On September 6, 2016, I finally got a chance to survey the damage to the roadways in Cajon Pass that were involved in the Blue Cut Fire. Portions of the area are still closed, specifically the area north of Cajon Junction, so I was unable to access the Alray UP or the abandoned expressway sections in that area.
I was, however, able to inspect State 138 east of I-15 and all of old US 66 / 91 / 395 south of Cajon Junction. I chose not to investigate State 138 west of I-15 as there was a lot of heavy construction in progress for a four-lane widening project.
I started my journey by taking the “new” Cajon Blvd alignment that bypasses Devore Junction (I-15 and I-215). Caltrans has recently completed reconstruction of this interchange and as part of that reconstruction, they have partly rebuilt Cajon Blvd through here. While much of it is a new alignment, it does follow the original alignment (pre-1937). As a result, I was able to get some nice photos of part of that alignment.
The burn area itself became very apparent after Kenwood Road. The fire in this area burned as far as Keenbrook, damaging many structures in that area. A few things didn’t get burned though. One, a lone sign that says “EAT” along with its accompanying structure, remained intact. At Blue Cut, the source of the fire, I was rather amazed at what didn’t burn. Most of the cottonwood and oak trees survived untouched as well as most of the guardrail in the median of the expressway.
North of Blue Cut, the burn area stops mostly at the old highway, but not east of it. The wooden railing is still intact at Debris Cone Creek. Some structures were damaged near Cajon Junction, such as the Chevron gas station and the McDonalds restaurant.
After Cajon Junction, I followed State 138 east toward Summit. The burn area covered the entire highway from Cajon Junction to Summit Valley Road. This section is scheduled to be realigned in the near future as well.
Overall, most of the old highways through the Cajon Pass remained intact. Some guardrail was damaged but most was only lightly burned. How this area will react during the next few major rain storms does remain to be seen. Hopefully, mudslides and debris flows don’t become the order of the day.
While some evacuations are being lifted, others continue. The continuing evacuations are in the northwestern end of the fire, surrounding Wrightwood, Lytle Creek, and parts of Phelan.
Interstate 15 is OPEN in both directions. State 138 is still closed through the area in addition to most local roadways. The BNSF Railway is open and UP traffic is detouring onto the BNSF trackage around the damaged bridges.
Follow these links for detailed information about the fire and what areas are affected:
GeoMAC – Detailed fire perimeter map
New Fire Perimeter map available through InciWeb as of 8/17/2016 at 10:30 pm
I-15 will open to Northbound traffic soon as well – Per Caltrans District 8.
All Railroad traffic is still shut down through the pass. I haven’t heard of what BNSF trackage has been damaged but the Union Pacific line has been damaged at Alray. There is no ETA thus far for reopening. This also delays and/or cancels some Amtrak service as well, such as the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago.
With all the wildfires propping up lately, it is important to stay on top of the news. Your local newspaper and tv stations should be able to give updated information, but you can also get it directly from the agencies involved. I highly recommend the sites listed below as they can give more detailed information about what is going on and are usually updated regularly.
Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination (Fire incident mapping)
Incident Information System (Mapping and Detailed Incident Reports)
Caltrans Road Conditions
California Highway Patrol Traffic Incident Information (Gives very detailed reports on how these fires affect roadways)
If you have any websites that you would like to share – Please send us feedback or use the comments for this post.
Blue Cut Fire
Fire Perimeter Map from InciWeb as of 8/17/2016 at 8:22 am
In regards to the current fires in the Cajon Pass, I plan to assess the damage to the highways myself once the area is clear. From what I understand so far, it looks like most of the wooden railing along US 66 / 91 / 395 in the pass may be gone, in addition to the historic Summit Inn restaurant at Cajon Summit. Other structures, not associated with the roadway, have also burned. According to CHP, a railroad bridge in the pass has burned, the Alray UP where former US 66 / 91 / 395 passed below. Please stay clear of the Cajon Pass for the duration of this fire.
If you need to head north toward I-15 and I-40 near Barstow, I recommend taking I-10 East to State 62 East to State 247 North to Barstow. From there, you will connect with I-15 and I-40 just west of their junction. State 247 is a two lane roadway and may be busier than usual, so use caution.
All other traffic should use State 14 through Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley to connect with points to the north/west of I-15.
Old US 99 still has some gems remaining in the Coachella Valley. On of these is a set of railroad overpasses dating from 1936 and 1956 (56-09R/L). These structures may be replaced in the near future, so I took the opportunity to take some photos of them before they are gone. Each structure is different in type of construction as well as design. The 1936 structure retains its solid concrete railing, something somewhat unique for the period. Most bridges of that era had a more open and arched railing. This bridge has a very much “Art Deco” styling which still looks quite nice today. The bridge carried all US 99 traffic until 1956, when US 99 was upgraded to an expressway through this area. At that time, a second bridge for southbound/eastbound traffic was built. The 1956 span, a steel girder structure, is longer than the 1936 span. This may be due to plans, at that time, to eventually replace the 1936 bridge with a newer and longer span. While these plans may have been initially thwarted by the construction of I-10 on a new alignment east of here, the bridges days are indeed numbered with the reconstruction of the Jefferson St interchange and eventual realignment of roadways in this area.
These bridges are located on Indio Blvd just east of the Jefferson St interchange on I-10 in Indio, CA. Enjoy them while they last.
In the Belltown area of Riverside, CA, I found a rather interesting concrete roadway on 24th St. It appears to be a part of a former alignment of either Rubidoux Blvd, Market Street, or combination of the two. It dates to August 1931 and is in very good shape. What I found most interesting was the curve at Avalon St, which seemed to suggest its former importance as a Riverside to Colton roadway.
Why this roadway was built and when it was bypassed may remain a mystery for some time, however, it does show that you can still find old treasures like this in Southern California.