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.
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.
Northbound video from Lambert Road to Diamond Bar:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I found out recently that the 91 Express Lanes, the toll lanes in the median of the 91 Freeway from the 55 to the Riverside County Line are free for motorcyclists. Now, as I love to travel all roads that are available to me, I ended up signing up for a transponder. It has offered me an interesting look at what goes into getting one and how they work. I shall be posting photos and videos about how these devices work in the near future.
In addition to the transponder, I also obtained a special bag to put the device in when I travel toll lanes that are free and don’t need a transponder. Eventually, I hope that all lanes are the same and won’t need such devices.
On Thursday, November 14, 2013, I had the opportunity to travel Jackrabbit Trail for this first time in many years. I took my new motorcycle, a 2014 Kawasaki KLR 650, which was well suited for the trip. Jackrabbit Trail is a roadway through the Badlands near Moreno Valley that has an interesting history. It was originally built in 1915 as a part of the Riverside to Beaumont Highway, later US 60/70. In 1923-24, the roadway was paved with asphalt. Some of this still exists today. In 1936, the roadway was bypassed by the current route of Hwy 60. However, in 1956, the roadway was rehabilitated for use as US 60 again, albeit temporarily, while the current route was being widened to a four lane expressway. Following this brief use, the old Jackrabbit Trail fell into disuse and eventually was abandoned. The County no longer maintains the road and just posts “Road Closed” signs at either end. It is, however, still a through route, with some landslide and washout problems.
My journey took me over the entire route in both directions, as the southern roadway was closed for reconstruction. I was rather amazed to see how much old railing still exists along the roadway, most of which is from the 1920’s. In many ways, this road is similar to the Ridge Route north of Los Angeles on old US 99. It was built around the same time and bypassed around the same time. The only major difference is that the Ridge Route was not reused by the highway department after it was bypassed. The roadway also offers some rather scenic views of the area. Mt San Gorgonio stays in view when heading north and the lake bed of Mystic Lake is quite visible to the south. I highly recommend this road as an alternative to SR-60 and is good for bicycling as well.
On Sunday, June 16, I went on a motorcycle ride out toward Palm Springs. On Hwy 74 just east of Hemet, I stopped to inspect an abandoned concrete arch bridge to the side of the current bridge. The “new” span, where Hwy 74 crosses today, was built in 1929. This makes the abandoned span most likely from the 1910’s. It appears to have been longer, though the rest is long since washed away. I originally saw this bridge on a previous motorcycle ride, having missed it on every driving trip through here. It just goes to show that you see more on two wheels – be they motorcycle or bicycle wheels.
After leaving the bridge, I headed east on Hwy 74 up into the mountains. The roadway was recently repaved, which was badly needed. The new pavement was quite fun to ride, even with the extra twisty passing areas. The tires seemed to grip the road better allowing me to ride faster than I did before. I didn’t originally plan to go all the way to Palm Springs, but somehow I decided “Why Not?” and did it anyway. It was rather hot while I was there, so I didn’t stay long. Leaving town was almost as difficult as dealing with the heat. Strong west winds, typical for the area, were blowing and made riding somewhat unnerving at times. The winds finally subsided once I got to the Beaumont area and temperatures decreased quite a bit as well.