terminate at the proposed Westside Parkway.
City of Bakersfield 24th Street ImprovementsEdit
Still needing to address the increasing crosstown congestion and with a freeway through downtown effectively out of the question, the City of Bakersfield approved construction in the late 2000s to increase capacity on 24th Street through Westchester and 23rd and 24th streets through Downtown using TRIP funds. The project widened, realigned and re-striped 24th Street from west of State Route 99 to east of M Street, as well as realigned and re-striped 23rd Street from west of C Street to east of M Street, in order to add two travel lanes (one in each direction) to the roadway. The project also encompassed improvements to the 24th Street/State Route 99 interchange and widened the Oak Street/24th Street intersection. This solution required the acquisition of several properties north of 24th Street, which was completed in early 2015, as well as the closure of access of B Street through Elm Street from the north. The project was completed in December 2020.
Death Valley SegmentEdit
This segment is unconstructed from 15 miles east of Ridgecrest to 15 miles west of SR 127 (10 miles from the eastern boundary of the Death Valley National Monument). The state is considering three options: select an alignment to connect with the current eastern segment at its present location; select an alignment to avoid traversing the Death Valley Wilderness; or delete this unconstructed segment from the State Highway System.
The County of Inyo has offered three alternatives:
- The State of California rescinds the unconstructed portion of SR 178.
- The State of California rescinds the unconstructed portion of SR 178 and adopts Trona Road, Trona-Wildrose Road, and Panamint Valley Road.
- The State of California rescinds the unconstructed portion of SR 178 and adopts Trona Road, Trona-Wildrose Road, and Panamint Valley Road; Inyo County adopts portions of SR 178 and SR 190, and Death Valley National Park adopts the portion of SR 178 that connects to Badwater Road in the park.
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 ( ). 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.
|Bakersfield||0.00||SR 58 (Rosedale Highway) / SR 99 – Sacramento, Los Angeles||Interchange; west end of SR 178; SR 99 north exit 26A, south exit 26|
|0.36||Oak Street south||Former Legislative Route 141 south|
|Chester Avenue – Central District|
|||West end of freeway|
|R2.01||2A||Q Street, Golden State Avenue (SR 204, SR 99 Bus.)||Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; former US 99 south|
|R2.01||2A||SR 204 north (Golden State Avenue, SR 99 Bus. north)||Westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|R2.41||2B||Union Avenue (SR 204 south, SR 99 Bus. south)||Former US 99 south|
|R4.10||4||Haley Street||Eastbound exit and westbound entrance|
|R4.63||5||Mount Vernon Avenue|
|||East end of freeway|
|T9.61||SR 184 south (Kern Canyon Road) – Lamont, Los Angeles|
|Lake Isabella||||West end of freeway|
|R41.65||42||Bodfish, Lake Isabella|
|R42.94||43||SR 155 west – Wofford Heights, Lake Isabella, Kernville|
|||East end of freeway|
|Weldon||55.68||Sierra Way – Kernville||Serves Kern Valley Airport|
|SR 14 south (Aerospace Highway) – Mojave||West end of SR 14 overlap; former US 6 south|
|SR 14 north (Aerospace Highway) – Bishop||East end of SR 14 overlap; former US 6 north|
|||R93.24||US 395 – Bishop, San Bernardino||Interchange; west end of US 395 Bus. overlap, US-395 exit 97|
|Ridgecrest||100.60||Inyokern Road, Sandquist Road|
US 395 Bus. south (China Lake Boulevard) to US 395 / Ridgecrest Boulevard
|East end of US 395 Bus. overlap; China Lake Boulevard serves Cerro Coso Community College|
|||7.35||Trona Road – Red Mountain|
|||14.78||Trona Pinnacles||East end of western segment of SR 178|
|Trona Road – Trona, Furnace Creek||Continuation beyond the Trona Pinnacles turnoff|
|Gap in route|
|||28.00||Jubilee Pass Road – Badwater||Continuation beyond the west end of eastern segment of SR 178, at the former Death Valley National Monument boundary|
SR 127 north to US 95
|West end of SR 127 overlap|
|SR 127 south – Baker||East end of SR 127 overlap|
|||62.19||SR 372 east – Pahrump||Continuation into Nevada; east end of SR 178|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
- California Department of Transportation (July 2007). "Log of Bridges on State Highways". Sacramento: California Department of Transportation.
- "Article 2 of Chapter 2 of Division 1". California Streets and Highways Code. Sacramento: California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
- Federal Highway Administration (March 25, 2015). National Highway System: Bakersfield, CA (PDF) (Map). Scale not given. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
Federal Highway Administration (March 25, 2015). National Highway System: California (South) (PDF) (Map). Scale not given. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
- 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.
- "Article 2.5 of Chapter 2 of Division 1". California Streets & Highways Code. Sacramento: California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
- California Department of Transportation (August 2019). "Officially Designated State Scenic Highways and Historic Parkways" (XLSX). Sacramento: California Department of Transportation.
- Chronology of California Highways - Phase II: Early Growth. CAHighway.org. Accessed: 01-14-2010.
- Chronology of California Highways - Phase III: A Significant System is Created. CAHighway.org. Accessed: 01-14-2010.
- Draft Report of Kern Canyon Highway Corridor Study Archived January 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. KernCOG. September 1984. Page 5.
- Route 177-184. CAHighway.org. Accessed: 01-14-2010.
- Route 209-216. CAHighway.org. Accessed: 01-14-2010.
- Draft Report of Kern Canyon Highway Corridor Study Archived January 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. KernCOG. September 1984. Page 4-5.
- Route 178 Corridor Study Archived 2015-04-11 at the Wayback Machine. Kern Council of Governments. December 1986. Pages 39-41. Retrieved on April 5, 2015.
- Route 178 Corridor Study Archived 2015-04-11 at the Wayback Machine. Kern Council of Governments. December 1986. Pages 42-43. Retrieved on April 5, 2015.
- "Bakersfield Freeways Current Projects". Bakersfield Freeways. City of Bakersfield. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- Californian, The Bakersfield. "City preps for completion of 24th Street widening project". The Bakersfield Californian. Retrieved 2021-04-14.
- "Transportation Concept Report for State Route 178, July 2016" (PDF). Caltrans District 9. Caltrans. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- 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.
- California Department of Transportation, All Traffic Volumes on CSHS, 2005 and 2006
- California Department of Transportation, California Numbered Exit Uniform System, SR-178 Eastbound and SR-178 Westbound, accessed February 2008
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