User:Rschen7754/How to write CA articles

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This is a work in progress, and is not fully complete. It was also not updated for the AARoads wiki.

Disclaimer: This is based on California roads. Not everything will apply to roads in other states, or roads in other countries. I also focus on problems that many California articles have, and sometimes neglect other things that California road articles do well in. Also, the exact checklist that I use I keep stored offwiki for convenience; this one will be updated less often.

Also, my approach is to be thorough and make the article the best that it can be. If that means Featured Article status, that is great, but sometimes even Featured Articles need to be fixed.


I assume that you are starting with a garden-variety C-class article. If not, get your article to C-class first.


If there's an area of a California road article that doesn't need a major overhaul, it is the infobox. However, there are some minor updates to the standards that haven't made it all the way here yet:

  • Alternate names: They should only be listed if they apply to the entire road. Also, California likes to overuse memorial names; remove them if they are not significant.
  • Map: WARNING: this is a bit out of date now that we do dynamic maps.
    • The map parameter should be removed, because {{Infobox road}} uses Wikidata to determine what map to display.
    • map_notes= should say something like "SR xx highlighted in red"
    • On Commons, the GIS data should be attributed; see File:California_State_Route_78.svg for a proper example. (I did this en masse in 2012, but I may have missed a few). Note that if you redo the map, it will look more like File:California_State_Route_52.svg
    • The maps on Commons sometimes need updating.
      • If the routing of the road or of routes that intersect it has changed, it may be time to redo the map. If you're brave, you can try doing it yourself; it took me a weekend to learn how to make one. The tutorial at Wikipedia:WikiProject U.S. Roads/Maps task force/Tutorial is a good one, though it is a bit outdated as the current version of qGIS has changed the location of a few things. I use the NHPN, and the CA GIS site to get the oceans and counties. If you don't want to go to all this trouble, WP:USRD/MTF/R will let you request a map, though it may be a while before they get around to it.
      • If the map looks okay, then we can probably just get away with adding shields and labels in Inkscape (which is free to download - note on Mac you also need to download X11). File:California_State_Route_78.svg is a good example (I use the Sans and Serif fonts: Sans for city labels, and Serif for water labels). Make sure to select the text label and choose Shift-Ctrl-C to convert to path, or otherwise when you upload to Commons the label will turn into an ugly black box.
  • counties= should be filled out.
  • The junctions should use plainlist, if there are more than one. It looks like this:
  • The length should be looked at if the route has changed recently. I find a length that is missing a concurrency to be useless. It's not worth the extra number to the right of the decimal point. If there are relinquishments in question, then a length note may be unavoidable.

At this time, I also glance at the lead and make sure it is somewhat sensible for the article as it currently exists. As far as abbreviations, we usually say something like State Route xx (SR xx) is... and then use SR xx throughout the rest of the article. This is done once for each type of route; if I wanted to refer to another state route after that, I would just say SR yy, but the first time I wanted to talk about an Interstate, it would be "Interstate xx (I-xx)", and then I-xx thereafter.



Every article needs to have a KML file. The main USRD project has a good tutorial here on how to make one, so I won't go into this here. The template below goes under External links, once you have made the KML and uploaded it properly:

{{Attached KML|display=title,inline}}

See also

External links

I always make sure the following three links are present in every article. The link will need to be adjusted besides changing the number since multiple routes are combined on the same page. There are usually other links in articles too; make sure they are up to WP:EL standards.

*[ California @ - State Route 94]
*[ Caltrans: Route 94 highway conditions]
*[ California Highways: SR 94]


I use the template {{Reflist|30em}} to display references (as most of the other road featured articles do). This is set to dynamically adjust the number of columns depending on how wide the viewer's screen is.


An image of the road is not required for the Good Article stage, but it is strongly recommended.

Taking your own pictures

If you live near the road, why not?

Moving existing pictures to Commons

Existing pictures should be moved to Commons, if they are not fair use (which would be unusual for a California road), so they can be used by other Wikimedia projects. [1] is a easy tool to do this.

Commons pictures

Sometimes Commons has extra pictures available of the road that are not used in the article already.

Flickr pictures

Flickr often has good pictures, but they must be freely licensed (see c:Commons:Flickr files for what is acceptable). [2] is a good tool to upload from Flickr once you have determined that an image can be used.

Existing images

Make sure that existing images are tagged appropriately, and are not copyright violations (if they are the latter, they should be nominated for deletion, here or on Commons).


If the caption is a complete sentence, it should have a period at the end. Otherwise, it should not.


The shields have usually been created already, but they should be tagged appropriately (see c:COM:USRD/L for details).



  • Check for junctions that should not be included, and remove them. Generally, all interchanges should be included, as well as all at-grade intersections with numbered roads (including signed county routes). At-grade intersections with non-numbered roads generally should not unless there is an exceptional reason to do so.
  • Check the postmiles, and see if you can find any missing ones from any official sources. We generally do not use Google Maps for this purpose in California.
    • Note that if the statewide mileposts can be used, they should be (see California State Route 56 for an example). Generally this is only possible for routes that are in 1 county with no postmile equations, or for all-freeway routes where Caltrans has posted the data online [3].
    • Notes should be formatted with the first letter capitalized, and everything else (except for proper nouns) not. Semicolons should be used to separate phrases. Notes should be pruned to remove any unnecessary detail, and should typically be sourced if it is not obvious from reading other parts of the article.


  • Postmiles (note that if you are using statewide mileposts you may need to adjust this to use the calnexus ref from below):

|post_ref=<br><ref name=bridgelog>{{Caltrans bridgelog|date=October 2014|accessdate=}}</ref><ref name=traffic /><ref name=trucklist />

  • Exit numbers (you may need to adjust the following if Caltrans has two PDFs for that route)

|exit_ref=<br><ref name="calnexus">{{cite web|author=Staff|publisher=California Department of Transportation|url=|work=California Numbered Exit Uniform System|format=PDF|title=State Route 78 Freeway Interchanges|accessdate=March 5, 2009|date=November 7, 2008|location=Sacramento}}</ref>

Route description

Make sure the route description covers the entire road, and is properly sourced. Make sure it is detailed enough (include nearby landforms and scenery, but not too much). At this time, throw away anything that is original research and can never be properly sourced. Make sure the cite templates (Template:Cite web, Template:Cite map, etc.) are properly used, and are consistently filled out with at least dates and authors. Make sure AA:NC is properly followed, and that it is always State Route x or SR x (or "the highway", "the route", etc. - what we are trying to avoid is Route x, or Highway x, which does not follow AA:NC). The first time a type of route is mentioned, it should be the full AA:NC name first, and then the abbreviation every time after. For example, the first time you would say Interstate 5 (I-5), and then after that you would just call it I-5. If you needed to talk about I-10 later, that is how you would do it. But then when you need to talk about U.S. Route 101...

The final paragraph of the route description is where the freeway/expressway system, AADT, alternate names, scenic info, etc. goes. Below is an example of how it should look: (taken from California State Route 76:)

From I-5 to I-15, SR 76 is part of the [[California Freeway and Expressway System]],<ref name="cafes">{{CAFESystem}}</ref> but is not part of the [[National Highway System (United States)|National Highway System]],<ref name=fhwa-nhs>{{FHWA NHS map|region=sandiego|accessdate=}}</ref> a network of highways that are essential to the country's economy, defense, and mobility.<ref name=NHS-FHWA>{{FHWA NHS}}</ref> SR 76 is eligible for the [[State Scenic Highway System (California)|State Scenic Highway System]],<ref name="scenic">{{CA scenic}}</ref> but it is not officially designated as a scenic highway by the [[California Department of Transportation]].<ref name="caltransscenic">{{Caltrans scenic|accessdate=}}</ref> The part of the highway from the western terminus to Douglas Drive is also named for Tony Zeppetella, an Oceanside police officer killed while on duty performing a [[traffic stop]].<ref>{{CA Named Freeways | pages=34, 214}}</ref> In 2013, SR 76 had an [[annual average daily traffic]] (AADT) of 1,500 between East Palomar Road and the eastern terminus at SR 79, and 52,000 between Airport Road and El Camino Real in Oceanside, the latter of which was the highest AADT for the highway.<ref name=traffic>{{Caltrans traffic|year=2013|start=118|end=133|accessdate=}}</ref>

Some notes on that:

  • If it isn't part of the California Freeway and Expressway System, drop that part of the sentence. Same with it not being eligible for the scenic highway system (note that if it is eligible but isn't actually part of it, we still mention that, just like in the example).
  • If it really is part of the scenic highway system, we add the following:

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;<ref>{{Caltrans scenic info}}</ref>

  • If you need to cite restrictions, like no trucks, you would do it like this:

<ref>{{cite web |url= |title= § 1403.1. Prohibited Loads and Vehicles |work= [[California Code of Regulations]] |at= 21 CCR § 1403.1 |date= January 22, 1980 |author= [[California Department of Transportation]] |via= ''WestLaw Next'' (Thomson Reuters) |access-date= March 15, 2015}}</ref>

History section

The history section will take the bulk of your time and energy.

Basic outline

State law

The first step is to start with what the state legal definitions were. [4] contains the archives of all the passed legislation in California, but it is impossible to search the PDF files that are hundreds of pages long. However, has done a very good job at indexing what chapter changed which route. You can find this information both by route and by year.

You cite these pieces of legislation as follows (the example below uses the three most common years when routes were changed):

In 1933, a road from Strawberry Peak to the road between Cajon Pass and Lake Arrowhead was added to the state highway system.<ref>{{cite CAstat|year=1933|ch=767}}</ref> It was given the number of Route 189 in 1935.<ref>{{cite CAstat|year=1935|ch=29}}</ref> The route was unchanged by the [[1964 state highway renumbering (California)|1964 state highway renumbering]].<ref>{{cite CAstat|year=1963|ch=385}}</ref>

If you have to cite a bond issue, you add res=true to the end of the citation.

If a citation does not include the chapter title, you will need to add the title of the legislation chapter, because it has not been used before by a California road article. To do that, you will need to download the PDF from the state site and copy the title to a page similar to Template:Cite California statute/title 1963 385 (filling in the right year and chapter). You only need to copy and paste the first 40 words, and use an ellipsis to note that the title continues.

Reusing research

Next, you can look at related articles for additional citations. For example, if there is an interchange with another freeway, there may be information about the construction of that interchange in another article.

At this time, you may want to make a note of any useful articles that or AARoads point you to, or any facts that you know will need to be added to the article at some point. Note that both of those sites are self-published sources and cannot be used to cite facts.

Transportation Concept Reports (TCRs)

These are documents written by the Caltrans local district office for most state routes. Sometimes they are not very useful, but other times they have some information that is hard to find elsewhere. [5] is the index page for them. (If a route goes through multiple districts, be sure to check every district for a report).

Warning: I have sometimes found instances where they have copied verbatim from our own articles. Be careful that you don't use that as a source.

California Highways and Public Works journals

The state used to put out journals that detailed the progress of constructing much of the state highway system. They are linked off WP:CASH#Resources. Be sure to use the index listed there since it is otherwise difficult to search through them to find information on the route you need.

A citation will look something like this: <ref name="chpw">{{cite journal| title=New Location on The Ridge Route Unsurpassed for Mountain Alignment | author=California Division of Highways | journal=California Highways and Public Works | date=January 1930 | volume=8 | issue=1 | pages=9–10}}</ref>

California Transportation Commission meeting minutes

This is the only place where you can find out when a route was officially relinquished, among other things. is, again, a good index for this. Once you know when it happened, you can go to [6] to download the PDF file. Note that some of the proposals like vegetation and landscaping are not encyclopedic and can be ignored.

A citation looks like this: <ref name="CTC">{{cite web|url=|title=Route Adoption – State Highway, 08-RIV-111 PM R18.5/R19.4 Resolution HRA-14-02|date=December 10, 2014|author=Craggs, Timothy}}<br />{{cite web|url=|date=December 10, 2014|title=Minutes|publisher=California Transportation Commission|accessdate=June 20, 2015}}</ref>

Note that you will need to cite both the proposal in the agenda, and the next meeting's minutes where the proposal was voted on and approved.

Other sources

I usually keep an eye out on (especially the forum), and through various pages I follow on Facebook and Twitter, because sometimes scans of old books or maps come up through them.

State Highways of California was one such source, but is likely to only be useful for the most major statewide routes. Unfortunately, it is hard to search.


Before you continue researching, now is a good time to clean up the history section a bit.

  • All citations should be reformatted using {{cite book}}, {{cite map}}, {{cite web}}, {{cite journal}}, {{cite news}}, etc. or using the custom templates like {{cite CAstat}}, {{CAFESystem}}, etc. If the title, author or publishing date are missing, go ahead and add them. Dates should be formatted like December 22, 2015. When you add new citations, be sure to make them nicely formatted; it will save you time when you go to FAC!
  • Irrelevant or non-notable content, like minor accidents or minor popular culture references, should be deleted outright.
  • Any original research or random trivia that you don't think you can find a citation for should be deleted.
  • There may be some encyclopedic details remaining that are unsourced. Read through and make a note of them (using {{cn}} if you want) so that you know what still needs to be sourced. If everything is cited, it may be time to flip the assessment to B-Class; if not, it will probably be pretty soon.


This is likely the hardest part of writing the history, but it is the most rewarding, and where you will get the bulk of your information. However, access to newspaper archives is not available to everyone. But, here is how to get access to the papers that you will need, organized by Caltrans district. At the end of the list is information for neighboring states, which sometimes have useful information.

If you are enrolled in a college or university, be sure to check what databases are available to you through your library.

Where to find newspaper archives

District 1 (North Coast)
District 2 (Shasta)
District 3 (Sacramento)
District 4 (Bay Area)
District 5 (Central Coast)
District 6 (Southern Central Valley)
District 7 (Los Angeles)
District 8 (Inland Empire)
District 9 (Eastern Sierra)
District 10 (Northern Central Valley)
District 11 (San Diego)
  • San Diego County: If you need articles after 1984, you can get it through Newsbank,[1] or the San Diego County Library [11], card free to all California residents. If you need older articles, unfortunately you have to show up at the University of California San Diego. I do have a lot of electronic copies of the relevant articles, but not for all routes. You may also want to check Los Angeles for additional articles.
  • Imperial County: Archives after 1994 are through Newsbank.[1] Before that, archives are not online. I would suggest looking through both San Diego and Yuma newspapers.
District 12 (Orange County)

The Orange County Register archives are available off You may also want to check Los Angeles.


Most of the relevant newspapers (Yuma Sun, Casa Grande Dispatch, Arizona Republic) can be gotten through

  1. ^ a b Check the major libraries in your area to see who offers it.


Once you have access, the next step is finding articles to use. Here is how I do it:

  1. I come up with a list of search terms. For example, "Route 76", "State 76", "Highway 76", using the quotes to match exact phrases. If there are other past names of the road before it was signed that may be helpful, I include those too.
  2. I go through all the results that come up. 90% of them are matches like car crashes, events, new businesses, and the like that I simply ignore.
  3. I save every article that looks like it might be useful in a 5-second glance. I sometimes save articles about other roads that I might be writing about in the future. I make sure to save them all in the same folder. I don't worry too much about the file name.


After that, I go through all the articles in the folder, and give it a 30-second read through or so.

  1. Sometimes I read through an article and find that it is not useful after all. Those get thrown away.
  2. I make sure that the article is tagged so that I can find it later. I use the OS X tagging feature, so that I can give each file a tag for each road that it might be relevant for.
  3. I change the file name to start with the year of the article (so that it will sort properly), and then five or six words from the title so that I have some idea what it is about without having to re-read the article.


Finally, I find all the articles that I tagged for the highway I am writing about. Starting with the oldest articles, I go through and add the information from each article into the Wikipedia article. I make sure to use {{cite news}} and try to get everything right the first time so that I don't have to fix it later, since WP:FAC requires consistent and nicely-formatted citations. California State Route 94 is a good example of the most up-to-date citation style that I use.

You want to write compliant to the Manual of Style. There are a lot of little nuances that are easy to forget. I would suggest reading through it before you start writing, and become familiar with it enough so that you at least know that you need to look at it for a particular conversion or rule.

Tricky points:

  • Dates should always be like September 25, 2004.
  • Excess periods should be removed from article titles, and they should be reformatted to capitalize every first word and every significant word after that (so not words like a, an, the, for...) ALL CAPS titles should be reformatted too.
  • If the newspaper title doesn't have the city name, it should be added with location=.
  • page= is singular, and pages= is plural. They should be used accordingly.
  • author=Staff should only be used if Staff or Staff Dispatch is explicitly credited.
  • I only worry about OCLC after the GA stage.


Final tweaks

  • I do a Google search at the end to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Writing a Featured Article

The FAC nomination process


Other types of articles