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El Toyon Freeway (Dead CA 252)

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[Dead CA 252 Map] A baffling mystery to me growing up in San Diego was these huge ramps on I-805 going to what was, to my mind, a minor city street that didn't need the huge access that these towering bridges afforded. As my roadgeek karma got shinier and I started to do a little research, it became apparent that rather than simply being ramps to a city street, they were in fact part of a Freeway That Never Was (tm).

The Freeway That Never Was, in this case, is "Dead CA 252" (I call it "Dead" instead of "Old" because it never got a true full alignment), or El Toyon Freeway. The Toyon was supposed to be part of the loop bypass allowing traffic to route around downtown for points north acting as a connector from I-5 to the further east I-805 corridor, and was part of Caltrans' highway planning as early as 1958 (Casey's excellent CA 252 Page has a planning map showing the intended routing). Coupled with Dead CA 157/the San Miguel Freeway, another route that never got off the drawing board either (the approximate present-day traversable route, for the curious, is modern-day Paradise Valley Rd), the segment would have allowed connections as far east as the present-day CA 54/CA 125 junction.

When I-805's construction through this area occurred during the early 1970s, the flyover ramps for the intended CA 252 were built at the same time with intent to finish the freeway later. The death of this route, though, was probably assured when intense community disapproval forced the death of CA 157 due to the immense impact on local businesses and homeowners; it was deleted by SANDAG -- never having had a single mile constructed of it -- in 1974, and its routing finally purged legislatively in 1994. With its eastern connection lost, CA 252 became administratively vulnerable and when similar community pressure opposed its construction, plans to further extend the tiny freeway were scuttled in 1980. It, too, had its routing purged in 1994.

It is unlikely that CA 252 will ever be resurrected. Besides the bad taste left in the mouth of Barrio Logan locals, its original purpose -- an inner loop system bypassing downtown San Diego -- has been taken over by modern-day CA 54, CA 125 and CA 52. Now superfluous, its only legacy remains those gigantic ramps and an overgrown abandoned right-of-way persisting to the present time.

Photographed January 2005 and January 2007.


Dead CA 252's western terminus would have been here at what is presently the I-5/CA 15 junction (the former I-5/old CA 103 junction -- not the same as present-day CA 103). Part of this is evidenced by widening of the ramps to facilitate Dead CA 252's intersection into a three-way exchange, which persists to this day.

This interchange's days as presently signed are numbered, because once CA 15 is upgraded to full Interstate standards, this will become the I-5/I-15 junction and CA 15 will itself perish.

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View of the giant ramps to 43rd St. This is taken from a vantage point near Division St in National City, just south of San Diego city limits. The ramps tower nearly ten stories over the surrounding community.

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The first evidence of irregularity is on SB I-805 approaching "CA 252" when it calls it the 43rd St Exit.

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Access from SB I-805.

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This is the smallest of the ramps and is barely aerial as it ends at 43rd.

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From NB I-805, however, we go up to the second highest ramp.

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Exiting right.

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Dead CA 252's single "exit" before the end of the "freeway." The small ramp from SB I-805 joins us ahead.

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Approaching the terminal traffic light.

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The terminus, at a small shopping centre, and, anticlimactically, 43rd St.

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Beyond the shopping centre are occasional swathes of leftover right-of-way which are now overgrown, but I was unable to find a good vantage point to capture this from the ground although one section is (marginally) visible in the centre of the picture. The Coronado Bay Bridge is in the background.

Thus, if you can't get it from the ground, get it from the air. The thumbnail at right links to a satellite image showing the remainder of Dead CA 252's right-of-way (the envisioned routing shown with light shading; I-15/CA 15 is at left, I-805 at right, and 43rd St indicated with a star). The road travelling down the middle of the right-of-way until it ends is modern-day Alpha Street, which is the street on which the photo at left was taken.

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Going NB on 43rd St back to the "El Toyon" junction. This new sign only mentions I-805.

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The ramps once again, this time facing EB "El Toyon." No postmiles or markers appear at any point. Inexplicably, the route seems to have a sponsor for litter removal. We exit NB I-805 to go on the highest ramp; the SB I-805 exit is technically aerial but achieves no more altitude than the very first ramp we looked at.

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Cresting the highest ramp back towards I-805 NB.

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View of I-805 as we make the turn towards the merge from the "apex" of the ramp's arc. 47th Street is visible at the bottom.

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As the ramps are the only remnants of Dead CA 252, it seems fitting that they would carry the only "signage" remaining of CA 252 as well. Look closely at the pillar (here is an enlargement).

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All images, photographs and multimedia, unless otherwise stated, are copyright © 2004-2014 Cameron Kaiser. All rights reserved. All writeups are copyright © 2004-2014 Cameron Kaiser. All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying or duplication without express consent of the copyright holder is strictly prohibited. Please contact the sitemaster to request permission if you wish to use items from this page.

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