Interstate 305 California


Interstate 305 is the hidden Interstate designation for Business Loop I-80 between Interstate 80 in West Sacramento and the A Street viaduct northeast of the U.S. 50/California 99 (Veterans Purple Heart Freeway) interchange near downtown Sacramento. Unlike most signed routes in California, there is no assigned Calfornia State Route 305, but the number is reserved because Interstate 305 is still used for funding petitions for this road.

The mileage of the route per the federal route log is a little over eight miles; the distance between Interstate 80 and California 99 is six miles. It is most likely that the Interstate 305 designation continues northeast of California 99, perhaps as far as the railroad viaduct near A Street. This is the point where the rejected/defunct north Sacramento Interstate 80 bypass was to diverge from the extant "Elvas Freeway" en route to what was then Interstate 880. Interstate funds were used for the construction of the 29th-30th Street Freeway, which is now Business Loop I-80/California 51 (the "Elvas Freeway" section north of there was opened about 1952 and thus predated Interstate funding). Therefore, it also could make sense that the Federal definition of Interstate 305 -- particularly as a truncated substitute for the original Interstate 80 -- would encompass this section of freeway, since it, and not U.S. 50 east of the Business Loop I-80/California 99/California 51 interchange, received chargeable Interstate funding. The mileage figure works for the California 51 routing as well, indicating that the Interstate 305 designation ends about one-third mile north of the A Street railroad overpass, where the roadway centerline of the deleted bypass would have crossed the extant facility.1


This designation, Interstate 305, was created in 1980 by an action of the Federal Highway Association, after a long-planned upgrade of the Capital City Freeway (Business Loop I-80) was canceled. This upgrade was planned during the 1970s, which would result in a brand-new freeway to replace the Elvas Freeway (now known as Business Loop I-80/unsigned California 51) between Interstate 80 and California 99 near Arden Fair. The idea was to remove substandard sections of freeway, including some sharp curves, poor sight distance, narrow right-of-way, and small or nonexistent shoulders. This plan was moving forward through the 1970s until 1979, when the Sacramento City Council, in a historic first, voted that year to delete the new Interstate 80 alignment and use the funding and right-of-way for a rail transit system. Prior to 1979, no other city had ever done this. As a result of this action, the right-of-way that was intended for Interstate 80 that had been partially built by 1979 was converted into a parking lot for Sacramento's light rail system.

As a result of this action by the City of Sacramento, the Interstate-standard replacement for the Elvas Freeway was not constructed. This resulted in a dilemma: how would Interstate 80 be allowed to follow an Interstate-standard freeway for its trek through Sacramento? So, between 1980 and 1982, changes took form. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) acted first in 1980 with a series of actions.

First, since the Elvas Freeway was signed as Interstate 80 but was not technically part of Interstate 80 due to its substandard features, Interstate 80 was rerouted off the Elvas Freeway and onto the existing Interstate-standard Sacramento Bypass (then known as Interstate 880). Second, the proposed and now-discarded replacement freeway alignment was on the Interstate system, but since it wasn't built, the Interstate designation for that corridor was revoked. Third, the Elvas Freeway was renumbered as California 51, but it was signed as part of Business Loop I-80 (Capital City Freeway) to allow for clear direction for travelers along Interstate 80 into downtown Sacramento.

A fourth change was the introduction of a new Interstate highway in the Sacramento area: Interstate 305. The portion of Interstate 80 from Highway 99 west to the 80/880 junction in West Sacramento is retained in the Interstate system as Interstate 305 (FAI 305). In spite of all of these changes from FHWA and AASHTO, no signage changes took place, however, because 80 and 880 remain in their original, California-legislatively defined alignments in the state highway system. However, changes to the state highway legislation came a few years later, in 1982.

This action was brought in as California State Senate Bill 191 in 1981, which made several changes in the highway system to reflect the FHWA and AASHTO actions. The SB 191 legislation embraced most of the changes: Interstate 880 was deleted from the state highway system and Interstate 80 was rerouted over it. The FAP 51 segment of the old 80 alignment is renumbered as California 51. However, the legislation did not call for the creation of Interstate 305 as a state route; instead, SB 191 created a westward extension of U.S. 50 from its former terminus at California 99 to Interstate 80 in West Sacramento.

The biggest name change as a result of SB 191 was the signage of the entire old 80 alignment as Interstate Business Loop 80, contingent upon AASHTO approval. This action meant that FAI 305 was never signed as Interstate 305, and is instead signed as Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50. It is technically correct to state that Interstate 305 indeed exists between the Interstate 80/U.S. 50 interchange in West Sacramento and the California 99/U.S. 50/California 51 interchange near downtown Sacramento. According to Joe Rouse, the Interstate 305 designation is only a federal designation, and is used for funding purposes only. It appears in the March 2001 Route Log and Finders List. The state route number is 50 and that is how Caltrans refers to it, even though it is primarily signed as Business Loop I-80. There have not been and there are still no Interstate 305 shields on it at all. The Interstate 305 designation has only appeared on a couple of local street maps, and that was years ago.

In spite of this flurry of renumbering, confusion still remains on Business Loop I-80, since it is still a freeway and does not seem different from Interstate 80. Even the 1996 designation of Business Loop I-80 by the Sacramento City Council as the Capital City Freeway has done little to alleviate confused motorists. So it is possible that Interstate 305 may someday be legislatively designated and signed in a future plan to create a consistent numbering system in the Sacramento area.

Highway Guides

Western Terminus - Interstate 80 - West Sacramento, California
Perspective from Interstate 80 East
Eastbound Interstate 80 approaching Eastbound Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 (Hidden Interstate 305). As shown in this picture, Interstate 305 is not signed. Photo taken by Joel Windmiller (05/12/02).
Close-up of signage for Eastbound Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 (Hidden Interstate 305). Note the strip pasted onto the sign for Capital City Freeway; it was added around 1996. Photo taken by Joel Windmiller (05/12/02).
Close-up of through traffic Interstate 80 sign. This sign was placed in 1970, and it originally displayed Interstate 880, until the routes were re-signed in 1982. The green square to the right of the Interstate 80 shield is for the Sacramento International Airport, which is on Interstate 5 north of Sacramento. Photo taken by Joel Windmiller (05/12/02).
Westbound Interstate 80 at Junction Hidden Interstate 305, Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 Eastbound. Photo taken by Joel Windmiller (05/12/02).
Perspective from Interstate 305, Business Loop I-80, and U.S. 50 West
Westbound Interstate 305/U.S. 50/Business Loop I-80 approaching Harbor Boulevard, three-quarters of a mile. Unlike other freeway to freeway interchanges in Sacramento, the Interstate 80/Business Loop I-80/U.S. 50/Interstate 305 is the most subdued. Even though the Harbor Boulevard interchange is within a couple miles of Interstate 80, there are few advance signs indicating Interstate 80 is coming. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Westbound Interstate 305/U.S. 50/Business Loop I-80 approaching Harbor Boulevard, the last exit before meeting Interstate 80. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Westbound Interstate 305/U.S. 50/Business Loop I-80 at Harbor Boulevard, approaching Eastbound Interstate 80. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Westbound Interstate 305/U.S. 50/Business Loop I-80 at Eastbound Interstate 80. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Westbound Interstate 305/U.S. 50/Business Loop I-80 passes under the Interstate 80 interchange. There are no end shields present for either U.S. 50 or Business Loop I-80. No signs indicate that U.S. 50 is about to become Interstate 80 westbound. Photos taken by Andy Field and Joel Windmiller (01/03) and on 08/23/03.
Westbound Interstate 305/U.S. 50/Business Loop I-80 end as they merge with Interstate 80 traffic from the right. The next exit along westbound Interstate 80 is Enterprise Boulevard/West Capitol Avenue (Historic U.S. 40/U.S. 99W). Photo taken 01/03.
Perspective from Interstate 305, Business Loop I-80, and U.S. 50 East
After eastbound Interstate 80 traffic exits, this mileage sign is primarily intended for U.S. 50 traffic. it provides the distance to two California destinations -- Placerville and South Lake Tahoe -- as well as Ocean City, Maryland, the eastern terminus of U.S. 50, which is some 3,000 miles away from here! There have been questions as to whether the mileage on this sign is accurate to the mile (the sign says 3,037 but it might be 3,050), but even so, 3,000 miles is a long way to travel. Photo taken 01/03.
Eastern Terminus (#1) - Near A Street Railroad Viaduct in Sacramento, California
No photos are currently available for the first possible eastern terminus of Interstate 305 (it is something of an arbitrary location).
Eastern Terminus (#2) - California 51 and California 99 - Sacramento, California
Perspective from Business Loop I-80 West/California 51 South
Westbound Business Loop I-80 and Southbound California 51 along the 29th-30th Freeway approaching U.S. 50 and hidden Interstate 305. Photo taken 01/03.
To reach Interstate 5, traffic is advised to follow westbound Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 (and hidden Interstate 305). Photo taken 01/03.
The left lanes lead to California 99, while through traffic on Business Loop I-80 must use the right exit only lanes to continue west. This interchange is the southern terminus of hidden California 51 and the eastern terminus of Interstate 305. Note how U.S. 50 is only signed for eastbound, even though it continues west to West Sacramento. The signage of this interchange varies with each perspective. Photo taken 01/03.
Just like the sign shown two photoboxes above, Interstate 5 is accessible only via westbound Business Loop I-80, U.S. 50, and hidden Interstate 305. Hopefully with the advent of exit numbers in California, it will be easier to indicate the appropriate exit number to reach a certain road. Photo taken 01/03.
Westbound Business Loop I-80 and Southbound California 51 at the transition ramp onto westbound U.S. 50 and Interstate 305. The 29-30 Freeway transitions into the WX Freeway here. Traffic in left lanes will be defaulted onto southbound California 99. Photo taken 01/03.
This signage on the transition ramp shows that from this perspective, U.S. 50 is only signed eastbound and not westbound. Business Loop I-80 is signed westbound to Interstate 5. Of course, Interstate 305 remains unsigned. Photo taken 01/03.
Perspective from U.S. 50 West
First signage for Business Loop I-80 and California 99 along westbound U.S. 50. The next exits are for 65th Street and Stockton Boulevard (Historic U.S. 50-99). Photo taken 08/23/03.
For westbound traffic heading to Sacramento International Airport, follow U.S. 50 west to Interstate 5 north, then Interstate 5 north to the airport exit just after the north California 99 split. Photo taken 08/23/03.
A multilane freeway from Placerville west through Sacramento, U.S. 50 is Interstate standard for much of that journey. As additional commuters join U.S. 50 as it reaches downtown, the freeway swells to over ten lanes in places. On this Saturday morning, the westbound freeway one mile east of the Business Loop I-80 exit was relatively uncrowded, but it can be quite busy on most weekday mornings. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Westbound U.S. 50 approaching California 99 and Business Loop I-80. Interstate 305 is presumed to begin at the interchange complex, although it is completely unsigned. In fact, several routes in this area are unsigned, including California 16 between Jackson Road and Woodland and California 99 between U.S. 50 and north of Arco Arena. At one time, both routes were signed through Sacramento. Photo taken 08/23/03.
This sign warns westbound motorists to stay right for access to westbound Business Loop I-80. Note that this reflective sign features an Interstate rather than business loop shield. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Westbound U.S. 50 approaching Business Loop I-80/California 51 (one-quarter mile), California 99 (one-half mile), and 26th Street (three-quarters of a mile). Photo taken 08/23/03.
As U.S. 50 meets the exit for eastbound Business Loop I-80/northbound California 51, Interstate 305 begins. As noted above, it is possible that Interstate 305 extends further east based on federal route log mileage, but it is unclear if the mileage is correct. Business Loop I-80 leads northeast toward Arden Way, home of several large shopping malls, and it connects to Interstate 80 near Watt Avenue. Photo taken 08/23/03.
Westbound U.S. 50/Interstate 305 at the next ramp for California 99 south. California 99 connects the many cities and towns along the spine of the Central Valley and is the main farm-to-market arterial. The Central Valley is one of the world's leading agricultural regions, with crops ranging from rice, pears, grapes, lettuce, and other table vegetables and fruits. Leading south to Lodi, Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Visalia, and Bakersfield, California 99 joins Interstate 5 near Wheeler Ridge, thus providing a connection to the cities of Southern California. Photo taken 08/23/03.
U.S. 50 passes under the California 99/California 51 interchange and becomes what is locally known as the WX Freeway, since the freeway lies along those two streets in Sacramento's downtown street grid pattern. The first exit along westbound Interstate 305 and U.S. 50 is for 26th Street, followed by Former California 160/16th Street (even though California 160 is signed in this photograph). Photo taken 08/23/03.
Perspective from Interstate 305, Business Loop I-80, and U.S. 50 East
Eastbound Business Loop Interstate 80 and U.S. 50 at end of Interstate 305. Photo taken by Joel Windmiller, 9/99.
Perspective from California 99 North
Northbound California 99 approaching Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 (and unsigned Interstate 305), one and three-quarters miles. Currently U.S. 50 begins at its interchange with Interstate 80 in West Sacramento. However, prior to 1964, U.S. 50 was actually cosigned with U.S. 99 (now California 99) between Stockton and Sacramento. This freeway carried both numbers. With the completion of Interstate 580 and Interstate 205, U.S. 50 was superfluous, and its designation was rescinded to downtown Sacramento. When Interstate 80 was removed from downtown Sacramento and rerouted onto former Interstate 880 (Sacramento Bypass), the former section of Interstate 80 between West Sacramento and downtown became an extension of U.S. 50 (as well as Interstate 305). Photo taken 08/22/03.
This large truck along northbound California 99 obscures the Eastbound Business Loop I-80 sign, but it does show the signage for U.S. 50 and To Interstate 80. Photo taken 08/22/03.
To reach Sacramento International Airport, traffic is advised to use Interstate 80 west. This is an error; traffic should use Business Loop I-80 west to Interstate 5 north (or follow the path of unsigned California 99 north!). Photo taken 08/22/03.
This is the only sign that traffic for northbound California 99 should use westbound Business Loop I-80 and Interstate 305 and U.S. 50 to reach its northern segment, which serves Marysville-Yuba City, Oroville (via California 70), and Chico. It is interesting to see that these signs display use San Francisco Exit. Hopefully exit numbers will help to make this connection less confusing (or else use Interstate 305 shields!). Photo taken 08/22/03.
The four left lanes of northbound California 99 transition onto northbound California 51/Business Loop I-80, while the right lanes lead to westbound Business Loop I-80 and both directions of U.S. 50. Westbound Business Loop I-80 also serves as northbound California 99, but signage for 99 is poor. And we have not even mentioned that unsigned California 16 and Interstate 305 pass through here too. This can be quite a confusing interchange! Photo taken 08/22/03.
Northbound California 99 at the exit for eastbound U.S. 50 and westbound Business Loop I-80/U.S. 50/Interstate 305. The left lanes default onto eastbound Business Loop I-80. Note that the business loop shields are only used for eastbound and not for westbound. Photo taken 08/22/03.
The Broadway exit is situated between the westbound Business Loop I-80/U.S. 50 exit ramp and the merge of traffic following eastbound Business Loop I-80. According to Caltrans's CalNexus website, this segment of freeway is technically California 99 until the merge point. Photo taken 08/22/03.
Traffic from northbound California 99 merges with incoming traffic from the right. Business Loop I-80 and California 51 carry traffic northeast from here toward Roseville. Photo taken 08/22/03.


  1. Parker, Scott. Personal Email, "99 rewrite, info/suggestion re Sacramento road mystery," 06/01/06.

Page Updated June 2, 2006.

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