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'Hometown highway' turns 100
August 08, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal Members of the Mid Peninsula Old Time Auto Club get ready to drive down El Camino to mark the 100th anniversary of the state route in front of San Bruno City Hall Tuesday morning.

Top: California Highway Commission Chairman Burton Towne, center, broke ground for the original paving of El Camino Real on Aug. 7, 1912. Bottom: From left, Bijan Saripi, California Department of Transportation District 4 director, U.S. Rep Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, four people dressed for re-enactment, County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier and Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, re-create the groundbreaking.

Driving along a paved El Camino Real only became possible about 100 years ago, when ground was broken on the state highway in San Bruno — a moment celebrated by political and transportation leaders yesterday morning.

A crowd gathered in front of San Bruno City Hall Tuesday morning, many of them would later take part in a historic car procession down the street that was being celebrated. The popular thoroughfare was the first highway in the California Highway System to be paved, said Bijan Sartipi, California Department of Transportation District 4 director.

"Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents paved the way so we could have a better future,” he said.

The celebration focused on how state Highway 82 allowed people to easily go from town to town providing freedom from the Southern Pacific train. At the same time, political leaders noted upgrades to Caltrain will continue to support the growing number of commuters throughout the Peninsula.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, described it as a "lifeline for the community.” She added it could be greatly improved and will take lots of vision, as well as money, to make that a reality.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, echoed her sentiments noting it's important to understand the link between economic viability and mobility. To keep that strong, modernization is needed, he said.

Use of the thoroughfare switched to more of a "hometown highway” with the construction of Highway 101 and Interstate 280, said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane.

Looking forward, Ruane, like the others pushed a plan to create more opportunities for public transit and safely using El Camino Real without getting in a car.

The 30-minute presentation ended with the speakers, who also included Adrienne Tissier, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, reenacting the groundbreaking. Then, a line of historic cars from the Mid Peninsula Old Time Auto Club traveled down El Camino Real ending at Washington Park in Burlingame where a community picnic was held.

The San Mateo County History Museum will reopen an exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the California Highway System called "Journey to Work” Sunday, Oct. 7.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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