Cambria Bypass

When Highway One was first opened in 1937, the route went south from San Simeon, along Moonstone Beach Drive and then along Main Street through what is now West Village (called “the flats” at that time), through East Village and past the intersection with Santa Rosa Creek Road to the present intersection with Ardath and then south to Cayucos. As time went on, traffic along the highway increased and soon became too much for the narrow streets of Cambria to bear.

In the 1950s, the State of California embarked on a program to upgrade the road between Camp San Luis and the Monterey County line. The program was divided into seven separate projects, one of which was the “Cambria Bypass” which included the portion of the road between its intersection with Ardath and Main Street and a point about one half mile south of San Simeon Creek at the north end of Moonstone Beach Drive.

Cambrians first became aware of the details of the plan on July 18, 1957 at a hearing presented by the state highway commission in the Vet’s Hall.

Overall plan for the Cambria bypass

Local authorities, civic groups and interested individuals were invited to view a preliminary map of the bypass and to present any data or information that might help the division of highways make their final proposal to county supervisors and the state commission. Both of these bodies needed to approve the plan before it could be adopted. About 100 Cambria residents and others attended the meeting and only about twelve to fifteen people voiced any objections. At this meeting, state highway engineer O. T. McCoy described the bypass as follows:

“It will begin just east of the present highway at Weymouth Street on Happy Hill and extend in an easterly direction across the hill to bisect the present road at its approximate intersection with the county park road [Windsor Blvd.]. Extending southward close to the creek it will bisect the pasture east of the Veteran’s building and resume on a straight line in the vicinity of Cambria Pines Manor, swing eastward through the old airport, straight to the north end of the existing highway at the top of Dawson grade [the hill on the current highway just south of its intersection with Main Street and Ardath] and connect with the freeway route between Cambria and Cayucos that was previously adopted as a state project by the commission in February of this year.”

Cost of the bypass was estimated to be $1,400,000 including the cost of acquiring the right of way.

In order to build the Cambria bypass it was necessary to eliminate, alter or rename some existing roads. These changes occurred in two areas: Logde Hill and Happy Hill.

In the Lodge Hill area Regis Street was eliminated and ceased to exist.

Street changes in the Lodge Hill area

The new road crossed two existing roads, Burton Drive and Leona Drive. Prior to the building of the bypass, Burton Drive originated at “top of the world” on Lodge Hill and ran across the bypass right-of-way ending in a loop around Margate Avenue. After the bypass was built, the portion of Burton running around Margate was renamed Burton Circle. The road called El Portal was renamed to become a continuation of Burton Drive which now ran all the way to the County Road (more officially called the San Luis Obispo – San Simeon County Road). The County Road was renamed to become an extension of Burton Drive and Lee Street, the main north-south street in East Village, was also renamed as Burton Drive so that Burton now ran continuously all the way from top of the world to Main Street. Name changes for the County Road and Lee Street may have occurred sometime after the bypass was completed.

Leona Drive was discontinued at its intersection with Pineridge Drive. The portion of Leona on the north side of the bypass was renamed Yorkshire Drive which then turned in an easterly direction and continued to its intersection with Patterson Place. Leona now dead-ended at Pineridge on the south side of the bypass and at the Presbyterian Church on the north side of the bypass.

In the Happy Hill area the changes were quite extensive.

Street changes in the Happy Hill area

Prior to the building of the bypass, Weymouth Street, Warwick Street, Wellington Drive and Stafford Street all ran continuously down from Happy Hill to the old highway (now called Moonstone Beach Drive). Croyden Lane took a jog at its intersection with Stafford and then crossed the right of way of the bypass to its intersection with Brighton Lane. After the bypass was built, only Weymouth Street remained in its original configuration. Warwick Street was made to end at Brighton Lane and the remaining portion of it between Moonstone Beach Drive and the bypass was renamed Kendall Lane. Similarly, Wellington Drive was cut and made to intersect Brighton Lane at Warwick Street. The balance of Wellington between Moonstone Beach and the bypass was renamed Chatham Lane. Brighton Lane was cut and made to end at the junction of Warwick and Wellington. The remainder of Brighton between Moonstone Beach Drive and the bypass became an extension of Stafford Street so that Stafford became a loop beginning and ending on Moonstone Beach Drive. The balance of Stafford on the Happy Hill side of the bypass was renamed Croyden Lane and the portion of Croyden which used to run from its intersection with Stafford to Brighton Lane was eliminated. Finally, the portion of Moonstone Beach Drive which ran into the north end of Main Street was realigned so that it intersected Windsor Boulevard (then called the County Park Road) just south of where it crossed the bypass.

The California highway commission met in Sacramento on December 19, 1957 and officially adopted the Cambria bypass plan as described above.

On January 30, 1958, Jess T. Chafee, district V park superintendent for the state division of beaches and parks, announced that Hearst-San Simeon State Historical Monument would be open to the public on May 17 of that year. The plan was for the monument to be open from May 15 to October 15 on a first come, first served basis. During the winter, from October 15 to May 15, conducted tours would be available by group reservation only. During 1958, temporary parking facilities were planned to accommodate 600 visitors per day and the permanent facilities were designed to handle 1200 visitors per day starting in 1959. It is clear that the state grossly underestimated attendance at the castle and did not realize the urgency of completing the Cambria bypass to alleviate congestion in the village. On April 24, 1958, Newton B. Brury, chief of the state division of beaches and parks, announced that the opening of the castle was being delayed until June 2 due to construction delays caused by excessive rain.

On June 10, 1959, some 40 citizens representing various sections of the county met in San Luis Obispo to make recommendations to the California Chamber of Commerce on highway improvement. These recommendations were forwarded to the state highway commission in August of that year. Fred Bagshaw, deputy director of the state department of public works, expressed awareness of the increasing problem of access to the Hearst-San Simeon state monument. He said that road improvements in the North Coast section will be made as rapidly as possible. Improvements of highways leading to Hearst Castle was emphasized repeatedly by speakers from every section of the county. The Cambria bypass was the number one recommendation of the group in Class B (surveys, designs and right-of-way acquisition).

The state highway commission met in Santa Monica on October 26, 1961 and adopted its largest budget in history for fiscal year 1962-63 which included $1,250,000 for the Cambria bypass. Although the fiscal year did not begin until July 1, 1963, California law permitted funds for the bypass to be spent as early as January 1 of that year. Most of the right-of-way had already been purchased by the time of the meeting. In addition to state funds, the county contributed $57,600 to the project bringing the total funding to $1, 307,600.

In late 1962, the state division of highways began advertising the bypass project for bids with bids being opened on November 14. The project included building two new bridges over Santa Rosa Creek, one on the actual bypass near the Vet’s Hall and the other on Park Hill Road (now called Windsor Boulevard) to Park Hill. There were four bids on the project and Madonna Construction of San Luis Obispo submitted the lowest bid of $1,293,402.50.

On December 6, 1962, Madonna began moving heavy equipment onto “the flats” and grading was begun on the Cambria bypass and, on January 2, 1964, most of the Cambria bypass was opened to traffic. This included all of the road from the intersection with Ardath at the south end to County Park Road (Windsor Boulevard). Traffic from County Park Road north was routed via a short detour to the existing Highway 1 (Moonstone Beach Drive). Completion of the entire project was expected to occur by early February.

5 Responses to “Cambria Bypass”

  1. B&J says:

    Ken:

    Sorry, we don’t. In fact, we didn’t even know the exact location of the airport until we researched this article.

    B&J

  2. Ken Renshaw says:

    Do You know of any pictured of the airport or planes at the airport?

  3. B&J says:

    David:

    Thanks for those memories. If any more come to mind, please post them. That’s what this site is all about!

    B&J

  4. David Houtz says:

    I used to trap gophers on the old airport, for my uncle Harry Jones, Sr, president of Cambria Pines Development Co. and owner of the lodge and airport. I got 5
    cents per tail of gopher.

    This airport was also one that a blimp came to rest in the early 30s, after dropping leavelets re the sale of “Cambria By the Sea” lots from Malibu to Cambria.
    Inviting people to a sales BBQ at the Loge. I remember the blimp coming in and guys pulling it own with ropes. I was very young at that time.

    I walked across the old airport every day on the way to school.

    By the way, Leona, Ardath streets are all named after Uncle Harrys wife and daughters (my cousins). They are all deceased now.

  5. Keith Boettcher says:

    When the bypass was first opened there were no flashing amber lights at intersections (Ardath, Burton, Windsor). Some locals, used to Cambria’s pace of life, had difficulty crossing the new Highway 1 with its 65 mph traffic. The need for the lights was discovered by experience.

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