Names on highway signsBy Joan Levy
Do you ever wonder about the people for whom some local roads are named? The signs appear at the side of highways showing the names without any explanation. Some are readily recognizable local people, but others are not so obvious.
We all know Quentin Kopp's Freeway. That would be I-380, connecting 101 with 280 in San Bruno. Kopp has had a high profile political career over a long period of time. He was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1972 to 1986. He was elected to the California Senate in 1986. In 1999, he became a judge of the San Mateo County Superior Court. Most recently in 2006, he was named to the California High Speed Rail Authority and is now chairman.
It certainly is no surprise then, that in June 1998, State Senate Resolution Number 99 designated I-380 as the "Quentin L. Kopp Freeway." That lengthy resolution acknowledged the many accomplishments of Kopp up to that date and mentions specifically his contributions to transportation, especially in the Bay Area.
The "J. Arthur Younger Freeway" was also named after a prominent local politician. Younger served in the U.S. Congress from 1953 until his death in 1967. That year he was recognized by naming State Route 92 from the coast to the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge for him.
Sometimes the highway names recognize law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. We may recognize them from the headlines surrounding the incidents that resulted in their deaths. This is the case with the "Eugene A. Doran Memorial Bridge" on Highway 280 at Crystal Springs. Doran was a Hillsborough police officer who was killed in 1959 near that location. When the new bridge was completed, it was named for Doran. In 2004, the name was amended to the "Eugene A. Doran and Marine Lance Corporal Patrick M. Doran Memorial Bridge" to include Eugene's son, who gave his life in Vietnam in 1967.
The link in San Mateo between State Route 92 and Highway 101 is the Harold "Bizz" Johnson Interchange. The inclusion of his nickname "Bizz" catches the eye, but otherwise Johnson may not be familiar to many of us.
As it turns out, Harold T. Johnson was a state legislator who went on to become a U.S. congressman from 1959 to 1981. He lived in Roseville, although he was born in Broderick, a town in Yolo County. He became the chairman of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation in the 95th and 96th Congresses.
Johnson might be better known for the Harold "Bizz" Johnson Trail between Susanville and Westwood. This 25-mile hiking and riding trail was once the roadbed of the Southern Pacific's Fernley and Lassen Branch Railway. While he was in the state Senate from 1949 through 1958, Johnson was one who consistently challenged big utilities in favor of consumer-owned businesses.
A state Assembly resolution in 1985 recognized the contributions of this retired politician by giving his name to our interchange before his death in 1988. He may not have been a local San Mateo County boy, but he was remembered for his service to the state during his time in office.
Next time you pass signs indicating the names on highways, realize that these people made contributions to our communities, even if you don't recognize the names yourself. If you are curious, Caltrans does give a brief explanation on its Web site.
Copyright ©2006 Daily Journal. Published 12/16/2006.