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.
This year, the Ridge Route will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary. While the roadway is still not fully open to travel and has not been since January 2005, it is still there and still coming up to its century mark. This celebration will be held in Lebec at the El Tejon School, located near the top of Grapevine Grade on Lebec Road. For more information, please contact the Ridge Route Communities Museum. The road also needs your help and pressure to reopen the roadway to the public. For more information about this issue, contact the Ridge Route website.
From the Ridge Route Communities website:
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION – 10/3
It has been 100 years since the Ridge Route Road opened
Come celebrate with the Ridge Route Preservation Organization and the Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society
from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
at El Tejon School right on the old two lane highway
across I-5 from Fort Tejon
There will be displays, antique automobiles, food, music,
I’ve recently added a new section to the socalregion website. I noticed the site was lacking in resources for local roadways. In particular, information on how to contact various local agencies for road projects, logs, and maintenance. With this in mind, I’ve added a new page to help others get their roads fixed and find out more information about those roadways. I’ve called it the “Southern California Highway Resources” page, which can be found on the Southern California Highways page and via this link.
This month marks 16 years for me as an Adopt-A-Highway program volunteer. In August 1998, I adopted a section of Interstate 5 in Grapevine Canyon in Kern County. To be more specific, my section is on Route 5 between Postmiles 6 and 8 in Kern County. I chose that section initially as it allowed me to inspect sections of old US 99 that I couldn’t reach before. Now that I have adopted it and have a permit, I can stop along that segment and see the old roadway.
I found that the section I adopted was also quite scenic and special. Of all the sections of Grapevine Canyon, mine has the most of the wild grapes that gave the canyon its name. It also contains one of the more famous sections of the original Grapevine Grade, Deadmans Curve. During wildflower season, the canyon is green and alive with yellow, orange, and purple flowers. Deer, hawks, and other wildlife can be spotted in the canyon as well.
Passing through Grapevine Canyon now gives me a sense of pride. I’ve actually gone there many times to help clean the highway, given stranded motorists help, and fixed things along the roadway. It is something that I enjoy doing and something that I don’t do often enough. When I first adopted it, I lived in Santa Clarita. Now I live in San Diego, much further away. As a result, I don’t clean it as often but still try to get up there as much as I can. I’ve also had the help of friends at times which has been nice.
I encourage all those that have the ability to adopt a roadway to do so. You can help clean up some of your community, or even someone else’s in my case. You can help others and can be a lot of fun. Most counties and states have this sort of program. Find out what your local agency has and find a section to adopt. You never know what you might find out there.
A new bypass highway was completed a couple years ago by Caltrans around Brawley. Signed as State 78 and State 111, it forms a northeast loop around town. It is an expressway, not a freeway. This distinction makes for some unusual signage where there is an interchange with State 111.