Southern California is one of the few places in the country that actually have “freeways” that are legitimately named; that is, they are free. Other states and regions may have tollways, parkways, highways, trafficways, throughways, causeways, or just “roadways” (a common “crutch” used by traffic reporters to describe a Southern California freeway), but in SoCal, they are all just freeways. Arguably they are not free, as SoCal gas prices and the sheer amount of time sitting on them surely don't feel “free.”
If you are not a native Californian, you may find comfort in this fact, but then get confused as to the markings and the names. First off, just like in other states, there are Interstates, State Highways, and US Highways. The difference in description is logistic and really carries no relevance to us as drivers, other than seeing different shaped signs on the roads.
Interstate Highways (“Freeways” in SoCal) are funded by the Interstate Highway system. Only single and double digit Interstates actually extend across state lines. They also follow the traditional rule that odd numbers go North/South and even numbers go East/West. 3-digit interstate highways are extensions of the primary interstate, and usually have their terminal beginning and ends as a tangent of their “primary” interstate's number (405 extends from the 5 in Mission Hills to the 5 in Mission Viejo). Therefore the 3-digit interstates do not necessarily conform to the same rules (the 710 runs north/south while the 10 runs East/West)...
Interstate Highways that run through Southern California
- I-5 – Runs from San Ysidro/Tijuana at the US/Mexico border all the way through California, Oregon and Washington to the US/Canadaian border
- I-10 – Runs from the coastline in Santa Monica (the McClure Tunnel – technically the merge of the Santa Monica Freeway and Pacific Coast Hwy (CA-1)) across the entire Southern U.S. To end in Jacksonville, Florida
- I-15 – Runs from the merge with 5 in San Diego through Nevada, Utah, and Idaho to the Canadian border
- I-405 From the 5
- I-710 There is one small section of the 710 that is not the Interstate section, and part of the reason why the 710 does not extend into Pasadena. The 710 terminus is just north of its primary freeway, I-10, and seres a huge amount of freight traffic into the Port of Long Beach.
- I-605 Extends from the border of Long Beach/Seal Beach to the San Gabriel mountains in Irwindale.
- I-210 Runs along the “foothills” of the San Gabriel Mountains, from the Newhall Pass through Pasadena. The interstate portion of the 210 serves as a major thoroughfare between Pasadena and points in the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire. The entire stretch of the 210 (officially a “state highway,” not an Interstate) runs as far east as San Bernardino and Redlands
- I-110 The Interstate portion of the 110, also known as the “Harbor Freeway” serves as the link between the Port of Los Angeles (San Pedro) and Downtown Los Angeles.
There is a numerical name and a given name for each freeway in Southern California. It seems a matter of habit for most people, either they use one or the other. Most east coast transplants seem to prefer the given names, whereas most natives and even midwesterners will use numbers. It seems the majority of traffic reports contain the numbers of the freeways, although good reports make an attempt to use both when possible.
Also, there are some freeways that just never seem to be called by their given names, most notably the 91 (gardena) and 105 (Glenn M. Anderson fwy). Toll roads in orange county are rarely described by their extensive names (San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor).
#SocalTrafficExpert Randy KeithCall or Text 480-840-7301