I started noticing a few months ago that in certain television shows the characters referred to highways as "the 101" or "the 405". I thought this might be a Canadian thing since the shows I started hearing this on were filmed in and around Vancouver BC. This may, in fact, be a Canuckistan phraseology, but it appears to have its ultimate roots in SoCal:
As a native San Franciscan, one of the things that I would like you to please consider is how the writers refer to freeways in the Bay Area. In the Bay Area (unlike SoCal) there is no article “the” that precedes the freeway identifier number. For example, The James Lick and Bayshore Freeways (US 101) are “101”, NOT “the 101”. The Southern/Junipero Serra Freeways are “280” or “Interstate 280”, NOT “the 280”, and so on. (Unless it is used to refer to “the 280 Extension”). In SoCal, the use of “the” is perfectly acceptable; in the Bay Area, it simply demonstrates the ignorance of the writer or speaker. “I-280” can be somewhat acceptable, but it ranks right up there with the use of the word “ain’t”.
I'd never heard the 'the' prefix until now. Not on television, not in the midwest, nor the east coast, nor the northwest. We must nip this stylistic trait in the bud! Since it has no functional utility and is purely stylistic it will propagate purely due to social interaction and transmission. We can do it, people! Stop the The!