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
Although it has three names this is basically one street. It is The Esplanade when in The Aves and the northern part of town, splits into two one-way streets Broadway and Main that cut through the center of Downtown, and reconvenes into Park after crossing Highway 32 (9th street). Note: Driving on the Esplanade can be tedious, see below for more info.
Driving on the Esplanade
The Esplanade, a multiway boulevard up to W. 11th Avenue, is one of the oldest and oddest streets in Chico. It is a 6 lane street, but the outermost lanes are separated by medians and are basically treated as paralleling one-way streets. They are usually only used by buses or when parking, allowing better traffic flow for those driving to the north and south sides of town. When turning onto the Esplanade, it is illegal to block the side streets.
Traffic lights are placed at the intersection of every odd-numbered avenue with the Esplanade, but you are not able to turn left at a stoplight. In order to reach a destination on an odd numbered avenue you must turn onto the avenue before or after it and backtrack. In addition, all traffic lights on The Esplanade are on timers, not sensors. Therefore if you keep your speed at around 27 mph you will be able to drive the length of the road without stopping, provided that everyone is following this rule, and you don't get stuck behind people already stopped at red lights.
Note: On some maps, Esplanade is labeled as Highway 99. This is in reference to Business route 99, not the highway itself.
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 splits Chico from North to South. It is a full scale highway with overpasses and on-ramps. It is useful for getting to different parts of town quickly. On/off-ramps are located on (from North to South) Eaton Rd., East Ave., Mangrove / Cohasset, E. 1st Ave., Highway 32 (8th/9th st.), E. 20th St., and Park Ave. / Skyway. From the Highway 32 on-ramp to the Eaton Rd. off-ramp, traffic can become very congested. The on-ramps are very short and merging into heavy traffic may be difficult if drivers are not sharing the road.
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 is a major 4 lane road that borders a large part of Chico on the North-West and North-East sides. It provides access, among many others, to Trader Joe's and Cinemark 14 (also known as Tinseltown). If you go towards the hills on this road, you'll soon end up at the access road to Upper Bidwell Park.
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
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway (was Whitman Avenue)
This particular road branches off of E. 20th Street and leads directly to Park Avenue. As with most roads named after Martin Luther King Jr., there is a wide variety of businesses providing ample employment for area residents. Just to name a few: Barnes and Noble, FoodMaxx, Costco, Pet Smart, Circuit City, Office Depot, and the offices of the California Water Service Company. In addition, the parkway provides access to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. At the northern terminus of the parkway, there is a sports park with a statue of Dr. King — it was dedicated February 20th, 2007.
The Skyway borders the main part of Chico on 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.
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.
Be very wary while driving on this slightly curvy, graded road! Cops find it to be a great place to nab speeders, particularly just outside Chico as drivers rush down the ridge.
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.