LA’s Sixth Gift to the World: The Pasadena Freeway

La_city_hwys.jpg You won’t see a cop walkin’ on the beat
You only see ’em drivin’ cars out on the street
You won’t see a kid walkin’ home from school
Their mothers pick ’em up in a car pool
Nobody’s walkin’ walkin’ walkin’ walkin–nobody walks in LA.

– Missing Persons, “Walking in LA” click to listen

Michele wrote about the end of the road yesterday in our series on LA gifts. Today, however, I’m writing about the road that leads here – simultaneously the beginning and the end. Cobblestoned, shiny slick blacktop, potholed asphalt, rebar enforced ribbed concrete – we’ve got em all, even if we don’t always use em.

I’ve loved the freeway as long as I can remember. I coerced my father to sit on his lap as we trundled up the 101 to San Francisco when I was a single digit. I dreamt of being a big-rig truck driver, pulling all-nighters at high speed on black empty two-laners. I waited what seemed like eons for my drivers license, which was the harbinger of my freedom. And once I was awarded with the magic card I was unstoppable. A boy has a dog, but I’ve got my car. My car and I explored every wide open and back road we came across.

Then I came to Los Angeles.

300px-FigueroaStTunnels.jpg I still remember my first drive on the 110 to Pasadena. It was crisp early morning. The top was down, heated seats were on and I was driving my friend, a Swedish speed cube champion, to CalTech from Santa Monica. When I merged onto the 110 from the 10, my blood quickened. This was a freeway! Full of tunnels, twisting curves and non-existent entry and exit ramps, I could not contain my excitement and my squeals of delight didn’t only emanate from my mouth.

That same day that I learned I had driven on the first freeway in California: The Pasadena Freeway.

December 30, 1940 marked the beginning of the freeway system with the opening of Arroyo Seco Parkway (the original name of the Pasadena Freeway). The second freeway in America, it was designed by Spencer Cortelyou with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour. Click the video to take a quick drive right now.

From the humble beginnings of the 110 to the 10 major freeways crisscrossing the city today, LA’s obsession with cars and the freeways they drive on, give us Angelinos the freedom to do more than just get around town. Sometimes it’s getting out of town. And for that, Los Angeles gives the world – freeways.

* Photos and video by Mark Furqueron. Mark has more photos and video too.

And for extra credit:
And according to this article, “The gasoline station was invented in Los Angeles. An original gas station, as large as 2 phone booths, could be seen on Sawtelle as recently as 1980.” No wonder, we’re ground zero when it comes to cars.

7 Replies to “LA’s Sixth Gift to the World: The Pasadena Freeway”

  1. There’s nothing like an LA freeway at 3 am… period. There’s nothing like that same freeway with the top down on a crisp night with the heater cranked up… During the day there’s all the traffic and the drama. KNX and KFWB’s traffic reports sound like some insane, diabolical video game gone crazy. The best stretch (for me at least) is at one of the best “endings” – after miles and miles of urbanity, you dive into the McClure Tunnel at the west end of the 10, pop out the other side, and – suddenly there’s a flash of brilliant blue as the sun reflects off the Pacific at the very edge of the continent. It’s the only freeway in LA County that actually goes right to the beach (no, the 710 doesn’t count – it dribbles to a close in Long Beach Harbor – which hardly qualifies as “the beach”)!

  2. And let’s not forget those crazy onramps with the stop signs. The ones that Jack Smith said, “allows the common man to experience the bullfighter’s ‘moment of truth'”.

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