That missing entry was the Lincoln Highway. It was in 1913 that it was decided a section of the nation’s first transcontinental highway would pass through the Tracy area.
Last week, I had made a note to check on that for inclusion, but somewhere in the writing process, it was not seen, and its obvious absence was not spotted.
My error was immediately identified, however, by former Tracyite Jeff Pribyl, a San Francisco architect who is researching the history of Tulare County, especially the interesting twists and turns in the formative years of the late 19th century.
I really expect to also hear from Gary Kinst, the retired employee of Rhodes Bean and Supply Co-op. Gary has devoted a great deal of time to learning about every aspect the Lincoln Highway, which was in existence from 1913 to 1928, and serves as editor of the Lincoln Highway Association’s regional bulletin.
Gary has written a detailed history of the development of the Lincoln Highway through this area.
After the Lincoln Highway was patched together across the U.S. in 1913, its route through the Tracy area wasn’t finally decided until 1914. Original routing plans called for highway to pass around the north side of town on Grant Line Road, as that would be a more direct connection to the route on the west side of Tracy.
That prospect alarmed local business leaders eager to boost sales for local restaurants, garages and service stations along 11th Street. They raised $1,000 to help improve 11th Street and hosted several lunches for representatives of the Lincoln Highway Association.
Finally, in March 1914, it was decided by the California Highway Commission that the Lincoln Highway would pass through Tracy on 11th Street. Immediately, signs were posted along the street identifying it as a section of the Lincoln Highway.
Although Grant Line Road wasn’t designated a stretch of the Lincoln Highway, it became a favorite shortcut for east-west traffic under the name of “the Banta Cutoff.”
As reported in Gary Kinst’s book, “Mossdale to Mountain House and Beyond,” after turning west at the Mossdale Y on the east side of the San Joaquin River, westbound motorists initially took the original route west toward Banta and then made several right-angle turns through Banta before heading west on what later became Highway 50 and is now 11th Street.
In 1920, the stretch between Mossdale and Tracy was straightened out with the elimination of the 90-degree turns. Eleventh Street was repaved and six electric lights installed in the center of town.
After passing through Tracy on 11th Street, westbound traffic took what is now Byron Road northwest before turning directly west at what is now the western section of Grant Line Road to the Mountain House restaurant and garage.
Following a yearlong closure to facilitate reconstruction, the Altamont Pass Road was reopened in July 1915, and traffic that had been rerouted over Patterson Pass was returned to the new concrete-paved Altamont Pass.
What became known as Old Altamont Road served as a main connection between the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley until 1938, when the present multilane Altamont Pass route was established.
Before the name Lincoln Highway was phased out in 1928, the route through Tracy on 11th Street was renamed in 1926 as U.S. Highway 48. From 1934 to 1964, it was Highway 50. And finally, in 1970, Interstate 205 was constructed around the north side of town.
The list of major events between 1910 and 1919 started off with Tracy becoming a railroad division point, where train crews were changed. At the time, it was a major job-creating development in what was then the major mode of transportation.
But the advent of the Lincoln Highway in this area three years later, in 1913, was in retrospect even more significant for the long-term development of our town. It was a harbinger of the growth of the age of the automobile — which was then only dawning — and the corresponding development of the highway and freeway systems.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at email@example.com.