Few streets in Chico start at one end of town and continue to the other uninterrupted. Knowing the ones that do are the first step in learning to navigate this town.
Esplanade - Broadway/Main - Park
This is technically one continuous road that stretches from Highway 99 north of Chico all the way to Richvale as four distinct roads, although only three of them are within the city limits. At the northern terminus is The Esplanade that stretches from Highway 99 south to the northern edge of downtown Chico wherein directional traffic is divided with southbound traffic traveling one-way down Broadway, and northbound traffic on Main Street, both routes separated by a city block of commercial buildings. This continues from First Street until Ninth Street where the two merge together again and become Park Avenue, which continues south to the edge of Chico and terminates at East Park Avenue/Skyway.
If one continues south, the same road becomes the Midway, a two-lane road that functions as the main artery connecting Durham to Chico; this road continues south until it's southernmost terminus at Biggs-Willows Road in Richvale.
Driving on the Esplanade
The Esplanade, a multiway boulevard that runs from First Street to Wes 11th Avenue. Formerly known as "Old Highway 99" until the present freeway was began construction in 1963. It is one of the oldest and oddest streets in Chico. It is a four lane road divided by a tree-lined center median and bordered by one-way frontage roads that flow in the direction of Esplanade traffic that they run parallel to. These frontage roads primarily serve the residents and businesses lining the Esplanade as parking, bus access, and as safe routes for cyclists.
Esplanade is uniquely laid out in that traffic lights are placed at the intersection of all odd-numbered avenues (first, third, fifth, etc through eleventh avenue), though left turns cannot be made at a light, except for eleventh. Otherwise left turns can only be made on even numbered avenues, therefore if needs to access an odd-numbered avenue from the Esplanade by turning left, they must turn left at the preceding even-numbered avenue and then drive up an additional block to reach the destination.
It's important to note that, similar to Main Street and Broadway*, the Esplanade is outfitted with timed traffic lights, they are not triggered by sensors. If one enters traffic on the Esplanade they can successfully traverse the stretch of road from Memorial Way to 11th Avenue by maintaining a speed of 27mph. As one progresses down this stretch of road the lights will continuously turn green upon the driver's approach. Though this can be disrupted if other drivers do not follow the same method, causing them to brake to avoid running a red light and thus all traffic behind them must slow or stop as well, however most locals understand this and drive accordingly. This is often a giveaway if a driver is not from Chico as they do not time the lights and are forced to brake at each intersection.
Note: On some maps, Esplanade is labeled as Highway 99. This is in reference to Business route 99, not the highway itself.
*Main Street and Broadway are also fitted with timed traffic lights, though one must drive approximately 25mph rather than 27 like on the Esplanade to successfully time each green light.
Nord - 8th/9th Street (Highway 32)
On the North-West side of town, Highway 32 is the major route to Interstate 5. Once into town it becomes Nord Ave. and continues down the West side of The Aves and The Streets until it makes a 90 degree turn and splits into 8th St. and 9th St. (one-way streets). It continues to the East side of town, where it once again reconvenes into a two lane highway.
Highway 99 or State Route 99 is the major freeway in Chico, bisecting the east and west halves of the city as it runs in a northwest-southeasterly direction. There are seven major exits in the city along the freeway, beginning in the south at Skyway, moving north towards East 20th Street, Highway 32/East 8th and 9th Streets, East 1st Avenue, Cohasset Road, East Avenue, and Eaton Road. There are additional exits beyond the city limits that are not junctions, such as the traffic light at the intersection of Garner Lane north of the Eaton Road exit, or the traffic lights at Entler Avenue, Southgate Avenue, and Estates Drive all south of Skyway.
W. 8th Ave
This road has three roundabouts or circulars between The Esplanade and Nord (Highway 32). It is an interesting road because it cuts through an orchard of almonds nearly within the city's center. The owner of the land has no intention to sell.
East Ave - Manzanita Ave - Bruce Rd
This is another continuous road that is made up of three sections with different names. East Ave is a major four lane road that borders a large part of Chico on the North-West and North-East sides, and is one of the seven primary junctions with Highway 99 in the city. East Ave stretches from it's westernmost end at Nord Ave east past several shopping centers including the former North Valley Plaza where the Cinemark 14, Trader Joe's are currently located, further east to the Safeway shopping, past Pleasant Valley high school and the Elks Lodge until it ends at Manzanita Ave just before Fire Station No. 5 and a traffic circle that can direct drivers northeast to Upper Bidwell Park. Drivers can also continue east through the same traffic circle along Manzanita Ave past Hooker Oak Park, the road rises along a southward bend becoming Bruce Rd, which then continues southward passing Enloe Outpatient Center, Meriam Park and several residential neighborhoods until it terminates at the Skyway.
Cohasset - Mangrove - Pine/Cypress - Mulberry - Fair
Cohasset comes into the northern part of town from the airport. Once over Highway 99 it branches into Mangrove and Cohasset, where it cuts West to Esplanade. Mangrove parallels Esplanade and unofficialy marks the Eastern border of the area known as The Aves. It splits into two one way streets, Pine and Cypress, which parallel Main and Broadway as it cuts through The Streets. Pine and Cypress re-converge at 12th Street, where they become Mulberry Street for a few blocks, only to become Fair Street at the intersection of 20th Street.
E. 20th Street
East 20th Street is primarily a four-lane road that runs east from Park Avenue, providing direct or near access to most of the major shopping centers in Chico including Costco, the Chico Mall, Target, Best Buy, and Walmart. It continues east past these shopping centers reducing to two lanes as it runs further east past the currently under construction Meriam Park, towards residential neighborhoods and terminating at a dead end in the Belvedere Heights neighborhood.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway (was Whitman Avenue)
Originally named Whitman Avenue, it was renamed in the early 2000s as Dr Martin Luther Jr Parkway and extends from a cul-de-sac at the northernmost end next to Community Park (colloquially called 20th Street Park) and runs south across E 20 Street, past the Chico Crossroads shopping center, Costco, the California Water Service (CalWater) offices, and Tractor Supply Co. It then crosses East Park Avenue, where it becomes South Whitman Place and ends in a cul-de-sac surrounded by various small businesses.
The Skyway borders the main part of Chico to the South, and parallels E. 20th St. It also connects Park Avenue. The Skyway provides yet more direct access to many more retail and business locations including Home Depot and the Skypark Shopping Center anchored by Raley's.
In addition, the Skyway is a major corridor connecting Chico to the commuter towns of Paradise and Magalia. It also provides access to the The Tuscan Ridge Golf Club and the infamous Lookout Point. It follows a ridge along a canyon where Butte Creek flows and Honey Run Road dutifully follows. The roadway was closed periodically during the Humboldt Fire, making transportation in and out of Paradise very difficult for those evacuating the fire. During the evacuation of Paradise in the 2018 Camp Fire, all four lanes were shifted westbound to allow for the maximum amount of traffic exiting Paradise. Despite this, there was still gridlock on the Skyway all the way through Chico.
Caution is advised when traveling on the Skyway as it's a common location for speed traps set by Butte County Sheriff and occasionally Chico Police Department. Because of its curves, and the fact that significant portions of Skyway between Chico and Paradise often have steep drop offs along the sides, Skyway is often the site of severe accidents especially in poor weather conditions. The road can occasionally be closed for short periods of time during the winter months if snow levels drop low enough below the limits of lower Paradise that traffic conditions become hazardous.
Eaton Road is the most northerly major thoroughfare in Chico. It is an east-west corridor which currently connects Esplanade to Cohasset Avenue and the neighborhood currently up to Floral Avenue. It is planned to be designated as the new Highway 32 and be continuous from a point north of Muir Avenue on Highway 32, all the way to the Fire Station 5 on Manzanita Avenue.