Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015



Last week, the staff of the DUNER BLOG were on assignment in Sacramento. To avoid traffic, we took a short-cut on the Capital City Freeway. Built in the 1950's, the road winds through parks and over a river, with rows of trees on each side. This sparked debate about which California Freeway is the most quaint. Here are our favorites.

Cabrillo Freeway. Route #163. San Diego's first freeway opened in 1948 with great fanfare. It provided a link between Downtown and rapidly growing Mission Valley. To do so, it would bisect Balboa Park. Architects worked hard to maintain the idyllic greenery while still allowing a 45 MPH speed limit. They succeeded. The highlight is passing under the 1915 Cabrillo Bridge, which is modeled after its namesake in Toledo, Spain.

Capital City Freeway. Route #160. Sacramento's first freeway opened in 1947. At first, pedestrian lanes and rows of trees graced the sides. However, the walkways were soon replaced by more auto lanes. Cars...not people...could now zoom from the State Capitol, over the American River and into the rapidly expanding suburbs. Fortunately, the trees still remain.

Pasadena Freeway. Route #11. The 'World's First Freeway' was truly a landmark in transportation history. See, it differed from the 'Parkways' of the East Coast, as it had specific exit and entry ramps. Also, no businesses or residences were allowed on the sides. However, the Pasadena Freeway was similar to the 'Parkways' in that it still tried to emulate the feel of a Park. Thick groves of trees line each side and the median. Finally, Art Deco fans will love the four tunnels that provide quick passage to Downtown Los Angeles.

Richard M. Nixon Freeway. Route #90. Aside from a small city park in Pennsylvania, this tiny three mile freeway in Yorba Linda is the only thing named after America's 37th President. Why only three miles? Well, originally, the plan in 1959 was to build an east-west freeway from Marina Del Rey to Orange County. However, only the beginning (Marina Fwy) and end were built. The Eastern Section was renamed after the only Californian-born President.

Warren Freeway. Route #13. This bold highway slices through the steep slopes of Piedmont Valley. Tall Redwood, Oak and Eucalyptus Trees line both sides.  Like the Nixon Freeway, this route was also intended to go much further. But the Berkeley City Council rejected plans to convert Ashby Avenue into a freeway in 1960. It's sad. You'd think a former California Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice would get a bigger freeway named after him!

West Valley Freeway. Route #85. In the 1950's most of Santa Clara County was covered in orange orchards. Hence, construction began in 1957, orange trees framed most of the highway. Today, housing subdivisions butt up against most of it, but a few sections of fragrant fruit trees still remain.

Yosemite Freeway. Route #41. All the freeways in Fresno are named after the National Parks they (eventually) lead too. There's the Sequoia Freeway and the King's Canyon Freeway, but these Parks can't compare with Yosemite! Built in the 1970's, this freeway embodies the ultimate California dream. A fast way out of Fresno!

NOTE: When referring to freeways, Southern Californians always employ the article "The" and the name of the freeway, e.g. "The Orange Freeway." Northern Californians just say the number of the freeway. "Take 580 West."

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