I am putting together another highway tour, this time in San Diego County. On April 28 (weather permitting), I will be hosting a tour of US 80 from El Cajon to the Desert View Tower. Various stops will be made along the road at important locations, including the Wisteria Candy Cottage and the Desert View Tower. If you’re interested, please RSVP prior to April 25th. There will be no cost for the tour as well. I look forward to seeing you all out there on the highway. More details will follow as the tour gets closer.
The tour began at Devore, CA at about 8:30 am after meeting a friend, who ended up being the only person to show. After a quick briefing on what we were to see, we headed south to Verdemont, where we inspected a freeway overpass that had remained mostly intact from its original 1950’s construction. The bridge rail and approach guard rail was original and relatively untouched. From there, we headed back to Cajon Blvd and viewed the old concrete alignment at Verdemont.
After Verdemont, we headed back to Devore to see a section of intact 1916 paving, which acts partly as a driveway for an antenna site. The paving, oil macadam, is quite rare to see these days and was pretty cool to see. Despite all it has gone through, the paving was fairly smooth with only a few major potholes. The roadway damage did also offer an opportunity to more closely inspect the paving itself. The aggregate that was used was fairly large by modern standards and appeared to be granite.
North on Cajon Blvd, we passed a couple of C-monuments adjacent to the freeway. I first spotted these on a trip a few months ago following the Blue Cut fire. It was nice to see they were still there. Those monuments were also at the point where old Cajon Blvd merges with the “new” Cajon Blvd (the extension from Devore on a new alignment).
Our next stop was at Blue Cut. There, we checked out a plaque commemorating the history of the Blue Cut area. Blue Cut, as it was noted on the plaque, was the location of a toll booth on the original wagon road through here. We also inspected the foundations of the 1940’s weigh station, which was removed not long after the freeway bypassed this section. While we were at Blue Cut, we also watched three trains pass by, one of which was a “fast freight”, which was passing another train.
Moving north from Blue Cut, we stopped briefly at the Debris Cone Creek bridge, then headed toward Cajon Junction. At Cajon Junction, we followed the eastern frontage road south to the end of the road. There, we found the trail monument from 1917, which was placed alongside the roadway just after it was paved. The monument itself was moved to its present location when the freeway was built. This location was also the divergence of the original path through Cajon Pass and the later roads, which eventually became US 66. As it was getting a bit hot, we moved onto our next stop – Cajon Summit.
Between Cajon Junction and Cajon Summit, the old roadway has been greatly modified. Only portions of both directions of the former expressway are still visible. The whole section, however, has been closed since the Blue Cut fire burned the area. This same fire, unfortunately, also took what would have been our lunch stop – the Summit Inn Café. The sign still remains, but the whole business is gone. It may be rebuilt, but only time will tell. So far, the site has only been cleared.
After stopping at the summit, it was time to work our way back down the hill. Instead of taking the freeway back to Devore, we decided it best to take the old highway once again. This time, we made an additional stop at a bridge near Swarthout Canyon Road. This stop proved to be quite interesting as we found the foundations for an old structure that was alongside the 1916 roadway. We figured the old building may have been a gas station or some other roadside service building. We also saw two more trains pass by while we were there.
We headed back to Devore to finish up the tour. By then, we were quite hungry, so we decided to have a late breakfast at Tony’s Diner. The food was decent and the location was nice. It was good to be in a nice air-conditioned building as well. Overall, the tour was a lot of fun, even though it wasn’t well attended. Next time will be better and hopefully be cooler.
On August 12, 2017, I will be hosting this websites first highway tour in the Cajon Pass area. This tour will cover the roadway from Verdemont to Cajon Summit. Some portions will have to be skipped, unfortunately, due to fire-related closures. The start of the tour has changed from the initial announcement. It will now begin at Devore, in front of Tony’s Diner at 18291 Cajon Blvd, San Bernardino, CA 92407 at 8 am. Please do not park in their parking lot. There is plenty of on-street and off-street parking in the area.
After a brief introduction, we plan to leave at about 8:30 am. The tour will stop at the following locations:
- Verdemont (backtrack)
- Cajon Blvd (at the freeway)
- Kenwood Ave
- Blue Cut
- Debris Cone Creek
- Cajon Junction
- Cajon Summit
Additional stops may be added if needed. I strongly recommend bringing water and snacks as there are few water/food stops along the route. Please RSVP if you plan to attend this tour. Again, we will be leaving the starting point no later than 8:30 am. Please RSVP no later than August 11 so that I can get a rough number of how many will attend. I look forward to seeing you out there!
After taking a small poll on this site regarding possible highway tours, the results are in. It would seem that the Cajon Pass area was the most popular. As such, it will be the first tour given. Unless conditions warrant otherwise, the first tour will be on August 12, 2017. It will begin at the San Bernardino Metrolink station at 10 am. While a more exact itinerary will be created in the near future, the tour will cover the highway as well as the geology from the train station to Cajon Summit. The tour will be in a caravan style with specific stopping points. There may be some short hikes as well to see old pavement, alignments, or bridges. There will also be no cost for the tour. Please RSVP as soon as you can so I can get an idea of how many may show. It should be a lot of fun and I hope to see you out there!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After finally resolving some software issues, I have finally been able to start editing and posting videos again. My most recent one was taken in November 2015 along the Ridge Route from near Liebre Summit. It shows some of the issues the road is facing presently regarding erosion and a lack of maintenance.