William D. McIntosh was a county engineer with Lassen County after WWII. He worked on road design, construction, and maintenance at all levels. From operating machinery, to surveying, to layout and design. In the 1950’s, as a member of the County Supervisors Association of California (CSAC, now the California State Association of Counties) , he put forward the idea of identifying and standardizing major county routes and he brought it up at a state meeting. There was some initial opposition citing the cost, however one major backer was the California State Automobile Association. They made road maps and recognized that standardized route and markers would greatly simplify driving in California. So a committee was created, with McIntosh as the head, to investigate a state route marker program. This resulted in the establishment, in 1958, of the California County Route Marker Program. The group developed a pentagon-shaped blue and gold sign for California that included the country and route number; the program designates the more important county routes by assigning them as "County Sign Routes" and giving route numbers to them. The intent of the program was captured in their statement of purpose:
“The County Route Marker Program should be clearly defined as a program to mark County routes of major importance that are of general public interest; that are constructed to sufficient standards to guarantee safe passage to the motorist; that are properly signed in conformance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to further ensure safe travel; and that have a logical beginning and logical terminus.”
In California, signs are labeled with a letter and a number, with the letters were arranged alphabetically starting at the top of the state. McIntosh engineered the program such as Lassen County was able to get the letter "A", and the designation A1 going to one of his best, most scenic roads, which linked Route 36 and Eagle Lake. The road won national recognition, and the Olympic torch was carried on it for the 1984 Olympics. The road has since been given the designation the “William D. McIntosh Highway.”
McIntosh then brought the program to the National
Association of Counties (NACO) in 1967, where it was incorporated
into the National Uniform County Route Marker Program.
(Source: Be A Producer blog, article posted 8/31/2009)
This 13-point program designates the more important county routes by designating them as "County Sign Routes" and assigning route numbers to them. The program directs county Boards of Supervisors and road commissioners to select routes that adhere to the established criteria for route selection and that are (a) constructed to a reasonable standard, (b) are provided with adequate warning signs.
The basic County Route Marker Program is defined by NACO as follows:
A County Route Marker Program should not be confused with "Standard County Road Signs" or "Standard County Route Signing Programs." The County Route Marker Program should be clearly defined as a program to mark County routes of major importance that are of general public interest; that are constructed to sufficient standards to guarantee safe passage to the motorist; that are properly signed in conformace with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to further ensure safe travel; and that have a logical beginning and logical terminus without reference to City, County, or State Boundaries.
This program had the bulk of its routes added between 1958 through 1970. The only new county sign route added since 1983 has been San Bernardino County Route 66 (in tribute to US 66, although they didn't follow the convention by making it an R or S route).
Counties also maintain internal road numbers. Sometimes these numbers are reflected on the county roads, for example, in Tulare County, County Road SR140 is signed Road 140. In other counties, the numbers appear to be sequential (for example, Hall Road in Tehama County is County Road 53). Some counties don't seem to number their roads (such as Los Angeles county). Lastly, some counties use more complicated numbers (Oroville Dam Blvd East in Oroville is County Road 25473, and Greet Street in Tuolumne county is A54230). This site does not keep track of county roads not in the County Sign Route program, unless they are of specific historic interest.
For each route, information is given in the following categories:
Routing. The route of the county highway, as best can be determined.
Highway History. General historical information about the route number and its use (or previous uses).
Current Status. Current status of the route. This gives information about construction, signage, and specific routing notes. It also provides meta-information; i.e., information about the routing information.
HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) Lane Information. Information about any commuter lanes constructed, or whose construction is planned, along this route.
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