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:
Cajon Blvd (at the freeway)
Debris Cone Creek
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.
FasTrak is an interesting thing in California. Instead of one unified system, it is broken up into many different agencies with different rules and transponders. Recently, I posted about the research I had done into Southern California agencies and their requirements. One I hadn’t really looked into, the San Francisco Bay Area, seems to have different rules than most of the agencies down here.
So, I decided to see if I could use a “FasTrak Flex” transponder in lieu of my 91 Express Lanes transponder for vehicles other than my motorcycles, such as my husbands vehicle, and still get the discounted tolls and free travel on the lanes that require the transponder. I should see very soon if I can and if there is any sort of extra cost for having this new account. If it works out, I will cancel my existing account with the 91 Express Lanes and keep the SF Bay area account.
US Highway 6, now known as Sierra Highway, crossed the Santa Clara River near Solemint, California. The bridge it originally used, constructed in 1938, is planned to be replaced in the near future. This bridge is one of the oldest remaining in the Santa Clarita area and is the longest span on former US 6 in California. The bridge has remained almost intact from its original construction. The only changes have been minor to the bridge itself. The highway, however, has changed quite a bit. In 1968, Sierra Highway, then State Route 14, was widened to four lanes. A second bridge for northbound traffic was added, with the original bridge being used for southbound traffic.
Presently, Sierra Highway is six lanes wide at the river crossing. As the bridges were built with a four-lane highway in mind, only a narrow shoulder along both directions exists. This condition is one of the reasons the bridges across the Santa Clara River are being replaced.
In March of 2017, I took a trip to inspect in more detail the bridge and the surrounding area. It was nice to see the bridge again, as it brought back a lot of memories. I used to live near the bridge and crossed it almost daily. It will be sad to see it go as it is one of the last remaining pieces of the old highway. So, please, check it out yourself while you still can. I’m not quite sure when the construction will begin, it may have already.
After having done a fair amount of research into how roads in Southern California are tolled and how each agency handles the tolling itself, I decided it was time to add another page to the site. Seeing as how each agency uses FasTrak in a different way and that there are, at least for now, five different agencies, each with their own transponder, in the region, it was time to help clarify some things. Please use the link below to access the new page. I hope the new page helps explain the confusion that is FasTrak.
On May 20, 2017, I am planning a cleanup of my section on I-5 in Grapevine Canyon. Specifically, this is KER-005-6.0/8.0. For those interested in joining, please send us a message to add your name to the list. The plan, thus far, is to meet in Lebec in the morning and carpool to the cleanup site to reduce the number of vehicles along the roadway. Let us know as soon as possible if you are interested in joining us. A partial tour of the remaining sections of US 99 and the Ridge Route in Grapevine Canyon, including Deadman’s Curve, will also be included in the cleanup.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works has a wealth of information available on their website. With a bit of patience and some looking around, you can find quite a few treasures using their mapping application. I’ve so far found the original survey data for the “Bridge To Nowhere” roadway, plans for other roadways that were never built in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, as well as the forest service permit for the Shoemaker Canyon Road that was never completed.