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Driving the Arroyo Seca Parkway

24 May 2004

I love the Pasadena Freeway. Well, as much as I can love any freeway, I suppose. But the 110 from Los Angeles to Pasadena is just really cool. It was the first freeway built, and it was designed before they really figured out much about freeway design. It was originally called the Arroyo Seca Parkway, and the intent was a leisurely drive from the city out to the burbs. But rather than a day out in the car, the thoroughfare almost instantly became a major commuter artery. That doesn’t distract from its beauty at all.</p>

Take the drive from south to north some time. You be ejected from one of the gazillion intersecting 16-lane super-freeways downtown and twist immediately around Dodger Stadium into the hills. You'll pass through a series of amazing Art Deco tunnels with cement structure vaulting up from the roadway towards the heavens. You'll cross the LA River where Ponch and John chased the criminals every week and into some neighborhoods. Literally, right into these neighborhoods. The freeway is at the same level as the streets, with a simple chain link fence between you and front lawns a few feet away. The highway engineers really didn't consider shoulders or sound walls or dropping the freeway below or raising it above. And while the noise must be terrible for the residents, the effect is strangely intimate.

It's here that you notice the off-ramps. They are roughly 15 feet long, then jut at a 90 degree angle into a stop sign. A large "5 MPH" sign warns you to stomp on the brakes as hard as you can. The on-ramps are the same: right angle, stop sign, and 15 feet to get up to 70 MPH. There you go! Good luck!

Go have a look at the CalTrans History of the freeway. Nice stuff. ​

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