Historian Kevin Starr writes:
Freeways were initially given poetic-evocative names, drawn from historic, literary, or geographical sources: the Cahuenga, the Bayshore, the Redwood, the Ramona, the Cabrillo, the James Lick, the Nimitz. In the second phase of development, freeways tended to take on the names of their destinations—the Hollywood, the Long Beach, the Santa Ana, the San Bernardino—as in August 1954 when the Arroyo Seco Parkway became the Pasadena Freeway. In the third phase of development, freeways were to become known primarily by their numbers—the 10, the 5, the 880, the 101—for they were now part of an integrated state grid, scheduled for integration into an interstate system.
-- Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963. Golden Dreams is one of eight volumes in Starr’s Americans and the California Dream series; Kevin Starr is a professor of history at the University of Southern California and the former state librarian of California (1994-2004).
In the Bay Area, many residents (and traffic reporters) still refer to the Bayshore and the Nimitz (and to the Warren Freeway, State Route 13). No one in Northern California, however, would call the Nimitz Freeway “the 880”: up here, we prefer our freeway numbers anarthrous. For more on that subject, see the second half of my 2011 post “Thinking, Doing, Engineering, Amazing.”