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.
Between 1970 and 1979, State Highway 67 was realigned between Archie Moore Rd and Mussey Grade Rd. This realignment left two sections of paving with white striping intact. Most likely, the paving dates to around 1948 when State 67 was realigned around San Vicente Reservoir.
Realigned sometime in the 1930’s, the original alignment of US 99 is still visible near the intersection of Valley Blvd and Pepper Ave. Little remains of the original paving of US 99 through the Los Angeles area, so this is a special section.
Around late 2007, Valley Blvd was again realigned to better accommodate traffic at the I-10 interchange. Sections of the 1930’s paving are now sticking out from under the asphalt.
The intersection of Howard Avenue and Alabama Street is a fairly normal intersection. Until today, it was a two-way stop where Alabama St stopped for Howard Ave. This configuration hasn’t been all that successful. Since 2005, there have been four collisions, two of them with injuries. Visibility isn’t great and speeding is common. During peak times, particularly afternoons, traffic can back up on Alabama St due to Howard Ave being busier. To make matters worse, changes resulting from the busway on Park Blvd have added to the traffic on Howard Ave.
A few years ago, I petitioned the City of San Diego to install a stop sign at this intersection. I did so following the first collision and after having a few near collisions of my own. The City initially denied the stop, citing a lack of collisions. They did, however, add two red zones at the intersection on Howard Ave to help increase visibility. It helped for a while. People driving on Howard Ave would still honk at those pulling out from Alabama St that had a hard time seeing traffic coming. Two more collisions occurred before I decided to petition the City again a few months ago. Not long after I did this, yet another collision happened.
After I had sent the City the request, I had a phone conversation with the traffic engineer handling the request. I explained the situation, mentioned the collisions, and the pending traffic pattern changes caused by the construction on Park Blvd. They told me they would inspect the intersection and get back to me. In late June, they called me back. This time, the call was to tell me they had approved the stop sign. It seems that with the four collisions, it now qualified for the upgrade. The next day, I saw the traffic engineer marking locations for the limit lines and signs. I spoke with them, thanking them for the approval. In the process, I was also able to convince them to remove the two red zones since they would no longer be necessary. They did agree to remove them and marked the pavement accordingly.
Last Tuesday, July 15, a City crew came out to install signs informing the public that new stop signs would be added soon. Today, July 21, another crew came out to install the signs. I had the chance to speak with them and thank them for coming out. The crew that installed the signs was very friendly and worked quite efficiently. They added the signs, lines, and legends to the intersection as well as cleaned up one of the regulatory signs. It didn’t take long for people to start to stop at the intersection. Pedestrians can now cross the intersection easier, traffic on Alabama St can cross Howard Ave easier, two more parking spots have been added, and traffic is now slowed on Howard Ave.
It has always been my goal to help improve where I live. Those improvements can come in many ways. Getting potholes filled, signs replaced (or even added in this case), cleaning up trash, having graffiti removed, and even helping neighbors when possible are things that anyone can do. I strongly encourage everyone to help improve their neighborhood and make everyone’s lives better. Together, we can all make our cities a great place to live.
Construction, or replacement, of bridges during WWII was not without its problems. As most materials were set aside for the war effort, highway departments had to get creative. In California, one of the materials chosen was salvaged railroad rails. This style of rail was in use mostly during the mid-late 1940’s. I haven’t seen it used after 1950, at least not yet. Other state highways in San Diego County have similar bridges, such as State 79 near Santa Ysabel. Most have been replaced or upgraded since construction. This bridge, along State 76 near Bonsall, is slated to be removed when the highway is upgraded to expressway standards on a new alignment in the next couple years.
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.
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.
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.
Sharrows. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Perhaps you’ve even heard about them. What do they mean? A “sharrow” or Shared Lane Marking is a newer addition to roadway striping. They are designed to be along major bicycle routes where a bicycle lane is impractical. The markings show that motorists should not only expect to see cyclists but they should also be further out in the lane.
The rules behind these markings are fairly simple. They must be 11′ from the curb and beyond the “door zone”. These sharrows cannot be on roadways with a speed limit greater than 35 mph, though there are some exceptions such as Park Blvd through Balboa Park, which is signed as 40 mph. When a roadway is not marked with sharrows, the rules are still the same. According to the California Vehicle Code (CVC 21202(a)), a cyclist doesn’t always have to ride to the right side of the roadway. The term used is “as far right as practicable”. This means that if roadway conditions warrant, a cyclist may travel away from the right side. When a roadway is marked with sharrows, cyclists should ride with the tires lining up with the arrows.
So, Sharrow or no, a roadway must be shared with cyclists.
Long before the Isabella Reservoir was built in the 1950’s, State Highway 178 passed through the Kern River Valley on an alignment much different than it is today.
With the current drought, Lake Isabella is a puddle of what it used to be…but it’s amazing what the lake has hidden all these years. The lake has not been this low since 1977 and is the second lowest level since the dams were finished in 1953.
In April, I took two trips back to the areas near where the original towns of Isabella and Kernville stood before the lake covered them and their history. Unfortunately during my visit, the actual townsite of Isabella was still under several feet of water but the remains of the trees that use to shade the town are clearly visable sticking out of the lake in several photos.
Map to April 2014 photos
Thanks to Joel Windmiller for his assistance and historical photos of Old Isabella.
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
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.