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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Sunday, February 24, 2012, I went out for a ride to Campo on my motorcycle. I wanted to take some photos of the old sections of Hwy 94 and the weather was great for a ride. Starting out, it was a quick freeway ride to Campo Junction, where the two lane portion of Hwy 94 starts. That is where the fun begins. It was also where the first stop was, at the 1929 Sweetwater River bridge.
After I left the bridge, my next stop was at a section of old concrete I had discovered on a previous ride. With a camera in hand, it was time to get photos and explore some more. I didn’t find any date stamps, but I did find lots of old striping. Still pretty cool.
After Jamul, there was an old creek crossing with concrete I had found recently. It appears to be an Arizona type crossing instead of a culvert. The new crossing is now a culvert. I’m not sure its age, but I’m going to guess it is from the 1930’s. Also in the area is a neat bridge crossing Dulzura Creek at Otay Lakes Road. It was built in 1947 and has a nice sleek look.
In Dulzura, I stopped at a 1930 bridge which had bridge abutments near it from an even older span. I couldn’t quite tell what sort of a bridge the original one was, but was most likely wooden.
Further up the road at Cottonwood Creek, there are a few items of interest. The “new” Cottonwood Creek bridge from 1954 bypassed both the original bridge and large section of the alignment. Barrett Smith Road follows the old alignment up the steep grade out of Barrett Junction.
At Dogpatch, Hwy 94 crosses the San Diego and Arizona Railroad for the first time under a 1915 bridge. Just after that bridge, there is another 1947 bridge. Adjacent to the 1947 span, there are abutments to an earlier bridge.
My last stop was Campo. I needed to fuel up and get photos of the bridge at Campo Creek. It is the last bridge with wooden railing on Hwy 94. After I stopped here, I headed back to town on Hwy 94. I enjoyed the ride and the scenery. It was the first time in a long time that I had stopped so many times on 94. The last few trips have been just riding or driving.