Sunday, November 15, 2009

History carved in ... asphalt

When the Arroyo Parkway (now known as the 110 or Pasadena Freeway) opened in December of 1940, it was hailed as a marvel of modern motoring. While the Pennsylvania Turnpike staked the claim of first United States freeway (opening in October of 1940,) the Arroyo Parkway came in a close second. In fact, some historians argue that it more closely matches the definition of a modern commuter freeway. Connecting downtown Los Angeles with Pasadena along the Arroyo Seco, it represented a huge leap from the early highway/parkway system. Here's a little perspective on what was considered so revolutionary at the time: engineers designed the curving road to accommodate modern speeds up to a whopping 45 mph.

The completion of the roadway came after decades of other failed or short-lived proposals dating back to 1895. The most interesting project has to be this one:

In 1897 -- at the height of a nationwide bicycle craze -- the California Cycleway Company purchased a 6-mile right-of-way from downtown LA to Avenue 54 in Highland Park. 1 1/4 miles of elevated wooden track were built between Pasadena's Hotel Green and South Pasadena's Raymond Hotel. In 1900 the bikeway opened to great fanfare, with high expectation of turning a profit. A toll booth was located in what is now Pasadena's present Central Park. (For 10 cents you could bike one-way. A round-trip fare was 15 cents.) But, as we all know, greater Los Angeles was destined for an automobile culture. The bikeway was eventually torn down and sold for scrap lumber in the first decade of the 20th Century.

But the Arroyo Parkway endures. In fact, the 110 remains largely as it was almost 60 years ago, right down to the original bridges and narrow lanes -- with modern-day SUVs taking those 45-mph curves at almost double the speed. It's considered a National Civil Engineering Landmark, a State Scenic Highway and a National Scenic Byway. Here -- during an oddly traffic-free moment -- it posed for an interesting study in high contrast. (Don't worry, I didn't stand on an overpass with my camera. I was in the passenger seat when my family was waiting at a red light.)

31 comments:

Cafe Pasadena said...

Thanks for de road history.
I don't think this vintage FW was designed with the speeds of today's vehicles in mind.

Judy Williams said...

Great history, LA. There is just something about saying "the 110." Funny cause here, we don't put a "the" in front of highway names. You go north on I-35 to Dallas and east on 290 to go to Houston. I have a friend from Missouri and she calls it the 35 and the 290. She's lived in California.

Mister Earl said...

Nice photo, Laurie. I like the way you used the railing in the shot. I see you captured the 80-mph section of the 110.

Judy: This is an interesting topic that comes up every now and then. Saying "the" before the freeway name is a Southern California thing. In Northern California (SF Bay Area) they don't do it.

There seem to be three permuations: (1) "Take the 5 to the 405" (So Cal); (2) "Take 101 to 280" (Nor Cal); (3) "Take I-35 to I-10" (other places).

My theory on why So Cal says "the" is because the Freeways in So Cal have names like "The Harbor Freeway", "The Golden State Freeway", "The Santa Monica Freeway." We don't use the names much anymore, but the "the" has remained. In the Bay Area they say "Take Bayshore" rather than "Take the Bayshore."

There must be other variations in other parts of the country. I'm always amazed that even in the current day and age of mass communication, regional differences like this, and regional products, still remain.

Yakpate said...

Oh goody, I get to expound a theory: the reason we add "the" in front of our freeway numbers is because some SoCal telecaster (I can't pinpoint the exact culprit, but probably from Channel 4)) added "the" in morning freeway updates. So... if they say it on TV, it must be right. Right?

Mister Earl said...

Hey Yak:

The So Cal phenomenon has been discussed a bit on the internet. Apparently, a fellow named Grant Geyer agrees with me, but others are skeptical:

http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003203.php

Mister Earl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie said...

Good morning guys!

I forget that other regions don't refer to freeways the same way. WHen I moved to Los Angeles I worked as a production assistant on films. I had to drive all over the place and was always getting directions from people in the pre-GPS, pre-cell phone era that was the late 80s. I noticed that the older the LA resident, the more likely they were to call freeways their names like "Take the Santa Monica freeway to The Pasadena Freeway and exit at Orange Grove." But others said "Take the 10 to the 110..." I would be completely confused on the road looking for signs to The Harbor Freeway or The San Diego Freeway if I didn't know the actual number. Just like Mr. Earl said, someone once told me that transplants learned the roads from checking the Thomas Guides, but they kept "the" in front because locals rolled their eyes if you said "I-10" and somehow "the 10" seemed more like the old way of saying things. It makes sense but I have a feeling this is one of those things we'll never really figure out. Kind of like why East Coasters call it pop, West Coasters call it soda or drink and Southerners call it Coke, regardless of the brand!

Yakpate said...

Mr. Earl: Who is Grant Geyer? Someone whose name I should recognize, probably.

You know, I don't disagree with you... I just love to spout theories!

dbdubya said...

You'll be happy to know, Laurie, the the SR 110, or Pasadena Freeway, or Arroyo Freeway is now officially known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway. A much more fitting, and historic name.

There has been one major change since it was built. It is now 3 lanes in each direction. When it was opened it was 2 lanes with a wide center median. The original roadway was concrete and in some portions the added center lane is asphalt. There will be another change coming soon. This is one of the only freeways that doesn't have a k-rail center divider. Over the next couple of years the metal rail and wood post center divider will be removed and a concrete k-rail will will be installed like the rest of the freeways. They will also remove the fencing between the freeway and the arroyo and install more k-rail. This will make it much safer.

I too remember when no one cared about the number, but referred to them by name - Golden State, San Diego, Harbor, San Gabriel River, etc. It started to change about 30 years ago. While the names were quaint, they didn't work for anyone who wasn't a local as Laurie described.

To complicate things a bit more, some freeways are preceded with an "I" and others a "SR." The reason? The I-10 and I-5 are part of the interstate highway system. The 110, 710, and 2 are state routes. In South Pasadena you don't ever want to refer to the 710 as the I-710.

Since freeways either started in Southern California, or were certainly were mastered here, I would suggeset that the rest of the country needs to get in tune with the experts. "The" before the number is the proper form.

Cafe Pasadena said...

It's good to know some old fashioned So Cal ways of calling things - like FW's by their name instead of a number - are still alive and well. At least until the oldsters stay alive or well.

I also hope people can keep their own names, rather than be referred to as some number by big govt/bro, at least as long as our freeways & tollways.

Dixie Jane said...

Now let me take you back to something akin to the Dark Ages.

As a direct contrast to The 405 or The 110, I grew up in The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, bordering Mexico, amidst little towns where roads had two lanes. As a little girl my Dad would honk the horn when passing a car. The view from the road was vast cotton fields and citrus groves, even signs that said, "Fresh Cow" or "Bat Guano." I knew not what either sign meant. At that tender age I had romantic thoughts that recognized a moon peeking through the tall palms and the indescribable smell of orange blossoms wafting with the sea breeze. We were within a short distance of the Gulf Coast and a family trip to the beach for an overnight stay meant sleeping on a quilt directly on the sand and awakening with little sand crab tracks all around. The sky was pink briefly as the sun came up and the gulls were feeding. It was a chance for my brother and me to wade in the surf as my parents prepared breakfast. That meant a grill made of bent coat hangers over a hole in the sand with fire to brew their coffee. Then add the smell of bacon and eggs frying. It was a beckoning call to leave the surf.

I could never have envisioned men walking on my romantic moon, all that we take for granted today and not missing what we never had. I thought I lived in Paradise and didn't even know of quantum physics or that the string theory existed other than to make the yo-yo work.

It is a vastly different world now, even there, where the two lane roads have turned into freeways and the, "Fresh Cows" have gone the way of fresh churned butter. And who knows what contribution, "Bat Guano" made to the future of the world?

I am glad I had that time in those times. I think it made me a more appreciative person and hopefully gave me an audience who will listen to me tell about it.

Bellis said...

This Beach Boys song always comes to mind when I'm forced to hurtle along this river-curving freeway too fast for comfort so as not to impede the traffic flow:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmGqbOxzAwg&feature=fvw

It's like being in a video game (and quite fun sometimes).

Mister Earl said...

Yak: Don't know who Grant Geyer is. He just wrote an article about why So Cal people call their freeways "The"

DBDub: I know you were joking about there being a proper form. Most of the country doesn't say it the way So Cal does.

Shanna said...

It is interesting that you brought that up, Judy. You are such fun to play word games with. Oops, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. I remember confusing you with directions when you were driving to Pasadena from the west side. I said, "Go north on the 405." Does it even have a non number name? "Then get on the 134 east toward Pasadena." But I had not realized that it is The Ventura Freeway there. And the number is 101. But if I had said ,"Exit at Ventura." that would have put you on Ventura Blvd, not the freeway. I think you had to call Laurie at that point on your cell phone.

And that brings up my pet peeve - that is, calling nouns by an adjective as an abbreviation People ask for my "cell" or my "social".

Then, there are the waiters or waitresses (servers) who ask me if I'm "done" rather than finished. I want to say, "medium well" or "well done". But I just smile and nod.

But, back to the article "the" - at least we don't have to deal with masculine or feminine nouns as used in Spanish and French, such as "el or la" and " "le or la". Just, "To the or not to the. That is the question."

Mister Earl said...

Shanna: The 405 is The San Diego Freeway. I'm guessing that if English nouns had gender, freeways would be feminine.

dbdubya said...

I'm just suggesting, Mr. E., that we are the freeway trendsetters and if there's a proper etiquette for referring to highways, we are correct.

My good friend who lives in Gruene, TX always calls them "Interstates." He lived out here for 25 years and never could get used to calling them freeways. It's kinda like the regional terms for pop, soda, and coke.

Mister Earl said...

Somehow, DBDub, Southern California and etiquette do not seem to fit in the same sentence! You'll have to forgive me, but I'm from the Bay Area, where they never use the "the." And after yesterday's Stanford - USC result, and Cal- Arizona result, I think the Bay Area rules today!

Actually, I never even thought about the difference between how So Cal and Nor Cal refers to freeways, but I was at my high school reunion in 2006, and a friend who has lived his whole life in the Bay Area, but went to Occidental College, pointed it out when I mentioned something about driving up on "the 5," saying, "I can always tell if someone's from LA by how they refer to the freeways.

And speaking of regional differences, don't order a "regular coffee" in New England unless you want cream and sugar in it. I was in Rhode Island and ordered a regular (meaning to me, "not decaf") and was stunned to find that it was full of sugar. I told my friend, "Yuck, there's sugar in this coffee." He said, "That's what you ordered, a 'regular'."

Brenda's Arizona said...

I always knew "Wipeout" as being the Surfaris song. Beach Boys did it??

My grandfolks moved to Pasadena in 1940s. Gramps always called freeways by their descriptive names (the Pasadena, the San Diego, the Pomona, etc.). My dad and uncle called them by their numbers. Is it generational?

dbdubya said...

Just curious, Mr. Earl, how does your friend from the Bay Area give directions. Do they say, "you take 5 to 405...?"

As for football, the Bay Area ruled yesterday, but that's not often the case. And, from my perspective, there's the Bay Area and there's San Francisco which is worlds apart from the rest of California. And, why do they call San Francisco "the City?" Shouldn't it be just "City?"

dbdubya said...

I don't think it's generational, Brenda. I think it changed when there became too many freeways to remember. And, they would change in the middle. For example, the 110 freeway used to be the Pasadena Freeway north of downtown and the Harbor Freeway south of downtown. Yet it was all the 110. It all just sort of evolved which is a good thing for visitors and transplants who don't know destinations or landmarks like the San Gabriel River (605 freeway).

Laurie said...

Wow, all this and nobody mentioned the cool old cycleway! :-)

Speaking of pet peeves, Mom mentioned how people rarely say "your welcome" anymore. THey all say "no problem." I guess that's kinda like when the French reply "de rien."

The Hiker had a great post about language pet peeves the other day.

Speaking of coffee language differences ... I remember in New York if you wanted cream in your coffee you had to order a coffee light. At least, I think that's what it was. I never got it right.

dbdubya said...

In some countries when you order bottled water they'll ask if you want it "with gas" or without. To us it's "sparkling" water or carbonated.

One of my pet peeves when in a restaurant is when you get served your meal, the server often says, "Enjoy!" It's meant to be polite and mean "I hope you enjoy your meal," but that's not what's being said - it's an order. I'll decide after the meal whether I enjoyed it or not. My wife thinks I'm crazy about this. She's probably right.

Mister Earl said...

DB: Yes, in the Bay Area you say, "Take 280 to 101 and then cross the Bay Bridge."

LA: Yes, the cycle way was cool. I wonder if it ever made it all the way downtown? I think I heard something about it years ago. Speaking of transportation, the Gold Line extension into East LA opened today. For me in means I might have a slightly shorter walk to work if I get off at Little Tokyo Station (at Temple) than where I get off now, Union Station.

I was going to say my pet peeve is the way we've turned certain nouns into verbs. But I did a little reading on it and I've learned that language is always evolving. There was a period when more verbs were turned into nouns than the other way around, but now it's shifted so we turn more nouns into verbs.

TheChieftess said...

Wow!!! My head is spinning...do I take the Ventura frwy or the 101? Can I still ride my bike on the bikeway? Is the bikeway the same as the bike path that goes to the beach ( I rode that once...a looooong time ago!) Too much for my tired brain today...we're having an early Thanksgiving tonight 'cause we're going out of town over T-Day...I've chopped and diced and sauteed until I'm about to drop...Hope it all comes out edible and at the right time!!!

Mister Earl said...

Where you goin' for T-day, Chieftess?

WV: sabilla as in "Wash your turkey well and cook it well so you don't get sabilla.

arf! said...

And god bless the British, who use "She went to hospital" much as we would use "She went to school", rather than "She went to _the_ hospital".

arf! said...

...not to mention that weird thing they do making names of corporations plural nouns: "Cadbury are planning a new sales initiative in China...".

Laurie said...

Welcome, arf! I've enjoyed your comments over at Shanna's blog. I noticed the corporations as plural nouns recently and wondered when that trend started.

TheChieftess said...

We'll be on the high seas!!! We're going on a repositioning cruise...starting in Southhampton England, a few ports along the way and across the big ocean to Ft. Lauderdale!!! We don't do T-day on T-day anymore...the kids are split hither and yon and we much prefer to have them hither!!! So we have T-day early, get them all evening with no stress about getting somewhere else, and, most importantly...we're the first turkey dinner so no one's od'd yet!!! It was a nice evening...the food came out edible and hot all at the same time!!! The granddaughters were a delightful help...it was fun!

slopoet said...

I love how this freeway initial article topic keeps coming up. We had friends who debated where exactly on the north/south axis it was that people start referring to freeways with "the" in front--possibly around San Luis Obispo? I myself never use an article in front of the number. I grew up in the Southland when, as many of you mentioned, we always referred to the NAME of the freeway (the Santa Monica, the Harbor). Then I went to Northern California to college at that charming school which as some of you also pointed out won a resounding victory in the Coliseum the other day (thank you for mentioning it...!). I've never liked the sound of the "the" in front of the numbered freeway, so I vote for the person who said it must have been some TV newscaster who started it all.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in South Pas. My mom has an opening day program for the Pasadena Parkway. Great pictures and no traffic but it looks about the same.