Category Archives: District 11

Image of the Week – 7/14/2017

Aerial view of I-8 (right), US 80 (left), and State 79 (center and left) near Descanso, east of San Diego, CA

A tunnel on US 80?

In the late 1940’s, plans were being drawn for improvements to US 80 in San Diego County. The highway, as it was then, had changed little since its last upgrade between 1928 and 1932. While much of the highway was on a better alignment than before, the section between Alpine and Descanso still needed more work done. This part of the roadway still had sharp curves and steep grades. The combination of these conditions, including increasing traffic, made it rather treacherous at times.

Portion of the highway plans showing the realignment between Willows and Ellis.

In 1950, the first phase of improvements were made to this segment of highway. Beginning near the present-day West Willows interchange, a new alignment was constructed. This new alignment had a shallower grade than the original alignment. It was also a lot straighter. It followed eastbound I-8 until near East Willows. At the present-day East Willows interchange, the alignments met again. From there, the old alignment was straightened quite a bit. Portions of this new alignment are still in use as the westbound lanes of I-8.

Detail view of the tunnel location. West portal is located at the arrow.
Aerial photo of Deadman’s Curve near Viejas, CA. Note the provisions built for the tunnel on the west (left) side of the large curve.

At the large curve, known as “Dead Man’s Curve”, the 1950 improvements ended. It was at that curve, however, that a tunnel was planned to be constructed. The tunnel was a part of an additional phase of improvements that were never constructed. It would have been about 800 feet long and two lanes wide. I have not found any drawings of what the tunnel may have looked like. Most likely, however, it would have had a stone-faced portal, similar to other tunnels constructed around that time. Grading for the tunnel was partially done on the west side, though nothing was done on the east end.

Plans for the Sweetwater River Bridge near Los Terrinitos. Note the proposed alignments on either side of the bridge.

East of the tunnel, the alignment would have taken a different course. Instead of following the original alignment, a new one would be built, similar to the I-8 alignment, but rejoining US 80 near Los Terrinitos. There, a new bridge was constructed over the Sweetwater River bridge, bypassing the original 1917 bridge to the south. East of Descanso, another realignment was planned, though no provisions for this ever got past the planning stage. This bridge, along with the improvements to the west, were planned to be a part of an eventual US 80 expressway or freeway alignment. All of these plans were put on hold as other projects in the region.

When plans shifted from upgrading US 80 to the construction of a brand new freeway, the tunnel plan was scrapped. Instead of a tunnel, a deep cut would be dug into the mountain, allowing for a more even grade across the area. The alignment chosen also reduced the number of river crossings from three to one. The freeway alignment also bypassed the section of US 80 through Guatay. In doing so, it had to cross Pine Valley creek at a rather deep section. The valley was bridged using a new method called “Segmental Balanced Cantilever”, which resulted in the highest bridge on the Interstate system at 450 feet above the floor of the canyon.

Plans for I-8 between West Willows and State 79 (Descanso)
Detailed plans for the tunnel area showing the old alignment in relation to the present freeway.

Today, little remains of the tunnel’s planned location. Only vestiges of the old alignment can be seen around the large cut where the tunnel was planned. A vista point was constructed within the cut as well, at the edge of which a portion of the original alignment can be seen. I-8 also utilizes a portion of the 1950’s alignment. From near Viejas Creek to just west of East Willows, the two outermost lanes of I-8 eastbound mostly use the 1950’s concrete, with portions replaced and a new lane added to the left. From East Willows to near the Vista Point, westbound I-8 follows the 1950’s alignment, while not using the paving as it does to the west, it does follow the grade. You can see this in the road cuts as the style of cut is different between each side of the freeway.

Following US 80 and its history across the mountains east of San Diego is fascinating. As technology progressed, each alignment became better and easier to travel. Unlike many other highways in California, US 80 didn’t go through an expressway phase. It went from a two lane highway to a four lane freeway on a new alignment. In doing so, the brief period when the original alignment was to be upgraded brought some interesting ideas. The tunnel, as well as some of the extra bridges planned, were a part of those ideas. They would be lost to time if it weren’t for a few bits of information on roadway plans from that era. In time, I may uncover yet more mysteries and unbuilt sections of the highway still unknown.

Image of the Week – 4/25/2017

State 79 at Samagatuma Creek with new bridge railing. This is a new style of metal railing that Caltrans has been installing on bridges lately.

Image of the Week – 4/9/2017

I-8 at Laguna Summit, looking east. This will be my newest section of Adopt-A-Highway in the near future.

Image of the Week – 3/26/2017

Taylor St at US 80 (Now I-8) in 1960, looking east

Image of the Week – 2/27/2017

I-5 and State 56 in Sorrento Valley, CA

Winter Guide to Traversing Mission Valley Roadways

San Diego’s Mission Valley can be quite a challenge during the winter. Most of the crossings of the San Diego River are low and not bridged. As a result, when it rains these crossings can be closed rather quickly. This greatly affects the ability to transect the valley along these roadways.  The freeways, I-5, State 163, I-805, and I-15 are built with bridges and high enough to not flood. This is a guide to what is normally closed during storms.

From west to east:

Pacific Highway – Bridge – not closed

Morena Blvd – Bridge – not closed

Fashion Valley Road – closed more often than not during storms. This crossing has been rebuilt several times as well.

Avenida Del Rio – closed regularly during storms.

Mission Center Road – low crossing built a little higher than average. Still floods during major storms but is strong enough to avoid being damaged as a result.

Camino Del Este – Still low but built strong. Closes during major storms.

Qualcomm Way – Closes during very large storms. Built a little higher to help keep it open during major storms.

Ward Road – very low crossing and subject to closure during storms.

San Diego Mission Road – low crossing and subject to closure.

Friars Road (east) – Bridge – does not close.

Now, in the event all of these low-level crossings are closed, it is probably best to simply avoid Mission Valley in general. If you have to be there, I would suggest taking the 163 or 15 to cross the San Diego River. It may be a convoluted and circuitous route to use, but it is your only choice. Mission Valley circulation wasn’t designed with the river to flood in mind, unfortunately. Some developments, such as Fashion Valley Mall, was at least partly designed for flooding. The southern parking structure was built with the lower floor to be flooded and still allow for use of the rest of the structure. Even MTS built the San Diego Trolley Green Line with the floods in mind. Most of it is elevated through the valley.

Image of the Week – 11/16/2016

Old Highway 94 - Barrett Smith Road - near Dulzura, CA
Old Highway 94 – Barrett Smith Road – near Dulzura, CA

Bicycle Path along I-15

In the course of doing research on old US 395 and I-15 in the Miramar area, I came upon a very interesting set of plans. In 1979, a bicycle path was constructed along what is now Kearny Villa Road from Harris Plant Road to Carroll Canyon Road. While there are some details about this path still missing, such as why it was built, who was able to use it (being in a military base), and when it was closed. In time I hope to find these things out. In the meantime, I have the plans for the path itself.

Cover sheet for the I-15 Bikeway. This shows where the bikeway was built on a new alignment from Harris Plant Road to Miramar Way.
Cover sheet for the I-15 Bikeway. This shows where the bikeway was built on a new alignment from Harris Plant Road to Miramar Way.

Starting at Harris Plant Road, bicyclists were directed from Kearny Villa Road, across the freeway, to Altair Road. About 1/4 mile north on Altair Road, the Class I bicycle path began. It followed Altair Road for a short distance, crossed under the freeway at San Clemente Canyon, and then followed the east side of the freeway. Once it joined with Ammo Road, it was basically a Class II bike lane. The lane followed the shoulder of I-15 from near Miramar Way all the way to Carroll Canyon Road, where it exited the freeway and terminated.

Gates at the main entrances of the Class I sections.
Gates at the main entrances of the Class I sections.
Signage posted at the bikeway gates. The lower sign seems to point toward a limited access to the path.
Signage posted at the bikeway gates. The lower sign seems to point toward a limited access to the path.

Much of the Class I sections of the path remain today, albeit closed off. I had seen the roadway many times before in aerial photography and from the ground while inspecting the old freeway. I never knew what it was, other than a rather narrow roadway. The path was the first instance of bicycle specific infrastructure in this area. It wouldn’t be the last, as the current Kearny Villa Road freeway still retains a buffered bike lane today. While it is not yet known what prompted this path to be built, it does show that Caltrans has at least been trying to help cyclists in this area for quite some time. I do find it rather interesting that the path was built just a few years before this section of freeway was bypassed. I suspect, though do not officially know, that the path was abandoned not long after the bypass in 1983. A bit more research is still necessary to determine that.

Detail of a portion of the path from Altair Road to the San Clemente Canyon bridge.
Detail of a portion of the path from Altair Road to the San Clemente Canyon bridge.
Remnant of the path near San Clemente Canyon.
Remnant of the path near San Clemente Canyon.
Closeup of the path, with a short section of yellow centerline striping visible near the top.
Closeup of the path, with a short section of yellow centerline striping visible near the top.

Old Highway 78 near Oceanside, CA

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.

S Vista Way just west of El Camino Real in Oceanside. Note the concrete peeking out from under the asphalt.
S Vista Way just west of El Camino Real in Oceanside. Note the concrete peeking out from under the asphalt.
Closer view of the concrete paving beneath.
Closer view of the concrete paving beneath.

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.

Intact section of concrete adjacent to the Marron Adobe.
Intact section of concrete adjacent to the Marron Adobe.
Marker for the Marron Adobe, as in Marron Road "fame".
Marker for the Marron Adobe, as in Marron Road “fame”.

Other sections of older alignments do still exist, but they are all completely reconstructed and no longer retain the old paving.