Interstate 280 (California)

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Interstate 280

I-280 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by Caltrans
Length57.22 mi[1] (92.09 km)
ExistedSeptember 15, 1955 by FHWA[2]
July 1, 1964 by Caltrans[3]–present
California Scenic State.svg Junipero Serra Freeway between the San Mateo–Santa Clara county line and San Bruno[4]
NHSEntire route
Major junctions
South end I-680 / US 101 in San Jose
Major intersections
North endKing Street in San Francisco
CountryUnited States
CountiesSanta Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco
Highway system
SR 275 SR 281

Interstate 280 (I-280) is a 57.22-mile-long (92.09 km) major north–south auxiliary Interstate Highway in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California. It runs from I-680 and US Route 101 (US 101) in San Jose to King and 5th streets in San Francisco, running just to the west of the larger cities of the San Francisco Peninsula for most of its route.

From I-880 in San Jose to State Route 1 (SR 1) in Daly City, I-280 was built and dedicated as the Junipero Serra Freeway, after the Spanish Franciscan friar who founded the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco. One of the dedication signs (in Daly City) still indicates that the Junipero Serra Freeway is known as the "World's Most Beautiful Freeway"[5] due to its scenic route through the San Francisco Peninsula. From SR 1 to the James Lick Freeway (US 101) in San Francisco it is officially called the John F. Foran Freeway (after a former member of the California State Legislature). From the James Lick Freeway to its northern end at King and 5th streets, I-280 is called the Southern-Embarcadero Freeway.

I-280 is one of two auxiliary Interstate designations to appear on opposite coasts of the United States. I-110 in California and Florida is the only other designation.

I-280 was formerly shown on the app icon for Apple's iOS and macOS built-in Apple Maps. This is because the highway goes through Cupertino, the home of Apple's headquarters.

Route description

Aerial view of I-280 in San Jose, looking northeast toward the Joe Colla Interchange (I-680/US 101) in the distance

The southern end of I-280 is at the Joe Colla Interchange with US 101 in San Jose, where it acts as a continuation of I-680 westward.[6] In between San Jose and San Francisco, I-280 passes through Santa Clara, Cupertino, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills before it settles along its scenic route just to the west of the cities of the San Francisco Peninsula in San Mateo County and just to the east of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I-280 reemerges in a decidedly urbanized area in the city of San Bruno, passing through South San Francisco and Daly City before it runs across a southeastern swath of the city of San Francisco on the way to its northern terminus.

The segment of the Junipero Serra Freeway between Cupertino (SR 85) and Daly City (SR 1) has been called the "World's Most Beautiful Freeway" since its dedication in the 1960s.[7][8] Drivers along this portion of I-280 are treated to scenic views of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and, at a few points, San Francisco Bay to the east and are isolated by hills from the cities to the east. Through much of this segment, the freeway is actually running just inside the eastern rim of the rift valley of the San Andreas Fault. A particularly attractive six-mile (9.7 km) stretch of the freeway from Hillsborough to Belmont provides a view at Crystal Springs Reservoir, formed by water piped over 160 miles (260 km) from Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, partly filling the rift valley.

For nearly all of its length, I-280 runs roughly parallel and several miles to the west of US 101 (Bayshore Freeway). Both freeways are north–south routes connecting San Jose with San Francisco; however, unlike I-280, the route that US 101 takes between the two cities goes entirely through urbanized areas. The vast majority of the population of the San Francisco Peninsula lives somewhere between I-280 and US 101.

I-280 does not currently intersect with I-80, its parent Interstate, although it was originally intended to do so. The northern terminus of I-280 is now within about a mile (1.6 km) of I-80's western terminus (at the interchange with US 101), but the two Interstates do not directly connect; instead, I-280 complies with numbering conventions by virtue of its interchanges with the southern ends of I-680 and I-880, both of which connect to I-80 at their northern terminuses. Although San Francisco planned and has had several opportunities to connect I-280 to I-80, it has chosen to use the money for other purposes. Instead, I-280's northernmost extension, which includes a significant double-deck section (with northbound traffic on the lower deck and southbound traffic on the upper), primarily functions now as a spur into the Financial District, San Francisco, as suggested by signage on northbound US 101 at the Alemany Maze.

A view of the scenic portion of I-280

Major intersections include US 101 and SR 1 in San Francisco, I-380 in San Bruno, SR 92 in San Mateo, SR 85 in Cupertino, and I-880 and I-680 and US 101 in San Jose.

I-280 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System[9] and is part of the National Highway System,[10] a network of highways that are considered essential to the country's economy, defense, and mobility by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).[11] I-280 is eligible for the State Scenic Highway System[12] and, from the San Mateo–Santa Clara county line to the San Bruno city limits, is officially designated as a scenic highway by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans),[13] meaning that it is a substantial section of highway passing through a "memorable landscape" with no "visual intrusions", where the potential designation has gained popular favor with the community.[14] The Junipero Serra Freeway is the name of I-280 from SR 1 in San Francisco to SR 17, as named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 140, Chapter 208 in 1967, in honor of Spanish missionary Junípero Serra, who founded many of California's missions in the 18th century. I-280 from its southern terminus at US 101 and I-680 north to I-880 in San Jose is part of the Sinclair Freeway (named after Joseph P. Sinclair, District Engineer for District 4 California Division of Highways).[15][16][17] A 26-foot (7.9 m) high faux-sandstone statue of Father Serra kneeling and pointing over the freeway is located at a highway rest area just north of the SR 92 intersection between the Bunker Hill Drive and Black Mountain Road exits on northbound I-280 in Hillsborough and can be clearly seen by drivers in both directions.


1955 map of the planned Interstates in the San Francisco Bay Area. These early plans essentially called for an Interstate loop route that would head south down the San Francisco Peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose, then head north through the eastern cities of the East Bay to Vallejo. This route now basically comprises present-day I-280, I-680, and I-780.

I-280 was added to the Interstate Highway System on September 15, 1955 as a route from San Jose north to San Francisco. This ran along the present alignment of I-280 south of San Francisco, but, in San Francisco, it was instead intended to run north parallel to SR 1, past the planned west end of I-80 which would have been at the junction with the Panhandle Freeway just south of Fulton and Park Presidio, along what would have been the Park Presidio Freeway north to the south approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. At that point, I-280 would have met I-480 (Embarcadero Freeway), which would have headed east on Doyle Drive (US 101), the Golden Gate Freeway, and onto the Embarcadero Freeway to reach the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. I-480 would have continued south on the never-built section of the Southern-Embarcadero Freeway from Folsom and the Embarcadero to 5th and King streets, then along the present Southern-Embarcadero Freeway to meet the Southern Freeway (now I-280) near the Alemany Maze, which served as the US 101 Bypass until I-280 was built. The I-280 number was approved on November 10, 1958.[2]

In the 1964 renumbering, I-280's legislative designation was officially applied to the planned route. This replaced SR 1 in San Francisco; the new SR 1 alignment turned northeast where I-280 now runs, quickly ending at SR 82 (San Jose Avenue/Alemany Boulevard). SR 1, however, continued to be signed along its former (and current) alignment, which had not been upgraded to freeway standards.

A realignment approved January 1968 primarily took I-280's legislative definition onto its current route. This new routing ran along what had been SR 1, SR 82, SR 87, and I-480 (downgraded to SR 480 then), ending at I-80 at the western Bay Bridge approach.[2] This change was made on the state level in 1968, restoring SR 1 to its current alignment and truncating SR 82, SR 87 and SR 480.[3]

For the scenic portion, the section of I-280 between SR 85 (Cupertino) and SR 84 (Woodside) was completed in the late 1960s alongside SR 85. The section between SR 92 (San Mateo) and SR 84 was not completed until the 1970s. Until then, traffic was routed on Cañada Road between the two ends.

Cars driving near Page Mill Road on I-280.
Cars driving near Page Mill Road on I-280

A direct freeway connection between I-280 and I-80 was never completed. I-280 was planned to run along The Embarcadero underneath the Bay Bridge approach/I-80 to connect to SR 480 and then loop back to the Bay Bridge approach/I-80 near 1st Street.[3] However, the segment of I-280 between 3rd Street and SR 480 was never built. This left I-280 terminating in midair at 3rd Street, along with ramp stubs at 5th Street that were intended to connect to the second proposed location of a parallel bay bridge (which was also never built). This also caused the completed freeway segment from the Bay Bridge approach/I-80 near 1st Street to The Embarcadero to be signed as part of SR 480 instead of I-280.[3][18] After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, plans to connect I-280 to I-80 were formally abandoned, the earthquake-damaged Embarcadero Freeway was torn down in 1991, and the northern terminus of I-280 was reconfigured to the present-day King Street on/offramps in 1997.[3]

The interchange at the beginning of I-280 at I-680 and US 101 in San Jose was constructed years before its completion. The three flyovers, with no connecting ramps, stood as a 110-foot-tall (34 m) monument to inefficiency for years in the 1970s, becoming the butt of local jokes. The highlight prank occurred in January 1976, when a 1960 Chevrolet Impala was placed on the highest bridge overnight, where it obviously would be impossible to drive. The following day, San Jose City Councilmember Joe Colla was photographed standing next to the car, an image that was circulated across many newspapers.[19][20] It has been suggested this stunt nudged the state of California to find the funds to complete the freeway. The ramps opened five years later in 1981. In 2010, a resolution was introduced in the state legislature to name it the Joe Colla Interchange in memory of the late councilmember.[21]

In 2021, University of California, Davis researchers published a report on wildlife-vehicle collisions based on California Highway Patrol and insurance data over the past five years, according to which five of the 20 one-mile (1.6 km) stretches of highway in the state with the highest costs for this reason are on I-280, the worst being between San Bruno and Cupertino.[22]

Exit list

Santa ClaraSan Jose0.000.00
I-680 north (Sinclair Freeway) / US 101 (Bayshore Freeway) – Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles
Southern terminus; Joe Colla Interchange; US 101 north exit 384, south exit 385B; Sinclair Freeway continues east as I-680 north
0.360.581AMcLaughlin AvenueSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
1.292.081B11th Street, 10th StreetSigned as exit 1 northbound
7th Street, Virginia Street to SR 82
Signed as exit 2 northbound; Virginia Street not signed northbound
2.203.542BAlmaden Boulevard, Vine StreetSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
2.524.063A SR 87 (Guadalupe Parkway)SR 87 exit 5
2.884.633BBird Avenue
3.886.244Race Street, Southwest ExpresswayNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
3.996.42Meridian AvenueSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
4.998.035ALeigh Avenue, Bascom Avenue

I-880 north / SR 17 south – Oakland, Santa Cruz
West end of the Sinclair Freeway; SR 17 north exits 26A-B; I-880 south exit 1B
5.418.715CStevens Creek Boulevard, West San Carlos StreetNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
5.959.586Winchester BoulevardSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
7.3311.807Saratoga Avenue – Saratoga
8.5113.709Lawrence Expressway (CR G2), Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino9.7615.7110Wolfe Road
10.8217.4111De Anza BoulevardFormer SR 85
12.1219.5112 SR 85 – Mountain View, Santa Cruz, GilroySigned as exits 12A (north) and 12B (south); SR 85 north exit 19, south exit 19A
Los Altos12.8320.6513Foothill Expressway (CR G5), Grant Road
15.4824.9115Magdalena Avenue
Los Altos Hills16.4326.4416El Monte Road, Moody Road
19.7631.8020Page Mill Road (CR G3), Arastradero Road – Palo AltoArastradero Road not signed northbound; Palo Alto not signed southbound
22.0035.4122Alpine Road – Portola Valley
San Mateo23.6238.0124Sand Hill Road
Woodside25.3440.7825 SR 84 (Woodside Road)
26.6542.8927Farm Hill Boulevard
28.6046.03Cañada RoadEntrances only
28.6646.1229Edgewood Road
Ralph D. Percival Memorial Vista Point (northbound only)
Former rest area (northbound only; closed)
Gate Vista Point
32.8452.8533 SR 92 – San Mateo, Hayward, Half Moon BaySouthbound exit to SR 92 west is via exit 34; SR 92 east exits 8A-B, west exit 8

SR 35 south to SR 92 west / Bunker Hill Drive – Half Moon Bay
South end of SR 35 overlap
San Mateo Creek35.2756.76Doran Memorial Bridge
35.4357.02Crystal Springs Rest Area (northbound only)
Hillsborough36.2458.3236Black Mountain Road, Hayne Road
39.1763.0439Trousdale Drive
Millbrae39.6763.8440Millbrae AvenueNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
40.5365.2341Larkspur Drive, Millbrae AvenueSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
San Bruno41.2966.45
SR 35 north (Skyline Boulevard) – Pacifica
North end of SR 35 overlap; northbound exit and southbound entrance
42.2868.0442Crystal Springs RoadSouthbound exit and northbound entrance; former SR 117
42.7568.8043ASan Bruno AvenueSouthbound access is via exit 43B

I-380 east to US 101 – San Francisco International Airport
Signed as exit 43A southbound, 43B northbound; I-380 exits 5A-B
43.0269.2343BSneath LaneNorthbound access is via exit 43A
South San Francisco44.0570.8944Avalon DriveNorthbound exit and southbound entrance; former SR 117
44.6371.8345Westborough BoulevardNorthbound exit as well as southbound entrance from westbound Westborough Blvd. are via exit 44
Daly City46.2074.3546Hickey Boulevard
46.8375.3747ASerramonte BoulevardSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
SR 1 south / Eastmoor Avenue – Pacifica
Northbound signage; SR 1 north exits 509B and 510
SR 1 south – Pacifica
Southbound signage; south end of SR 1 overlap; SR 1 north exit 509B
47.7876.8948Eastmoor Avenue, Sullivan AvenueSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
48.5178.0749AJohn Daly Boulevard, Junipero Serra BoulevardSigned as exit 49 southbound
SR 1 north (19th Avenue) – Golden Gate Bridge
North end of SR 1 overlap; northbound left exit and southbound entrance; SR 1 south exit 511
City and County of San Francisco50.1880.7650

SR 82 to SR 1 north / Mission Street, San Jose Avenue
Southbound exit and northbound entrance
51.2182.4151Geneva Avenue, Ocean Avenue
52.1383.9052Monterey BoulevardSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
52.1483.91San Jose Avenue, Bosworth StreetNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
52.7284.8453Alemany Boulevard, Mission StreetMission Street not signed northbound
US 101 south (James Lick Freeway) – San Jose
Southern end of Alemany Maze; signed as exit 54 southbound; US 101 north exit 430A
US 101 north (James Lick Freeway) – San Francisco Civic Center, Bay Bridge
Northbound exit and southbound entrance; northern end of Alemany Maze; US 101 south exit 431
55.0688.6155Cesar Chavez Street, 25th Street25th Street not signed northbound; Cesar Chavez Street was formerly Army Street
56.0490.1956Mariposa Street, 18th Street18th Street not signed northbound
56.7391.3057Sixth StreetNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
56.9891.70Fifth StreetAt-grade intersection; northern terminus
King StreetContinuation beyond Fifth Street
Fourth StreetFormer northern terminus; replaced with the current King Street ramps; northbound exit only
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also


  1. ^ "Table 2: Auxiliary Routes of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System Of Interstate and Defense Highways". FHWA Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. December 31, 2021. Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "California Highways: Interstate Highway Types and the History of California's Interstates". Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  3. ^ a b c d e "California Highways: Interstate 280". Retrieved 2020-02-21.
  4. ^ California Department of Transportation (August 2019). "Officially Designated State Scenic Highways and Historic Parkways" (XLSX). Sacramento: California Department of Transportation. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  5. ^ "In the Eye of the Beholder | A Kauai Blog". 2005-03-23. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  6. ^ United States Geological Survey (2018). Written at Menlo Park, CA. San Jose East, CA (Topographic map). 1:24,000. 7.5 Minute Series. Reston, VA: United States Geological Survey. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  7. ^ "'Most Beautiful Freeway' Is the Role Model : Challenge Handed to Toll Road Designers". Los Angeles Times. 1988-05-13. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  8. ^ "Roadshow: Is I-280 truly the 'World's Most Beautiful Freeway'?". East Bay Times. 2010-03-14. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  9. ^ "Article 2 of Chapter 2 of Division 1". California Streets and Highways Code. Sacramento: California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  10. ^ Federal Highway Administration (March 25, 2015). National Highway System: California (North) (PDF) (Map). Scale not given. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved August 19, 2017.
  11. ^ Natzke, Stefan; Neathery, Mike & Adderly, Kevin (June 20, 2012). "What is the National Highway System?". National Highway System. Washington, DC: Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved July 1, 2012.
  12. ^ "Article 2.5 of Chapter 2 of Division 1". California Streets & Highways Code. Sacramento: California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  13. ^ California Department of Transportation (August 2019). "Officially Designated State Scenic Highways and Historic Parkways" (XLSX). Sacramento: California Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 19, 2017.
  14. ^ California Department of Transportation (2012). Scenic Highway Guidelines (PDF). Sacramento: California Department of Transportation. p. 5. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  15. ^ Joseph Pierce Sinclair
  16. ^ "Opening Ceremonies Pamphlet—The Sinclair Freeway-Interstate 280—Calif Div. of Highways-District 4"
  17. ^ California Department of Transportation; California State Transportation Agency (January 2021). 2020 Named Freeways, Highways, Structures and Other Appurtenances in California (PDF). Sacramento: California Department of Transportation. pp. 89, 341, 342. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 20, 2022. {{cite book}}: |archive-date= / |archive-url= timestamp mismatch; October 10, 2022 suggested (help)
  18. ^ "California Highways: Former State Route 480". Retrieved 2020-02-21.
  19. ^ Herhold, Scott (2013-10-16). "Herhold: The story behind Joe Colla's famous 1976 highway stunt". Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  20. ^ "Person Details for Joseph A Colla, 'United States Social Security Death Index' —". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  21. ^ Richards, Gary (February 16, 2010) [February 15, 2010]. "Roadshow: The Joe Colla Interchange". Archived from the original on October 12, 2014.
  22. ^ Stoughtenborough, Ryce (November 11, 2021). "This Bay Area highway sees more roadkill than any other road in the state". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  23. ^ a b "Interstate 280 Freeway Interchanges" (PDF). California Numbered Exit Uniform System. California Department of Transportation. September 7, 2018. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  24. ^ California Department of Transportation. "State Truck Route List". Sacramento: California Department of Transportation. Archived from the original (XLS file) on June 30, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  25. ^ California Department of Transportation (July 2007). "Log of Bridges on State Highways". Sacramento: California Department of Transportation.
  26. ^ California Department of Transportation, All Traffic Volumes on CSHS, 2005 and 2006

External links