US 99 – Grapevine and Grapevine Canyon

Historical Tour of old US 99

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Grapevine and Grapevine Canyon

Grapevine Canyon, or Canada De Las Uvas, was named for the wild grapes that grow on its slopes by Spaniards in the 1700′s. The town of Grapevine has been a major stop along this highway ever since the Ridge Route was built in 1915. This first paved alignment was one of the most torturous sections of US 99 in Southern California. It had more than a few very sharp curves, some of which ended up with names such as “The Loop” and “Deadman’s Curve”. Both of those curves still exist today, though partially removed and cutoff from the new roadways. Grapevine Grade received its first pavement in 1919, a “full” 20 foot slab with curbing and little in the way of a shoulder. The original location of the “town” of Grapevine was at the bottom of the grade. It consisted of a motel, store, gas station, and restaurant.

Overview of Grapevine Canyon
Overview of Grapevine Canyon
Deadman's Curve on the Ridge Route. Concrete dates to 1919 and was the first to be poured in Grapevine Canyon.
Deadman’s Curve on the Ridge Route. Concrete dates to 1919 and was the first to be poured in Grapevine Canyon.
Intact concrete on the lower part of "Dead Man's Curve"
Intact concrete on the lower part of “Dead Man’s Curve”
Upper "Dead Man's Curve" as it approaches the I-5 alignment.
Upper “Dead Man’s Curve” as it approaches the I-5 alignment.
Original curbing on "Dead Man's Curve"
Original curbing on “Dead Man’s Curve”
Postcard from the 20's showing the Ridge Route version of Grapevine Grade.
Postcard from the 20’s showing the Ridge Route version of Grapevine Grade.
Looking North from the Ridge Route. Grapevine is in the center.
Looking North from the Ridge Route. Grapevine is in the center.
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Looking up Grapevine Canyon from the Ridge Route.
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Middle section of “The Loop” , cut off by northbound I-5, near the bottom of Grapevine Grade.
Looking north from the original Grapevine Grade towards I-5.
Looking north from the original Grapevine Grade towards I-5.
1915 bridge at Grapevine.
1915 bridge at Grapevine.
Original Grapevine town site.
Original Grapevine town site.
Original 1919/1922 concrete at Grapevine Road where the lanes of I-5 converge, looking north.

In 1933, a new alignment of US 99 was built. It ran along the current southbound lanes of I-5 for most of the grade. Deadman’s Curve and the Loop were eliminated at that time. When the concrete was first poured, only two lanes were built. About a year later, the third lane was added making the center lane the passing lane. Since the original location of Grapevine was bypassed, it was partially relocated onto the new grade, this time in the canyon. While it was rather conveniently located, it did suffer from one fatal flaw. It was near the bottom of a very long and steep grade. As a result, runaway trucks smashed through on a few occasions.

1930's view looking southbound along Grapevine Grade below the Grapevine Cafe.
1930’s view looking southbound along Grapevine Grade below the Grapevine Cafe.
Map of Grapevine Canyon from 1943. Road to the right is the original 1915 route.
Map of Grapevine Canyon from 1943. Road to the right is the original 1915 route.
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Location of the Grapevine Cafe and Service Station from the 1930’s to around 1959. The metal tower formerly held a Union 76 sign.
Grapevine Cafe and Gas Station between 1943 and 1946. Original wood and metal beam divider is visible here as well.
Grapevine Cafe and Gas Station between 1943 and 1946. Original wood and metal beam divider is visible here as well.
1933 culvert along southbound I-5.
1933 culvert along southbound I-5.
Remains of wooden railing with cable reinforcement near Oak Glen
1933 culvert, extended in 1946, underneath I-5 near Oak Glen
Bridge over Grapevine Creek. Built in 1933 and removed in 1959.
Bridge over Grapevine Creek. Built in 1933 and removed in 1959. Photo was taken about 1943.

In 1943, the grade was widened to four lanes with a metal and wood barrier. In October 1946, a concrete barrier was installed along the grade replacing a wood and steel barrier. The reason was that trucks were using the old barrier to slow down, which would destroy the barrier. The new “parabolic concrete divider” was designed so that trucks could not use it to slow down. Drainage in the canyon was also improved to help alleviate erosion problems.

 Concrete divider in use. Photo taken in 1947 by Caltrans.
Concrete divider in use in 1947. Courtesy – Caltrans.
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Full section of the 1946 barrier near Grapevine.
Section of original concrete divider. Installed in 1946. Sign is 2 feet tall.
Section of original concrete divider. Installed in 1946. Sign is 2 feet tall.
1946 culvert – a part of drainage improvements in the canyon
Drainage ditch built in 1946 between the modern I-5 lanes

All of the original alignment was redone in 1959-1960 when the grade was reconstructed as eight-lane I-5. This eliminated a lot of the old Ridge Route alignment as well as some of the 1934 alignment of US 99. The northbound lanes were constructed first, then traffic was shifted onto them as the southbound lanes were reconstructed. In 1960, the new freeway was fully opened to traffic.

Map showing the 1960 freeway upgrade for Grapevine Canyon.
Map showing the 1960 freeway upgrade for Grapevine Canyon.
1960 photo showing the southbound lanes of I-5 under construction in Grapevine Canyon.
1960 photo showing the southbound lanes of I-5 under construction in Grapevine Canyon.
1960 view of "The Loop" curve sliced through by the new northbound lanes on I-5. Grapevine (1960) is at the point the sides of the freeway converge.
1960 view of “The Loop” curve sliced through by the new northbound lanes on I-5. Grapevine (1960) is at the point the sides of the freeway converge.
1960 California Highways and Public Works cover photo showing the newly completed I-5 through Grapevine Canyon.
1960 California Highways and Public Works cover photo showing the newly completed I-5 through Grapevine Canyon.
Looking south along the southbound lanes near the General Petroleum UC (50-0222L)
Original US 99 pavement now used as fill material along I-5
"The Loop" and modern I-5 northbound.
“The Loop” and modern I-5 northbound.
At the foot of Grapevine Grade, all three alignments merge. The 1915 roadway is at center, a section of the 1933 roadway is visible near the top, and I-5 is on both sides. Grapevine Road is at the bottom.
At the foot of Grapevine Grade, all three alignments merge. The 1915 roadway is at center, a section of the 1933 roadway is visible near the top, and I-5 is on both sides. Grapevine Road is at the center crossing under both I-5 alignments.

Go North on US 99 to Bakersfield

Go South on US 99 to Los Angeles

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