Prunedale is a census-designated place in Monterey County, California, United States. Prunedale is located 8 miles (13 km) north of Salinas, at an elevation of 92 feet (28 m). The population was 17,560 residents at the time of the 2010 census, up from 16,432 at the 2000 census. Plum trees were grown in Prunedale in the early days of its founding but the trees died soon after due to poor irrigation and fertilizer.
One of the area's earliest settlers was Charles Langley, a Watsonville banker, who also operated the Prunedale post office. The Prunedale post office opened in 1894, closed in 1908, and re-opened in 1953. He helped establish the Watsonville post office mail service in Prunedale. Langley Canyon Road in Prunedale is named after the Langley family. It was around the time of Prunedale's founding that the plum orchard failed due to a lack of irrigation and fertilizer, yet the name Prunedale was retained. The unincorporated area maintains a rural feel in most areas.
A major development in the area's history occurred when U.S. Route 101 was rerouted through Prunedale between 1931 and 1932. Highway 101 had previously routed directly from Salinas to San Juan Bautista. That old route is now known as San Juan Grade Road. In 1946, Highway 101 was widened to 4 lanes. As Prunedale has grown, increased traffic congestion made Route 101 through Prunedale a Traffic Safety Corridor and a double traffic fine zone in the late 1990s and early 00's, with reduced speed limits to 55. Detailed plans to build a 101 bypass of Prunedale did not develop. After Caltrans purchased the land for the bypass, it was resolved to improve the highway through Prunedale by adding a San Miguel Canyon overpass, improving the Highway 101 and Highway 156 interchange, making more turn and merge lanes, and making several other improvements on the roadway. These improvements were completed in the early 2000s. In the last few years, with a decline in traffic fatalities, the speed limit was increased to 60 miles per hour via state traffic formulas.