End of US highway 50

View a map showing this route.

Additional research and/or photo credits: Nathan Edgars; Chris Elbert; Andy Field; Alex Nitzman; Eric Rosenberger; Dave Strong; Marion Warren; Kansas Historical Society

Approx. time period East terminus West terminus
1926-1931 Annapolis, MD Sacramento, CA
1931-1935 Annapolis, MD Hayward, CA
1935-1936 Annapolis, MD San Francisco, CA (Market)
1936-1948 Annapolis, MD San Francisco, CA (Harrison/Bryant)
1948-1954 Ocean City, MD San Francisco, CA (Harrison/Bryant)
1954-1971 Ocean City, MD San Francisco, CA (I-80)
1971-1972 Ocean City, MD Oakland, CA
1972-1973 Ocean City, MD Manteca, CA
1973-1982 Ocean City, MD Sacramento, CA
1982-present Ocean City, MD West Sacramento, CA

I suppose just about every American child is taught about the "golden spike" at Promontory Point, Utah. Placed in May of 1869, the story goes that it marked the final link in the country's first transcontinental railroad. However, virtually no one is taught that railroad was actually not "transcontinental" at the time: the Central Pacific went only as far west as Sacramento, and the Union Pacific didn't have a permanent bridge across the Missouri until 1873. (Meanwhile, in 1870, the first permanent, uninterrupted chain of railroads connecting Atlantic and Pacific ports was completed at Strasburg, Colorado.)

Kind of reminds me of US 50, one of the better-known transcontinental highways. It was among the original 1926 routes, and at the time of its birth it was already nearly 3000 miles in length. However, most people don't realize that both ends fell short of reaching an ocean port. Also, some sources indicate that it was either in poor condition or completely impassable between Ely NV and Thistle UT for the first two or three years. It wasn't until 1948 that US 50 became truly "transcontinental".


The original east end of US 50 was in Annapolis. Traffic came into the city on West Street, shown below:

Warren, Mar. 1965

The church in the distance is situated in the middle of Church Circle, and some early maps indicate that was where US 50 ended. Beyond that you can see the Maryland State House, which sits within State Circle. According to the state highway map below, US 50 negotiated both of those circles, and then continued on East Street:

MD State Roads Commission, c. 1938

The photo below is at the end of East St, at King George Street:

Google Maps Street View, Sep. 2012

East is now one-way heading the opposite direction, but originally US 50 traffic came to this point and turned right here on King George. Today that movement won't get you very far, because that's now an entrance to the Naval Academy. But the ferry to the Eastern Shore used to dock at the end of King George.


The photo below was taken looking south on 16th Street in Sacramento:

Google Maps Street View, 2008

This was westbound US 40 and southbound US 99E. US 40 continued to the right on L Street, and that was also northbound US 99W. To the left on L was southbound US 99, and it was also the west beginning of US 50. (Those two routes turned south on Alhambra Boulevard, but then US 50 split off almost immediately onto Folsom Boulevard.)


In 1931 the US 50 designation was extended west to Hayward CA (you can view a photo of that junction on my US 48 page). In 1935, the route was extended west again. It joined with US 40 in Oakland and crossed to San Francisco via the Bay Bridge - you can view photos from there on this page.


In the 1940s, another Bay Bridge was planned - this one was at the other end of US 50, and it would span the Chesapeake. So in 1948, in anticipation of the new roadway, the US 50 designation was extended eastward from Annapolis to a new endpoint in Ocean City MD - you can view photos from there on this page.

In 1971 the US 50 designation had a couple transitionary truncations, and by 1973 its west end had been cut back to Sacramento. I-80 used to follow what is now Business Loop I-80 (or the Capital City Freeway) through the city, so US 50 ended at what is now its junction with BL-80:

Field, Aug. 2003

In fact, since there are no "West US 50" signs beyond the interchange shown above, it would be easy to believe that still marks the west end of US 50. But in 1982, when I-80 was changed to its current route (around the north and west sides of downtown), the US 50 designation was extended ahead, along the old I-80, ending where the freeway merges with modern I-80 in West Sacramento:

Field, Aug. 2003

Heading west on I-80, the west beginning of US 50 looks like this...

Field/Nitzman, Sep. 2005

...and heading the opposite direction, the beginning of US 50 is announced thus:

Field/Nitzman, Sep. 2005

Note how US 50/BL-80 is actually the mainline here; I-80 traffic has to exit to continue westbound. That's because today's BL-80 was the original I-80 through the city. Not far ahead, the sign shown below used to be posted:

Strong

Thanks to Milton John Kleim Jr. for setting me straight on the location: that was actually at the west beginning of US 50/Business I-80, just past the interchange where I-80 splits off. What a cool thing it would be if similar attention were given to other grand old highways...

...but anyway, I guess that sign was stolen. Here's what replaced it:

Rosenberger, Dec. 2002

Notice the transposed 7 and 3 digits in the mileage to Ocean City; that was fixed not much later:

Field/Nitzman, Sep. 2005

More info about this sign and its historic predecessors - as well as just about anything else you want to know about US 50 - can be found at this site.

As I said, today's westernmost segment of US 50 used to be I-80, so the US 50 designation didn't begin until a few miles ahead, where I-80 turned to the north:

Google Maps Street View, 2009

That was the west beginning of US 50 from 1973-1982.


From the beginning in 1926 and for the next 30 years, US 50 had a significant split route in Kansas. At today's junction of US 56 and US 59 just west of Baldwin City, US 50-N followed today's US 56 all the way to Larned, then K-156 (former US 156) to Garden City. US 50-S went south via US 59 to Ottawa, and then west essentially along modern US 50, rejoining US 50-N in Garden City. Below is an interesting photo taken during that timeframe:

unknown photographer, c. 1940s, courtesy Kansas Historical Society

Incidentally, the 1925 US highway plan had US 50 following what actually ended up being commissioned as US 50-N the next year. US 50-S was marked as US 250 in the 1925 plan.