State Route 78, one of the original State Highways in the region, has has undergone many changes since it was originally built. Most of the original routing west of Vista, CA, known as Vista Way, has been eliminated by the current alignment of the highway. By the 1960’s, State 78 was an expressway west of Vista, CA. It was gradually upgraded further to a full freeway, bypassing or replacing yet more of the original alignment. Today, there are some original sections still around, albeit very short. The two main sections of old paving, mostly dating to the late 1920’s to early 1930’s, exists near El Camino Real and College Ave in the Oceanside area.
The first section, near El Camino Real, is located on Haymar Dr / S Vista Way and is only partly exposed. Here, the concrete has been repaved but is showing through some of the potholes.
To the east of this section, there is another and more exposed bit of old paving. Adjacent to the Marron Adobe on Haymar Dr (old Vista Way), this paving still retains the feel of the old roadway. No date stamps could be found, but the style of the concrete seems to date it from 1926 to 1935.
Other sections of older alignments do still exist, but they are all completely reconstructed and no longer retain the old paving.
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.
US 99, known as “The Old Road” in the Santa Clarita area, has had a varied past. It was first built through this area in 1930 as a three-lane highway. This roadway, known then as the Newhall Alternate, would be the first of many versions of the road through this pass.
In 1949, the roadway was temporarily widened to four lanes by restriping and adding some paving to the shoulder. This was done as the real work to upgrade the highway wouldn’t commence for a couple of years. Evidence of this widening can still be seen today.
In 1951, US 99 was realigned and finally upgraded to an expressway, though this would not last long. Just south of this point, the highway was realigned again to accomodate a new freeway from the Tunnel Station Junction (US 6 and Foothill Blvd) to Sepulveda Junction (State Route 7). This freeway still exists today in part and serves as the “Truck Route” through the pass.
Starting in 1967 and ending in 1975, the pass was yet again the site of major construction. This time, little of the old highway would be utilized as the new route of Interstate 5 bypassed much of the existing route. Where it didn’t bypass the alignment, it was torn up and completely replaced with the current roadway.
US 99 would, however, serve as the main route one last time following the January 17, 1994 Reseda / Northridge earthquake. Portions of I-5 collapsed during the earthquake, resulting in a need for a quick replacement. The resulting detours created an alignment very similar to the pre-1967 highway, giving motorists (albeit not with joy) a chance to drive old US 99 again. Upgrades were made to the highway through the pass including repaving, guardrail, and a temporary prohibition on left turns. Sadly, for highway historians, this resulted in the loss of the 1951 concrete and some curbing. It is a price to pay to help keep California’s Backbone functioning during a crisis.