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Old Highway 399, Part 2: Old US 399 in Ventura (Ventura Ave); CA 33/Old US 399 to Ojai

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[US 101 and US 399 in Ventura, 1934.] Of course, the original routing of US 399 in Ventura, as we mentioned in Part 1, was not the Ojai Freeway; instead, US 399 was routed along the valley floor on Ventura Avenue. This can be seen in the ACSC map inset at right, along with old US 101.

North of Ventura, and the Ojai Fwy, old US 399 merges back with CA 33 through Casitas Springs, Oak View and into Ojai. Although there have been several putative and known realignments, the current alignment is still very close to the original routing and still uses much of the original construction. This makes it a fascinating trip through highway time that is still used in the present day. We will try to mark or travel some of these old routings as we come to them.


Modern Ventura Avenue starts at the Ventura Freeway/US 101, the elevated alignment of which can be seen just in the distance here through the trees. Parallel to US 101 runs Thompson Boulevard ...

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... which is signed, reasonably, as BUSINESS US 101 despite the better known old routing on Main Street to the north. The decision to sign it here (apparently maintained by the City of Ventura) appears to be an economic one, but hey, what are business routes for?

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Ventura Avenue (Old US 399)

However, that southern part of Ventura Ave is likely not where US 399 actually started; more likely it began at this point, at the old US 101 alignment along Main St. East along Main St is the old Mission and I'll add pictures of that here in a later pass when I'm next in the area. For now, we'll continue on northbound Ventura Ave. This point is officially the southern end of the original Maricopa Highway.

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Center St through north Ventura.

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NB Ventura Ave/old US 399.

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Stanley Avenue. (Compare these streets with the corresponding exits on the Ojai Freeway.)

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Curving around as we (rather quickly) leave the city limits.

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Approaching the oil fields.

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Turn-off for Shell Road. Notice the Ventura county route postmile on the right, showing PM 0.50 (this is obviously after leaving the city boundary).

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NB Ventura Avenue.

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Ventura Ave snakes around the Ojai Fwy and crosses it twice. This is the first such undercrossing, just south of the Cañada Larga Rd exit.

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Continuing along, this time west of the freeway.

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PM 3.00.

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The second and final undercrossing, a half mile or so before Casitas Vista Rd.

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These sections hug the freeway rather tightly and it is omni-visible.

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Old signage at the Casitas Vista Rd exit as we prepare to merge with CA 33 and the terminating Ojai Fwy.

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Merge.

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Ventura Avenue (CA 33/Old US 399)

As we merge with CA 33, we begin a CA 33 safety corridor due to the high traffic and tight confines of the valley route.

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Case in point, this 30mph turn barely north of the high-speed arterial.

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Entering Casitas Springs. The name casitas means "little houses" in Spanish and is widely applied in the region, allegedly named for the Indian huts that used to dot the area; the same name is used for the Casitas Dam (impounding the Coyote Creek to form Casitas Lake), Casitas Pass and the Casitas Valley. Casitas Springs was in older days a larger town, with its own post office, sharing population with the nearby town of (simply) Casitas. The post office closed in 1969, but a small population remains, effectively making it a small mid-point bedroom community for Ojai and Ventura.

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The dense traffic has of course been a source of alarm to local residents, but no obvious freeway routing has been adopted. One possible irony in this sign is that the current routing of CA 33 may have been itself a bypass of a possible earlier routing along what is now Nye Rd to the east, but I don't have any map evidence for this.

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Leaving Casitas Springs.

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The southern boundary for Oak View is the San Antonio Creek, another tributary of the Ventura River, joining south of the confluence of the forks of the Matilija Creek upstream that form the Ventura. (The north fork will be our constant companion in Part 3.)

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This bridge was a very early part of the route, built in 1936, and still in service.

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The view off the bridge over the creek valley.

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Looking back we see an old roadway parallel to our approach, which is probably a remnant of the crossing preceding the current bridge. How this alignment went is unclear, but probably crossed over the now-obliterated bridge to Old Grade Rd in Oak View proper either by Old Creek Rd or modern Creek Rd; there is not enough map evidence for any of these theories, but they sound plausible per se. However, if we accept any of these theories as true, then we have a loose end to tie up in Oak View [more on this presently] with another better marked old alignment, and it is unclear just how much time US 399 occupied the putative old alignment if it occupied it at all. For that reason, I'm simply going to travel the modern highway as marked.

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Ascending the grade.

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Oak View municipal signage. Despite being unincorporated, it is one of the larger towns in the Ojai Valley, with 4,199 [2000] residents. The name, formally Oak View Gardens, was applied in 1925 due to the garden-like appearance of the local oak groves.

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PM 8.50 cresting the hill into downtown Oak View.

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Fork 1: Former Old US 399 in Oak View (Old Ventura Avenue, Old Grade Road)

Through downtown Oak View, there is at least one older alignment, which is well marked on street signs starting at Old Ventura Ave. This is where we get into trouble with our earlier theories at San Antonio Ck because none of them connect to Old Ventura, which based on the pavement age and obvious name is undoubtedly old alignment. Old Ventura splits off mainline CA 33/old US 399 at Park Ave.

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Old Ventura Ave through old Oak View.

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Eventually Old Ventura Ave ends at Old Grade Rd ...

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... which we follow back to the mainline. It is unclear when this well-marked old alignment was bypassed.

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Fork 2: Old US 399 in Oak View (Ventura Avenue [CA 33])

Until its re-signing as CA 33, US 399 then ran down modern Ventura Avenue until its decommissioning.

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Picking up Old Grade Rd.

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NB CA 33/old US 399.

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Oak View seems to be in two distinct halves, split by a small unnamed crest.

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Down the hill.

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North Oak View at Woodland Avenue.

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Approaching the CA 150 junction, coming up from Santa Barbara.

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However, I rather liked the old sign that used to be here (photographed 2005).

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Shields at the intersection.

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Junction CA 150. We continue on as CA 33/CA 150/old US 399.

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Ventura Ave (CA 33/CA 150)

CA 33 and CA 150 run together on this short common routing, as US 399 and CA 150 did earlier. Note that today legislatively the postmiles denote this route as CA 150, despite CA 33 being US 399's inheritor in this region (PM 14.64).

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Ojai city limits. We won't see very much of Ojai along US 399; the highway only ever ran on the modern outskirts and it is generally served by CA 150. Nevertheless, Ojai and the Ojai Valley it sits in are probably the largest of the mountain Ventura bedroom communities, with 8,006 [2003] residents hemmed in the small valley by the surrounding hills. The name is Chumash Indian for "valley of the moon," and was known to them in antiquity; the original town was named Nordhoff for writer Charles Nordhoff but dropped for Ojai in 1917, in the wake of the anti-German sentiments of World War I. After the town was badly destroyed by a fire that same year, it was largely rebuilt and financed by local booster Edward Libbey. Many of these buildings still stand, although Libbey's famous pergola was wrecked in 1971 and was not rebuilt until over 30 years later. He is still honoured at the annual Ojai Day in October.

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Entering town.

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Advance signage for the CA 33/CA 150 split (PM 16.50).

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Turning left onto the beginning of the Maricopa Hwy.

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Looking back at the distance signage at the junction as we leave CA 150 for our mountain thrill ride.

Continue to Part 3

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