California Highway 68
California_68.svg

The Route

Begins at Asilomar Beach in Pacific Grove, California. Heads east for 4.25 miles on the W.R. Holman Highway to CA-1 in Monterey. Multiplexed with Highway 1 for 2.50 miles, before turning east onto the Monterey-Salinas Highway. Follows the Monterey-Salinas Highway for 17 miles east to the Salinas River, then turns north before becoming South Main Street at the Salinas city limits. Continues north on South Main Street for 1.5 miles before turning east, following John Street for 1.25 miles to its eastern terminus at US Route 101. Total length: 26.50 miles.

History of Highway 68

Old Mission Trail to Modern-Day Highway

Before the advent of the automobile, Highway 68 was part of the DeAnza Trail, that linked all of California's Spanish missions. Following California's statehood, the road was part of the main route between Monterey and San Francisco. In 1889 a truss bridge was built over the Salinas River between Spreckels and Laguna Seca, about 200 feet (65.5 meters) north of the present-day bridges. The route between U.S. Route 101 and Highway 1 in Monterey was paved in 1937 as increasing automobile traffic created demand for a paved road to the Monterey Peninsula.

Originally designed to carry 16,000 vehicles per day (VPD), the road quickly reached capacity by the 1960s, and officials became concerned over the deteriorating condition of the Salinas River Bridge, which had been in service for over 70 years and was not designed to handle the traffic it was carrying. The California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) developed plans to construct a freeway from the Highway 101 Expressway south of Salinas to the Highway 1 Expressway (then under construction) in Monterey. The planned expressway was to serve as a southern bypass to Salinas, allowing a direct nonstop route from the Monterey Peninsula to the remainder of California.

Expressway Construction Starts, then Stalls

Construction on the Highway 68 Expressway began in 1965 near Spreckels, and in 1966 near Monterey Airport. In 1967 a 3-mile section of freeway opened between Portola Drive and Spreckels Boulevard, including a new twin-span bridge over the Salinas River. A one-mile section of Highway 68 freeway opened between Jocelyn Canyon Road and a high-speed interchange with the newly-constructed Highway 1 Expressway in Monterey.

MP Exit # Eastbound Westbound
6.7 7A (CA-68 splits from CA-1 NB) CA-1 SB/CA-68 WB Central Monterey
7.0 7B CA-1 NB Santa Cruz, Freemont Blvd
7.7 (Expressway Ends) (Expressway Begins)
17.5 (Expressway Begins) (Expressway Ends )
18.3 19 Portola Drive Portola Drive
19.6 20 Reservation Road Reservation Road
20.6 21 Spreckels Blvd Spreckels Blvd
21.3 (Expressway Ends) (Expressway Begins)

Future of Highway 68

Upgrades Face Opposition

In the 30 years since the first freeway plans for Highway 68 died, there has been extensive residential development within the corridor. Given that much of the developments include multi-million dollar homes, there has been significant opposition to upgrading Highway 68 for aesthetic reasons, in addition to environmental and fiscal issues. In 1974 opponents of the Highway 68 Expressway formed the Highway 68 Coalition, which remains active today in fighting to stem development along the Highway 68 corridor in addition to upgrading the road.1 While the 2-lane portion of Highway 68 carries 26,000 VPD, nearly double its design capacity, and has a high rate of fatal accidents, there is little public support to make significant changes to the road. According to CALTRANS, the only planned upgrades for Highway 68 are $6 million in safety improvements for 3 major intersections. While no formal plans for a major upgrade of Highway 68, CALTRANS officials noted that the least costly option (widening the existing road to 4 lanes) will cost over $300 million and take several years to complete. During the late 1990s and early 2000s state and county officials proposed a highway linking Highway 1 in Marina to Highway 101 in Salinas, that would receive much more public support.

Bypass Through Fort Ord and Marina

Following the closure of Fort Ord in 1994, Monterey County and CALTRANS officials examined reconstructing some of the former base roads into either a freeway or 4-lane arterial between Salinas and Marina, where the proposed highway would tie into the Highway 1 Expressway. The planned highway would serve as a bypass of the congested and accident-prone Highway 68, passing through land that is presently undeveloped. As of 2007, about 5 miles of the proposed highway is built utilizing Reservation Road between Del Monte Boulevard in Marina and about 2 miles east of Blanco Road. The remaining portion of the highway will follow Reservation Road east to Davis Road, then follow Davis Road north along the western edge of Salinas to Highway 101 just north of the city.

The most expensive part of the highway project is a pair of new bridges that will replace the existing bridge that carries Davis Road over the Salinas River. The highway will pass through Marina's congested downtown before terminating at Highway 1, but it is possible the road may follow Imjin Parkway to Highway 1. The existing Highway 1 interchange (Exit 408) with Imjin Parkway is scheduled to be upgraded to accommodate increased traffic using the upgraded Imjin Parkway.

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