Historic 99 signs posted in Madera
For The Madera Tribune
Madera City Workers Toby Garcia, right, and Angel Ruiz put the finishing touches on an historic Highway 99 sign along Gateway Drive.
The City of Madera, in partnership with the non-profit Historic Highway 99 Association of California, announced the completed installation of six new Historic US Route 99 signs on Gateway Drive, which commemorates the former major U.S. highway.
Known to most as Gateway Drive, the route was originally a major thoroughfare for transporting agricultural produce — vegetables, livestock fodder, and cattle — from Imperial Valley to major cities in California, and along the west coast. Funding for the signs was obtained through private donations made to the association, and the City’s Public Works Department moved swiftly to install them once received.
According to Michael Ballard, President of the Historic Highway 99 Association of California, the project aims to increase public awareness of the route’s existence and historical significance.
“We started the Historic Highway 99 Association of California to help do more for the roadway, its history, and the people along it,” said Ballard. “US Highway 99 formed the backbone of California, also known as the “Main Street of California,” and traveled through the agricultural and industrial heart of the state. In doing so, US Highway 99 helped California grow as a state by linking these places with a good highway.”
“The alignment through Madera, Gateway Drive, which was bypassed in 1958, also still has a few elements remaining from its time as the main roadway,” Ballard said. “At 8th St, there is a bridge from 1935 with an intact railing. The 1930’s paving still exists from the Fresno River bridge north to near Cleveland Avenue. While these aren’t necessarily a draw for tourists, Madera’s location at a major junction point for Yosemite traffic is. Encouraging some of that traffic to take the old road through town could help revitalize the businesses along the way. There is also a small collection of wineries, known collectively as the Madera Wine Trail, which can draw tourists. Historic US 99 takes them there.”
The signs were placed at the following locations along Gateway Drive:
• Gateway, south of Avenue 16
• Gateway, at Central (north and southbound)
• Gateway, at Yosemite (north and southbound)
• Gateway, at Olive
The Association has now set its eyes on the pine and palm trees in the median of Highway 99, between Avenue 12 and 9. Those trees represents the halfway point along US 99 in California. Northern California is represented by the pine tree, whereas the palm tree represents Southern California.
“In time, we plan to work with Caltrans to have signage placed at that location to mark it better,” said Ballard. “Currently, travelers may or may not notice the trees in the median mixed in with the oleander.”
For information about, or to donate to the 501(c)(3) non-profit Historic Highway 99 Association of California, visit their website at https://www.historic99.org.