Category Archives: US 99

Image of the Week – 5/2/2016

Tumble Inn arch on the Ridge Route
Tumble Inn arch on the Ridge Route

US 99 in Indio, CA

Old US 99 still has some gems remaining in the Coachella Valley. On of these is a set of railroad overpasses dating from 1936 and 1956 (56-09R/L). These structures may be replaced in the near future, so I took the opportunity to take some photos of them before they are gone. Each structure is different in type of construction as well as design. The 1936 structure retains its solid concrete railing, something somewhat unique for the period. Most bridges of that era had a more open and arched railing. This bridge has a very much “Art Deco” styling which still looks quite nice today. The bridge carried all US 99 traffic until 1956, when US 99 was upgraded to an expressway through this area. At that time, a second bridge for southbound/eastbound traffic was built. The 1956 span, a steel girder structure, is longer than the 1936 span. This may be due to plans, at that time, to eventually replace the 1936 bridge with a newer and longer span. While these plans may have been initially thwarted by the construction of I-10 on a new alignment east of here, the bridges days are indeed numbered with the reconstruction of the Jefferson St interchange and eventual realignment of roadways in this area.

These bridges are located on Indio Blvd just east of the Jefferson St interchange on I-10 in Indio, CA. Enjoy them while they last.

Detail of 1936 railing and date stamp.
Detail of 1936 railing and date stamp.
Recessed reflectors in the 1936 bridge end caps.
Recessed reflectors in the 1936 bridge end caps.
FAP (Federal Aid Primary) project sign on the 1957 bridge.
FAP (Federal Aid Primary) project sign on the 1956 bridge.
Comparison between the 1936 rail and 1957 rail.
Comparison between the 1936 rail and 1956 rail.
The different lengths of each bridge is well demonstrated in this photo.
The different lengths of each bridge is well demonstrated in this photo.

Image of the Week – 2/24/2016

Cruising US 99 near Beaumont, CA.
Cruising US 99 near Beaumont, CA.

Image of the Week – 12/27/2015

Old US 99 near Coolidge Springs, Imperial County, CA with the shoreline of Lake Cahuilla visible in the background.
Old US 99 near Coolidge Springs, Imperial County, CA with the shoreline of Lake Cahuilla visible in the background.

Storm Damage Updates – Tejon Pass Area

This weekend, I had the opportunity to survey the damage from the recent storms in the Tejon Pass / Grapevine area. I took my motorcycle, as I expected to need extra clearance on some of the roadways I was going to take. The results of the survey were better than expected, mostly.

My 2014 Kawasaki KLR 650 and the Ridge Route near Martins.
My 2014 Kawasaki KLR 650 and the Ridge Route near Martins.

Ridge Route:

While I was only able to inspect the Ridge Route from State 138 south to the Tumble Inn, I was pleased to see how little damage was done to the roadway. As it has also been a while since I have been able to travel this section, I had to go by what I had heard and knew of the pre-existing damage. The bulk of the roadway was seemingly untouched by the recent storms. Only two sections, one with an existing problem, were a problem. One of those sections in particular, just south of Liebre Summit, is nearly impassable by a standard clearance automobile.

Grapevine Canyon:

Deadmans Curve with slide damage visible behind it and on the slopes above.
Deadmans Curve with slide damage visible behind it and on the slopes above.
Rills in the slopes from the mudslides. Note the bare slopes which didn't help matters at all.
Rills in the slopes from the mudslides. Note the bare slopes which didn’t help matters at all.

Mudslides, due to a locally heavy rainfall, closed Interstate 5 through this canyon for some time. Mudslide damage is still very apparent from near Ft Tejon north to near the lower escape ramp. Most of the slides affected the northbound lanes. These slides buried a significant section of former US 99 paving, especially between PM 5.5 and 6.0. While a more detailed inspection will be done later, it appeared that most of the exposed Ridge Route concrete along the northbound side was intact, with the later US 99 concrete being buried. The southbound lanes were also hit, though most of the old highway sections were still intact and relatively untouched.

Overall, the damage from these storms was very localized. As we approach a possibly strong El Nino winter, it is my hope that this storm was not a preview of things to come. As this winter progresses, this site will try to document the changes to our historic roadways throughout Southern California.

Ridge Route and US 99 Update Coming

This weekend, I am travelling to the Liebre Mountains to inspect the damage from the recent storms on the Ridge Route, Grapevine Canyon, and the Ridge Route Alternate. I plan to inspect in detail those sections and take lots of photos. Updates on the status of the roadway will be initially via my Twitter account (@SocalRegionWeb) with a post update following. The sections I plan to cover in detail are Palomas Canyon (Five Mile Grade), Three Mile Grade, Ridge Route from State 138 to the Tumble Inn, Tejon Pass, and Grapevine Canyon. I’ll be taking my 2014 Kawasaki KLR 650 which will allow me access to more of the highway. Stay tuned for updates.

Old US 99 at Weldon Summit

US 99, known as “The Old Road” in the Santa Clarita area, has had a varied past. It was first built through this area in 1930 as a three-lane highway. This roadway, known then as the Newhall Alternate, would be the first of many versions of the road through this pass.

This is the last remaining uncovered stretch of the 1930 Newhall Alternate concrete. Motorcycle is on the 1951 alignment.
This is the last remaining uncovered stretch of the 1930 Newhall Alternate concrete. Motorcycle is on the 1951 alignment.

In 1949, the roadway was temporarily widened to four lanes by restriping and adding some paving to the shoulder. This was done as the real work to upgrade the highway wouldn’t commence for a couple of years. Evidence of this widening can still be seen today.

Double white striping from a "temporary" four-lane configuration of the old three-lane concrete. This was done in 1949 as an interim measure before the road was reconstructed as an expressway in 1951.
Double white striping from a “temporary” four-lane configuration of the old three-lane concrete. This was done in 1949 as an interim measure before the road was reconstructed as an expressway in 1951.

In 1951, US 99 was realigned and finally upgraded to an expressway, though this would not last long. Just south of this point, the highway was realigned again to accomodate a new freeway from the Tunnel Station Junction (US 6 and Foothill Blvd) to Sepulveda Junction (State Route 7). This freeway still exists today in part and serves as the “Truck Route” through the pass.

North view of the old southbound lanes just south of the summit.
North view of the old southbound lanes just south of the summit.

Starting in 1967 and ending in 1975, the pass was yet again the site of major construction. This time, little of the old highway would be utilized as the new route of Interstate 5 bypassed much of the existing route. Where it didn’t bypass the alignment, it was torn up and completely replaced with the current roadway.

US 99 would, however, serve as the main route one last time following the January 17, 1994 Reseda / Northridge earthquake. Portions of I-5 collapsed during the earthquake, resulting in a need for a quick replacement. The resulting detours created an alignment very similar to the pre-1967 highway, giving motorists (albeit not with joy) a chance to drive old US 99 again. Upgrades were made to the highway through the pass including repaving, guardrail, and a temporary prohibition on left turns. Sadly, for highway historians, this resulted in the loss of the 1951 concrete and some curbing. It is a price to pay to help keep California’s Backbone functioning during a crisis.

Looking northerly toward Gavin Canyon. This was the location where I-5 was temporarily rerouted onto old US 99 in 1994.
Looking northerly toward Gavin Canyon. This was the location where I-5 was temporarily rerouted onto old US 99 in 1994.

Ridge Route Centennial Celebration Coming Soon!

99_old_shield_big

This year, the Ridge Route will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary. While the roadway is still not fully open to travel and has not been since January 2005, it is still there and still coming up to its century mark. This celebration will be held in Lebec at the El Tejon School, located near the top of Grapevine Grade on Lebec Road. For more information, please contact the Ridge Route Communities Museum. The road also needs your help and pressure to reopen the roadway to the public. For more information about this issue, contact the Ridge Route website.

From the Ridge Route Communities website:

Centennial

CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION – 10/3

It has been 100 years since the Ridge Route Road opened

Come celebrate with the Ridge Route Preservation Organization and the Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society

from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

at El Tejon School right on the old two lane highway

across I-5 from Fort Tejon

There will be displays, antique automobiles, food, music,

souvenirs and a panel of speakers at 1 p.m.

Also that day there will be a

Living History Program at Fort Tejon

Image of the Week – 8/15/15

Former North Burbank UP, now removed, along old US 99 in the San Fernando Valley. Built 1941.
Former North Burbank UP, now removed, along old US 99 in the San Fernando Valley. Built 1941.

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). For more detailed information on C-monuments, click here.

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.