This is the first part of a new series on SoCalRegion where we will discuss various topics related to roadways, their design, signage, as well as other features to help assist all road users in traveling throughout California. Many of these features exist in other states, but some have a different take on things.
Roadway striping comes in a few different colors and designs. Each of these have a meaning. Even without using signs, you can use striping to help determine what is going on with a roadway. Using these clues can also help aid with navigation in unfamiliar areas.
Let’s start with the basics. Two basic elements of striping are common throughout the United States – yellow means dividing opposing traffic and white means same direction of traffic. These colors remain nearly universal throughout all 50 states. Double striping, no matter the color, denotes a “no passing” or “no crossing” location. Passing, assuming the roadway is two lanes wide, can be done when the stripe on your side is broken. When the whole stripe is broken, both sides can pass.
Multilane highways are divided in a variety of ways. When it comes to striping, there are three main types. The first is still the basic double-yellow striping. When a roadway needs a bit more of a divider, two sets of double yellow stripes are placed. These are considered “painted barriers” and are not to be crossed in any way. Some of these roadways have breaks in the striping, usually on one side only, to allow for turns onto side streets or driveways.
Common center turn lanes are another way to divide a roadway. These can exist even on two lane roadways but are more common on multilane roads. These center lanes are striped with a solid yellow line on the outside and a broken yellow line on the inside. These lanes allow both directions to make left turns.
Freeways, while the striping is color coded the same way as regular roads, do have some different styles and meanings. Exit Only lanes, meaning lanes that will exit a freeway shortly, have something Caltrans calls – Elephant Tracks. When a lane is going to leave the freeway, the striping changes in thickness and frequency. These stripes are wider and a little more frequent than regular lane striping. It is one of the visual cues that is designed to help motorists determine if they are in the correct lane, regardless of signage.
At the exit itself, the shoulder striping in California has a unique modification. Designed to aid motorists in times of reduced visibility, the shoulder stripe has a break at the exit and flares out to mark the exit. In areas subject to heavy fog, there is an additional exit cue – reflectors. These are off to the side of the shoulder striping at intervals and are in rows of three, two, then one at the exit.
HOV lane striping is another variation found on California freeways. Until a few years ago, these lane were, in general, striped with a double set of double yellow lines, acting as a painted barrier. There were variations based on available space as well. Specific entry/exit points where marked with broken white striping. These stripes are now being changed to double white lines with broken striping at the entry/exit points.
As you can see, there are many ways to determine what is going on with a roadway without looking at signage. Striping help guide road users in ways signage cannot. So, when you are in unfamiliar territory or in conditions where you can’t see the signs, use these clues to help direct you to where you are going. The stripes are there to help!
Today, myself and three others cleaned my portion of I-8 and the western US 80 adopted sections. Temperatures were a bit warmer than planned, but still not that bad. A bit more of a breeze would have helped though. We all met at 9 am at Laguna Summit and started with cleaning I-8. There ended up being a bit more trash than I expected, which is ok for a first cleanup. We managed to fill six large bags with trash and left the highway quite clean. US 80, however, was much easier. What little was there only filled one bag halfway. I do with to thank the volunteers for coming out. It was quite helpful and made the cleanup go fairly smoothly. I do plan another cleanup in a couple of months, this one will include I-8 and both sections of US 80 (Laguna Summit and Jacumba). Temperatures should be nicer by then as well.
Roadways and their right-of-ways are marked in various ways. Originally, roadway rights-of-way were poorly marked, and as a result, changed quite a bit. These changes made travel sometimes rather confusing the roadway path may have changed before the map the traveler used changed. This sort of problem also cost the State quite a bit of money as they had to not only correct the problem, but also deal with the potential land costs of a new alignment.
Starting in 1914, the California Highway Commission came up with a plan to mark the right-of-way in a more permanent manner. Their solution – a “C-Monument”. While not the official name, which is simply “survey monument”, it aptly describes the marker. These monuments would be placed at the edge of the right-of-way at intervals along tangents (straightaways) and at curve points (BC and EC or Beginning of Curve and End of Curve). Optimally, these monuments would project about 6 inches above the ground with the C facing the roadway. At the top of the monument, a copper plug was placed to help guide surveyors.
The C-monument was actively placed and used for many years, though when it finally was out of use seemed to vary between districts. In San Diego County in District 11, for example, they were used along freeways constructed in the mid to late 1950’s. Los Angeles County, within District 7, seemed to stop using them sometime in the late 1930’s. Today, the monuments that remain are still valid survey monuments. While not placed anymore, Caltrans, as well as local agencies, still use them. As such, please do not disturb or collect them if they are still in place. Finding them along a roadway also doesn’t automatically make it an old State Highway. Some counties also used these monuments as they were a part of the standard plans for any project that involved state or federal dollars.
Finding these monuments is actually quite simple. Typically, roadway rights-of-way ranged anywhere from 100′ to more than 300′. Find a curve in the roadway you are looking at and look for one on either side of the roadway about 50 to 150′ away from the centerline of the roadway. In mountainous areas, the uphill one tends to be easier to spot than the downhill side. Fence lines, power lines, and other similar features can be used to indicate the right-of-way edge. As they can still be used today as survey monuments, some are marked with paddles or other objects to make a surveyors job easier when locating them. Placer County uses a white “R/W” paddle. Caltrans District 9, at least in Inyo County, uses orange poles as location markers.
The tour began at Devore, CA at about 8:30 am after meeting a friend, who ended up being the only person to show. After a quick briefing on what we were to see, we headed south to Verdemont, where we inspected a freeway overpass that had remained mostly intact from its original 1950’s construction. The bridge rail and approach guard rail was original and relatively untouched. From there, we headed back to Cajon Blvd and viewed the old concrete alignment at Verdemont.
After Verdemont, we headed back to Devore to see a section of intact 1916 paving, which acts partly as a driveway for an antenna site. The paving, oil macadam, is quite rare to see these days and was pretty cool to see. Despite all it has gone through, the paving was fairly smooth with only a few major potholes. The roadway damage did also offer an opportunity to more closely inspect the paving itself. The aggregate that was used was fairly large by modern standards and appeared to be granite.
North on Cajon Blvd, we passed a couple of C-monuments adjacent to the freeway. I first spotted these on a trip a few months ago following the Blue Cut fire. It was nice to see they were still there. Those monuments were also at the point where old Cajon Blvd merges with the “new” Cajon Blvd (the extension from Devore on a new alignment).
Our next stop was at Blue Cut. There, we checked out a plaque commemorating the history of the Blue Cut area. Blue Cut, as it was noted on the plaque, was the location of a toll booth on the original wagon road through here. We also inspected the foundations of the 1940’s weigh station, which was removed not long after the freeway bypassed this section. While we were at Blue Cut, we also watched three trains pass by, one of which was a “fast freight”, which was passing another train.
Moving north from Blue Cut, we stopped briefly at the Debris Cone Creek bridge, then headed toward Cajon Junction. At Cajon Junction, we followed the eastern frontage road south to the end of the road. There, we found the trail monument from 1917, which was placed alongside the roadway just after it was paved. The monument itself was moved to its present location when the freeway was built. This location was also the divergence of the original path through Cajon Pass and the later roads, which eventually became US 66. As it was getting a bit hot, we moved onto our next stop – Cajon Summit.
Between Cajon Junction and Cajon Summit, the old roadway has been greatly modified. Only portions of both directions of the former expressway are still visible. The whole section, however, has been closed since the Blue Cut fire burned the area. This same fire, unfortunately, also took what would have been our lunch stop – the Summit Inn Café. The sign still remains, but the whole business is gone. It may be rebuilt, but only time will tell. So far, the site has only been cleared.
After stopping at the summit, it was time to work our way back down the hill. Instead of taking the freeway back to Devore, we decided it best to take the old highway once again. This time, we made an additional stop at a bridge near Swarthout Canyon Road. This stop proved to be quite interesting as we found the foundations for an old structure that was alongside the 1916 roadway. We figured the old building may have been a gas station or some other roadside service building. We also saw two more trains pass by while we were there.
We headed back to Devore to finish up the tour. By then, we were quite hungry, so we decided to have a late breakfast at Tony’s Diner. The food was decent and the location was nice. It was good to be in a nice air-conditioned building as well. Overall, the tour was a lot of fun, even though it wasn’t well attended. Next time will be better and hopefully be cooler.
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:
- Verdemont (backtrack)
- Cajon Blvd (at the freeway)
- Kenwood Ave
- Blue Cut
- Debris Cone Creek
- Cajon Junction
- Cajon Summit
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!
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.