Category Archives: Highways

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.

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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.

What is a “Sharrow”?

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.

Sharrows on Howard Ave near 30th St.
Sharrows on Howard Ave near 30th St.

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.

Reference:

California MUTCD 2014 – Ch. 9C.07

Out of the Lake: Old Highway 178 and the town of Isabella

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

Pre-Lake Isabella Alignment 2.1_Page_1b

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location 1
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Location 1

 

Location 2 – Notice the high water mark
location 2
location 3

 

Location 3 - Kissack Cove
Location 4 – Kissack Cove

 

Location 4 - Paradise Cove
Location 5

 

Location 6
Location 6

 

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Location 7 – 1940
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Location 7 – 2014

 

Location 8 - 1940
Location 8 – 1940
Location 8 - 2014
Location 8 – 2014
Location 8 -2014

 

A sign of the times.
A sign of the times…very dry indeed.
Isabella Auxiliary Dam 2014. Eerie to drive at the base of the dam when there should be 50 feet deep water here!

 

Thanks to Joel Windmiller for his assistance and historical photos of Old Isabella.

 

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:

Old Wabash Freeway Ramp

In the 1950’s, a section of what is now the 15 in San Diego was built. Known then as the Wabash Freeway, it ran from Harbor Blvd to 40th St in the City Heights area. Today, it is known as the 15 freeway and has been upgraded significantly. Access to the old freeway was a bit different than today. Nile Street in North Park used to have a direct connection with the freeway. Today, Nile Street ends in a park. A section of the old ramp still exists, however, as an access to the park.

Base of the Nile Street Ramp.
Base of the Nile Street Ramp.
1950's railing still intact.
1950’s railing still intact.
Raised median and railing on the Nile Street Ramp.
Raised median and railing on the Nile Street Ramp.

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:

April 2010 Baja Quake – Part 2

In July 2010, I was able to go to Baja California with a friend. Part of our route traversed Federal Highway 2 (Mexico), which suffered some damage from the April 2010 quake. Hwy 2 had been repaired but the adjacent old alignment had not been. I was rather amazed at the amount of offset from this earthquake. I observed about 2′ of horizontal and about 5′ of vertical offset at the highway crossing.

East of the fault, bridge embankments on the Hwy 2 Mexicali Bypass show signs of settling.
East of the fault, bridge embankments on the Hwy 2 Mexicali Bypass show signs of settling.
Offset right of way fence next to Hwy 2.
Offset right of way fence next to Hwy 2.
Old alignment of Hwy 2, now offset by about 2 feet horizontally and 5 feet vertically.
Old alignment of Hwy 2, now offset by about 2 feet horizontally and 5 feet vertically.
Side view of the old alignment showing the vertical offset.
Side view of the old alignment showing the vertical offset.
Breaks in the soil to the north. Two distinct scarps can be noted here.
Breaks in the soil to the north. Two distinct scarps can be noted here.
At the break, the old alignment now has a steep ramp and crack.
At the break, the old alignment now has a steep ramp and crack.

Poppies in bloom!

On a trip to Grapevine Canyon today, I saw quite a few poppies in bloom. Grapevine Canyon and the area around the California Poppy Reserve were quite spectacular, considering the dry winter. The recent rains, which have been well timed, seemed to have made the drought a little prettier to look at.

Deadman's Curve and Poppies
Deadman’s Curve and Poppies
Poppies high on the canyon walls in Grapevine Canyon.
Poppies high on the canyon walls in Grapevine Canyon.

Brawley Bypass

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.

Confusing sign at the exit on the bypass. Is it current or old?
Confusing sign at the exit on the bypass. Is it current or old?
At the bypass, State 111 turns. Signage is a bit confusing with Old Highway 111 signed at the same exit as current Highway 111.
At the bypass, State 111 turns. Signage is a bit confusing with Old Highway 111 signed at the same exit as current Highway 111.
Heading south, only State 111 is signed, though State 78 also runs here.
Heading south, only State 111 is signed, though State 78 also runs here.
Expressway signage for 78
Expressway signage for 78