Category Archives: Old Bridge

Finding Old Highways – A Guide – Part 1

When looking for old highways, there are many clues you can use to help discover where old highways ran. This will serve as a partial guide to finding those clues and figuring out the history of a roadway in California.

State Highways

When you are looking for clues if a roadway you are on is an old State Highway, there are a few things to look out for. Depending on the age and location, look out for Right of Way monuments. In California, these are small concrete blocks with a C on the side of them, facing the roadway. They tend to be at the fence line along roadways, at the same distance as the utility poles, or further out. How much they stick out also varies. Some are just a few inches above the ground where others are about a foot high. Look out for these monuments at the beginning or ending of a curve usually about 50-100′ from the centerline of the roadway (or former centerline).

Old C-Block State Highway Right Of Way marker from 1930.
Old C-Monument State Highway Right Of Way marker from 1930.

Other clues tend to be tougher to spot but can be very subtle in appearance. Roadways that were formerly paved with concrete instead of asphalt are usually cracked in a very specific way if the asphalt is old enough. Expansion joints in the concrete, potholes exposing the old paving, or a defined crack running near the roadway edge usually give this away. Older concrete paving was either 15′, 18′, or 20′ wide. Modern roadways are usually 24′ wide, with two 12′ lanes. Look out for this concrete at curves which appear to have been straightened.

Original alignment of the Ridge Route at Tejon Pass. These lanes were built in 1923 on top of the original 1919 Ridge Route concrete.
Original alignment of the Ridge Route at Tejon Pass. These lanes were built in 1923 on top of the original 1919 Ridge Route concrete.

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On some roadways bypassed or abandoned after 1964, old postmile markers can be found. These markers are similar to the ones on current State Highways. On a current roadway with R mileage, look for old alignments in the area. R mileage indicates a realignment that took place after 1964, which is the point of “base mileage” for California State Highways.

This milepost was found near Whitaker Summit on old US 99. US 99 was gone legislatively in 1964 so Route 5 took over the numbering here. That is why it shows the mileage for I-5.
This milepost was found near Whitaker Summit on old US 99. US 99 was gone legislatively in 1964 so Route 5 took over the numbering here. That is why it shows the mileage for I-5.

Abandoned roadways are tougher to spot depending on the area climate. Drier climates tend to preserve older paving better than wetter climates. In some areas, the paving itself was removed after the roadway was bypassed. I have found a few sections of roadway relatively intact, complete with old striping, in Central and Eastern California. When the pavement has disintegrated or obliterated, you can look out for areas where there is less vegetation and distinct roadway grade. Sometimes old drainage culverts and bridges are left behind with nothing but dirt grade leading to them.

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More paving, both lanes now visible.
More paving, both lanes now visible.

In any area, make sure to take plenty of photos if you find an old alignment. You never really know when the local jurisdiction will come along and either obliterate or repave the roadway. This is fairly common in Los Angeles County as I have found. The most recent loss has been the June 1933 three lane concrete in Gorman along old US 99 which was repaved in the past couple years. Document what you find as best as you can. Doing so will help to preserve the memory of these forgotten roadways for many years to come.

Image of the Week – 3/15/15

Interstate 5 under construction at Magic Mountain Parkway in 1964.
Interstate 5 under construction at Magic Mountain Parkway and the Santa Clara River in 1964. Old US 99 is visible on the right side.

Victoria Bridge in Riverside, CA

Built in 1928, the Victoria Bridge crosses the Tequesquite Arroyo in style. This bridge was built to carry streetcars on Victoria Avenue across the arroyo as well as auto and horse carriage traffic. It is a rare example in Southern California of an arch bridge of this magnitude crossing a generally dry location. The deck and railing were restored in the early 2000’s to their original 1920’s appearance.

Victoria Avenue in the Riverside area itself is a rather beautiful roadway to travel. It was constructed in the early 1900’s as such a roadway and retains most of the original features today, south of this bridge. Quite a few miles of the roadway are comprised of a two-lane divided roadway surrounded by orange groves. These orange groves comprise some of the last remaining groves in Southern California. It is significant as the Riverside area was home to the original orange groves that were planted in the late 1800’s in Southern California.

Side view showing the multiple arch span.
Side view showing the multiple arch span.
Deck view with the restored railing and lighting.
Deck view with the restored railing and lighting.
New dedication plaque.
New dedication plaque.

Pacific Electric – Soto / Huntington Bridge

The last large Pacific Electric railroad grade separation, located in the El Sereno area of Los Angeles, is scheduled for removal in the near future. Last week, I took the opportunity to take photos of this structure while I still could.


Located at the flag on the map.

View from the eastern side. Steps lead to the passenger platform for northbound trains.
View from the eastern side. Steps lead to the passenger platform for northbound trains.

The structure is located along the former PE Northern District’s main line. The rail line here had four tracks. Outer tracks for local trains, inner tracks for express trains. Trains passed through here bound for downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, Monrovia, and Alhambra. It was built in 1936 as an upgrade to alleviate traffic congestion along busy Mission St. Passenger platforms were constructed at both ends of the structure, both of which exist today.

Passenger platform on the northbound side.
Passenger platform on the northbound side.
Former catenary poles and rail used as a light pole and barrier.
Former catenary poles and rail used as a light pole and barrier.
Deck view showing the twin steel spans.
Deck view showing the twin steel spans.
Concrete approaches with a painted clearance sign.
Concrete approaches with a painted clearance sign.
1936 bridge plaque. Visible in the top left side of the steel girder.
1936 bridge plaque. Visible in the top left side of the steel girder.
Closeup of the steel spans crossing Mission / Huntington.
Closeup of the steel spans crossing Mission / Huntington.

After the tracks were removed in the 1960’s, the bridge was rehabilitated for highway use. The fill at both ends was partially removed and the bridge deck was paved. The former catenary poles remain as light posts.

Slowly, the remnants of the Pacific Electric in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area are going away. While it is a loss of history, Los Angeles is working toward a future with more rail lines. It won’t ever be the “PE”, but it will go a long way toward a better future.

North Burbank UP – Videos

On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, I took the opportunity to ride up to Burbank and get some videos of the North Burbank UP with my GoPro camera. Despite the extreme heat, I managed to at least get some good video. These videos show the North Burbank Underpass and ancillary structures from all directions. They were taken to show what they were like before the closure and removal.

Northbound along San Fernando Blvd

Southbound along San Fernando Blvd

Southbound from San Fernando Blvd to Victory Place (Future San Fernando Blvd)

Northbound Victory Place to San Fernando Blvd

Southbound from I-5 at Buena Vista St to San Fernando Blvd

North Burbank UP to close on May 20, 2014

Looking southbound toward the overhead.
Looking southbound toward the overhead.

After serving the traveling public faithfully since 1941, the North Burbank Underpass on San Fernando Blvd in Burbank will close permanently on May 20, 2014. It is one of the more significant structures on old US 99 in the San Fernando Valley. Somewhat ironically, the structure will be replaced with a new interchange at Empire Ave. San Fernando Blvd will be rerouted back to its pre-1941 alignment, this time without a grade crossing. So, get out there and take your pictures while you can. Do the same for any other sections of old highway. You never really know how long they will last.

For more information:

Brea Canyon – Old Highway 57

Even in heavily built up Orange County, there can still be places where old highways can be seen. One of the best examples is located in Brea Canyon, where the Orange Freeway winds its way through open and undeveloped lands between Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Before the freeway, State 57 followed Brea Canyon Road. This two-lane roadway has changed little through here and has a few interesting features.

Old pipe railing and current 1936 alignment.
Old pipe railing and current 1936 alignment.
Section of original concrete, bypassed in 1936.
Section of original concrete, bypassed in 1936.
Former weigh station platform.
Former weigh station platform.
1936 bridge over Brea Creek.
1936 bridge over Brea Creek.
Detail of the railing from the 1936 bridge.
Detail of the railing from the 1936 bridge.
Old concrete just past the lower 1936 bridge.
Old concrete just past the lower 1936 bridge.
Last section of old concrete just north of State College Blvd.
Last section of old concrete just north of State College Blvd.

Northbound video from Lambert Road to Diamond Bar:

Road Building in San Gabriel Canyon

In the 1930’s, Los Angeles County began construction of an additional roadway over the San Gabriel Mountains via the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. About half of the roadway, complete with with four larger bridges and a tunnel, was constructed. Work had progressed as far as “The Narrows” by 1938. However, the March 2-3, 1938 storms caused much of the roadway to be washed out. The project was then abandoned, leaving a large arch bridge stranded many miles upriver. The tunnel still exists as well, just north of the “Bridge to Nowhere”, though it has been sealed at both ends.

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1936 arch bridge – The Bridge to Nowhere
1936 stamp on the arch bridge.
1936 stamp on the arch bridge.
Looking over the arch bridge to the tunnel site.
Looking over the arch bridge to the tunnel site.
Abandoned and partly destroyed bridge over the river.
Abandoned and partly destroyed bridge over the river.
Bridge over Cattle Canyon on the East Fork Road. This is similar to what the removed bridges north of here would have looked like.
Bridge over Cattle Canyon on the East Fork Road. This is similar to what the removed bridges north of here would have looked like.
1934 USGS Camp Bonita map showing the roadway completed to about 1 mile south of the “Bridge to Nowhere” site.
1940 USGS Camp Bonita map showing the now stranded bridge location.

In the 1955,  a new road building project commenced in the canyon. This new alignment would stay high above the canyon floor until it got nearer to the “Bridge to Nowhere”, allowing that earlier work to come to some use. Progress on this roadway was slow, mostly due to poor funding. Convict labor was used for most of the project, similar to many other road building efforts at the time in Los Angeles County. Two tunnels were constructed as well. These still exist and are mostly intact. This project too was cancelled in the late 1960’s, leaving another large scar in the canyon. This road is presently known as Shoemaker Canyon Road.

Stone railing along Shoemaker Canyon Road.
Stone railing along Shoemaker Canyon Road.
Looking toward the higher peaks of the San Gabriels along Shoemaker Canyon Road.
End of the pavement and open section of Shoemaker Canyon Road.
End of the pavement and open section of Shoemaker Canyon Road.
1961 and 1964 tunnels in view.
Partly graded roadway and tunnel along the "Road to Nowhere".
Partly graded roadway and tunnel along the “Road to Nowhere”.
Date stamp on the first tunnel.
Inside the longest tunnel, from 1961.
Grading along the "Road to Nowhere".
Grading along the “Road to Nowhere”.
Northern tunnel from 1964.
Northern tunnel from 1964.
1966 USGS Glendora map showing the “Shoemaker Canyon” roadway under construction.

Today, the canyon is protected from future development through the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area. Even without this protection, the geology of the canyon makes for a very expensive project. Maintenance would also be costly, as seen with State 39 through San Gabriel Canyon and above Crystal Lake. In time, all these structures and cuts will wash away, leaving the canyon with only bits of concrete and asphalt to show what was once here.

Remnants of paving in the canyon.
Remnants of paving in the canyon.

Following old US 91 near Corona

I took a trip recently to the Corona area to check out some of the old alignments of US 91. I had been there before, but it has been a long time. Starting from the Green River exit off of the 91 Freeway, I headed east along the south side of the freeway. Here, the roadways named Green River Road and Palisades Drive cover the pre-freeway alignment of US 91. This section is also a portion of the 1939 Prado Dam Relocation. This realignment took the highway out of the riverbed to the north and pushed it closer to the hills. A significant portion remains today relatively intact.

Near the Green River Road interchange, an abandoned portion of the roadbed is revealed by a 1939 culvert. The pavement has long since been removed. A portion of the old median, complete with curb divots, remains to the east. The best portion, however, is on Palisades Drive. This section has a fairly continuous old median, old bridges, wooden railing, and even a mile marker from Route 91. This whole section was bypassed in the early 1970’s along with a change to the 91 / 71 interchange.

Abandoned section of US 91 near Green River Road.
Abandoned section of US 91 near Green River Road.
1939 culvert on the abandoned section.
1939 culvert on the abandoned section.
Old raised median on Green River Road.
Old raised median on Green River Road.
Section of Palisades Drive, restriped to two lanes from four. Old raised median and wooden railing are visible here.
Section of Palisades Drive, restriped to two lanes from four. Old raised median and wooden railing are visible here.
Nice section of intact wooden railing.
Nice section of intact wooden railing.
Old Route 91 milemarker.
Old Route 91 milemarker. Reads “091, RIV, mileage illegible”
Former onramp from SB State 71 to WB US 91.
Former onramp from SB State 71 to WB US 91.
1939 bridge and railing near the eastern end.
1939 bridge and railing near the eastern end.