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From Route 5 in Weed to the Oregon state line near Dorris.
This route was defined in 1963 as the route from "Route 5 at Weed to the Oregon state line near Calor."
In 1965, Chapter 1402 changed the origin to "Route 5 at Highway Avenue Interchange in Weed"
In 1984, Chapter 409 relaxed the routing to "Route 5
Avenue in Weed to the Oregon state line near Calor
This route was signed as part of the original signage of US routes in California in October 1934. It was LRN 72 defined in 1931.
Before 1934, US 97 was defined to start (i.e., its southernmost point) in Oregon, on former US–99 (now I-5) S of Ashland OR. The routing between Ashland OR and Klamath Falls OR appears to have been along what is now OR 66.
The Oregon state route definition for US 97, circa 1934, states*:
Entering Oregon at Biggs, crossing US 30 and following Sherman Hwy. to a junction with The Dalles-California Hwy.; thence on The Dalles-California Hwy. via Bend and Klamath Falls to a junct. with Secondary #420 east of Klamath Falls; thence on Secondary #420 via Worden and Midland, leaving Oregon north of Dorris. (Note: At present, US 97 extends west from Klamath Falls to a junct. with US 99 south of Ashland. The above routing contemplates the change being sanctioned by the California Highway Dept. and the American Association of Highway Officials so that US 97 will connect with US 99 at Weed, California.)
Present research leads to the conclusion that US 97 was rerouted officially to Weed on June 23, 1934, as that was when the routing decision was actually made. This view is reinforced by the August 1934 correspondence between Oregon State Highway Engineer Baldock and AASHO Executive Secretary Markham in which the latter basically acknowledges in his response that the changes have been made but also cautions that they were still “attempting to get this information ready for the State Highway Departments” and that they didn’t want “any publicity on the numbering until about the time of the Convention.” It appears that this change was not publicly announced in Oregon until November (mid-November internally;late-November to the public). In California, the first appearance of US 97 was in the August 1934 issue of CHPW. Jonathan Ledbetter also found some information in the December 1938 issue of CHPW related to US 97.
It appears that the 1931 definition by the legislature pre-dates the
official designation as signed US 97. The actual route itself goes back to
1925-1927, at least on the Oregon side. Official Oregon highway maps from
1930-1935 show that the route also existed in California in that time.
Specifically, the road south from Klamath Falls went through Doris as of
1930, though it looks like it was realigned when was paved around 1933. On
the Oregon side, the portion of the road between Klamath Falls to the
California border was Klamath County Market Road 1 until it was taken over
by the state of Oregon on November 13, 1931, as Midland Highway #420, a
secondary state highway.
(Reference: ODOT's "History of State Highways in Oregon", 2011 edition)
In California, CHPW noted that, in 1931, the legislature incorporated a road from Weed on the Pacific Highway, to the Oregon line north of Dorris, into the state highway system. This was designated as LRN 72 and was locally known as a part of the Weed-Klamath Falls highway. Having in mind the relative importance of the Weed-Klamath Falls Highway as a unit of a major transportation system, both Oregon and California began improving the route as rapidly as finances permitted. In 1931, the distance from Weed to Klamath Falls was 63 miles in California and 21 miles in Oregon, a total of 84 miles of low standard, dusty, and, in California, mostly one-way county road. In 1936, Oregon completed her portion of the route to a high standard of alignment, grade and surface, eliminating railroad grade crossing and reducing the distance from the State line to Klamath Falls to 17 miles. According to CHPW, the most difficult unit of the route from the maintenance point of view was about three miles from Dorris to the State line. This inferior earth road over poor soil quickly became impassable after light rainfall. In 1933 this three miles was constructed on new alignment and grade with a 6-inch base course of crushed rock and a temporary armor type of surface. About the same time the existing road between Dorris and Macdoel, 10 miles, was improved with a road mix of oil and local cinders. While Oregon did have a road between Klamath Falls and California, it wasn't improved until 1936. This is likely describing when The Dalles-California Highway OR 4 was extended south from Klamath Falls to the California state line, taking over the portion of the Midland Highway OR 420 from Midland to the state line.
It does not appear that this route was signed before 1934, when it was signed as US 97.
LRN 72 first appears on the 1932 State Highway Map as a mostly unimproved
roadway between Weed and the Oregon State Line. By 1934 the routing of LRN 72 was still shown as mostly unimproved with a intermediate section of
roadway. The act to shift US 97 into California wasn't passed until
October of 1934. By 1936 US 97 made an appear on the State Highway Map.
From the Oregon State Line US 97 is shown as a High Type roadway south to
Macdoel with a significant divergence following the railroad largely
southward on unimproved roads. The US 97 divergence shown above on the
1936 State Highway Map can be seen in far greater detail on the 1935
California Division of Highways Map of Siskiyou County. The original
alignment of US 97 can be observed passing through Macdoel and Mount
Hebron southward via Old State Highway south towards the old rail siding
of Bray. From Bray US 97 traveled westward on Forest Route 8001, Forest
Route 44N25, and over Butte Creek via Tenant Road. US 97 followed Alder
Creek Road and Deer Creek Mountain Road where it joined the modern highway
alignment at the siding known as Cougar. By 1938 the modern alignment of
US 97 can seen on the State Highway Map.
(Source: Gribblenation Blog: Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway; US Route 97, California State Route 161, Tule Lake, and Lava Beds National Monument, 9/15/2018)
The rationale for the route (as noted in the April 1931 CHPW) was that
geography dictated the routing for the Pacific Highway (US 99/I-5) through
the north-central portion of California. To reach the Klamath Lake basin
from LRN 3 (US 99, later I-5) near Weed required a salient easterly path
through Oregon. The logical course for this path was a northeasterly
diagonal departing from the Pacific Highway (US 99/I-5) after the latter
passes north of the summit near Mount Shasta. This was an established
course for both railroads and highways. The 1931 proposed routing was 44
miles shorter than a routing via the Shasta Canyon Highway over the
Siskiyou Mountains. The proposed routing departed from LRN 3/US 99/I-5
near Weed, and took a direct course to the Orgon Highway near Calor. The
route was felt to be an important interstate connection that would carry a
large volume of state traffic.
(Source: Much of the information on the routing of US 97 in Oregon comes from research provided by Jonathan Ledbetter)
Caltrans is working on a project to realign Route 97 near Dorris. This project will bypass three 90° turns in the city, and provide a grade separation with the railroad. In February 2003, the CTC had on its agenda the route adoption of a freeway location for Route 97 near the City of Dorris, in Siskiyou County from 0.7 km south of Richardson Rd. to Sheepy Creek Rd. 02-Sis-97 KP 79.3/84.3 (PM SIS 49.3/52.4). This is probably related to the realignment.
This route also has the following Safety Roadside Rest Areas:
[SHC 253.1] Entire route; signed as US Highway. Added to the Freeway and Expressway system in 1959.
[SHC 263.1] Entire route.
This was part of the Pacific Highway and the California-Banff "B" Route.
This route is part of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway All American Road.
This route was designated as a "Blue Star Memorial Highway" by Senate Resolution 64 in 1961.
[SHC 164.15] Entire route.
Overall statistics for US 97:
In 1959, Chapter 1062 added "a connection to [LRN 34] south of Ione".
This route ran from US 99 near Stockton to Route 16 near Waite's Station including a connection to Route 104 south of Ione. This was Route 88 between Stockton and Route 88 2 mi SE of Ione (present-day Route 88/Route 104 junction). It was also Route 104 from 2 mi SW of Ione to Route 16. This is present-day Route 124.
Acronyms and Explanations:
Route 96 Route 98
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