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The Arroyo Seco Parkway and early terminus points of US Route 66 in Los Angeles


The Arroyo Seco Parkway is an 8.16-mile section of freeway which traverses from the Four-Level Interchange in downtown Los Angeles north/northeast following the Arroyo Seco to Pasadena.  The Arroyo Seco Parkway is currently designated as part of California State Route 110 but is more widely known as being a classic component of US Route 66.  While US Route 66 used the entirety of the Arroyo Seco Parkway the freeway also carried US Route 6, US Route 99 and California State Route11 at different points throughout its long history.  The Arroyo Seco Parkway is one of the oldest freeways in the United States. 




Part 1; the development of the Arroyo Seco Parkway and attempting to resolve the western terminus of US Route 66

Before the Arroyo Seco Parkway travel between Pasadena and Los Angeles on US Route 66 (US 66) was routed on surface roads that largely avoided the Arroyo Seco.  The earliest route description of US 66 by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) has the highway technically ending in San Fernando.  The AASHO had approved the creation of the US Route System on November 11th, 1926. 


Note: the only true official source for US Route designations has always been under the scope the AASHO (and modern AASHTO).  While there is an established narrative regarding the western terminus history of US 66 in the road community fandom it does not line up with the reality what the AASHO had approved.  The narrative of the road fan community also does not line up with what was known to be signed by agencies outside the purview of the AASHO.  This blog has far more conjecture than I would like but it is clear that a great deal of movement was at-foot with US 66 around Los Angeles without AASHO approval.  My recommendation would be to always follow the official definitions of US Routes provided by the AASHO.  Nonetheless this blog will attempt to examine all angles to the narrative of early western terminus of US 66.  

In a letter dated March 1st, 1927, from California State Highway Engineer R.M. Morton replied to AASHO Executive Secretary W.C. Markham conveying it was the understanding of the State that US 66 ended in San Fernando.  



In a letter dated April 21st, 1927, from California State Highway Engineer R.M. Morton writes to AASHO Executive Secretary W.C. Markham regarding numerous US Route topics.  The western terminus of US 66 in San Fernando, how US 66 did not touch the City Limits of Los Angeles and the omission of Pasadena from the US 66 Route Description are expounded upon.  Notably R.M. Morton states the description of US 99 would have it jog south into Los Angeles and then follow a multiplex of US 66 east to San Bernardino. 



On April 26th, 1927, W.C. Markham wrote in a letter to California Highway Commission Office Engineer L.T. Cambell stating it would be preferable to have US 66 end somewhere in Los Angeles.  W.C. Markham noted US 66 was already being promoted as the primary highway in the Chicago-Los Angeles Corridor.  W.C. Markham goes onto suggest that it would be helpful if signage of the western terminus of US 66 was placed in the nearest convenient location within the City of Los Angeles.  The terminus of US 66 in San Fernando is described as a technical error and that the last City on the Route Description should be Los Angeles. 



Thusly US 66 is displayed in the January 1928 California Highways & Public Works as terminating in Los Angeles via San Fernando.  This seems to imply US 66 was to be signed somewhere via multiplex of US 99 on San Fernando Road into the City Limits of Los Angeles.  



Prior to 1933 the Division of Highways was not actively involved in maintaining urban highways outside of occasional cooperative projects.  The responsibility for signage of US Routes in cities was thusly given to the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) in the Southern California region.  

The earliest ACSC records show the alignment of US 66 traveling westward from Pasadena on the following route until 1929:

-  From Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena south on Fair Oaks Boulevard.
-  Fair Oaks Boulevard to Huntington Drive.
-  Huntington Drive to Mission Road.
-  Mission Road to Brooklyn Avenue.
-  Brooklyn Avenue to Broadway.
-  Broadway to US 101 at 2nd Street in downtown Los Angeles.

In 1929 there was a shift of the alignment of US 101 in downtown Los Angeles off of 2nd Street at Figueroa Street.  US 101 was routed southwest on Figueroa Street to 7th Street, US 101 subsequently took 7th Street over the Los Angeles River.  This move to 7th Street shifted US 66 southward to a new terminus on Broadway at 7th Street.  More details about the movement of early US 101/LRN 2 can be found on this AAroads article written by Scott Parker (Sparker).

AAroads on the early history of US 101/LRN 2

The below image from the 1930 Division of Highways Map City insert was edited to show the 1929-1931 alignment of US 66 between Pasadena and Los Angeles. 


The 1930 Division of Highways Map notably seems to follow the AASHO description of US 66 given in the January 1928 California Highways & Public Works.  US 66 is shown terminating at US 99 near San Fernando which would have barely skirted the City of Los Angeles.  


The ACSC signed alignment of US 66 shifted in 1931 and was reportedly in use until some point in 1934.  The 1931 alignment of US 66 from Pasadena westward to Los Angeles was as follows:

-  Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena to Fair Oaks Boulevard.
-  Fair Oaks Boulevard to Mission Street.
-  Mission Street to Pasadena Avenue.
-  Pasadena Avenue to Broadway.
-  Broadway to US 101 at 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles.

The below image from the 1934 State Highway Map City insert was edited to show the 1931-1934 alignment of US 66 between Pasadena and Los Angeles.


Notably the AASHO minutes from the AASHTO Database paint a totally different narrative pertaining to the terminus of US 66 in Los Angeles.  Below is an exchange of letters dated to November/December 1931 between C.H. Purcell the California State Highway Engineer and W.C. Markham Executive Secretary of the AASHO. The Division of Highways conveyed a desire to split US 66 into a mainline routing terminating at US 101 in downtown Los Angeles and an Alternate Route which bypassed downtown towards US 101 at Sunset Boulevard. The AASHO recommended extending US 66 to Santa Monica so that they Mainline and Alternate Route would have a meet up point via US 101.
Ultimately the Division of Highways is shown to not have wanted a US 66 ending in Santa Monica whereas the AASHO didn't want dual terminus points. Of note, the documents below show the terminus point for US 66 ending at US 99/San Fernando Road via Fletcher Drive.








The AASHTO Database file for 1931 also shows a letter dated April 7th which states that there was rogue signage placed by the ACSC which had extended US 66 to Santa Monica. C.H. Purcell states in a response letter that this signage was not officially approved by the AASHO and had been placed by the ACSC at the behest of the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. Notably the despite the ACSC committing to remove US 66 signage in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica corridor it is unclear if they actually ever did.





The Los Angeles City Council Minutes (courtesy MapMikey of the AAroads forum) on January 12th, 1931, provides additional context of when and how US 66 was signed by the ACSC to Santa Monica. The ACSC signage of US 66 within the City of Los Angeles is stated to have begun on Colorado Boulevard at the Los Angeles/Pasadena City Lines. US 66 is stated to follow Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock Boulevard (formerly Glassell Avenue), and Fletcher Drive to US 99 at San Fernando Road. US 66 is stated to continue westward via Glendale Boulevard, Rowana Boulevard, Hyperion Avenue, Myra Avenue, the viaduct under Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard to the City of Santa Monica. The Los Angeles City Council Minutes do not describe where US 66 was signed to.

The signage of US 66 to Santa Monica is described as being requested by the Santa Monica-Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce at their own expense. The Los Angeles City Council is stated to have approved the request to extend Santa Monica on December 15th, 1930. The Los Angeles City Council noted to have requested the ACSC to extend US 66 to Santa Monica and it had not received similar requests in the past.



Of note the first three Figueroa Street Tunnels can be seen on the 1934 Division of Highways City Insert.  The first three Figueroa Street Tunnels opened between Riverside Drive and Solano Avenue in October of 1931 which routed traffic through Elysian Park.  The Figueroa Street Tunnels would ultimately end up becoming a key piece of the future Arroyo Seco Parkway.

1933 was a landmark year in terms of Statewide transportation.  The State Legislature removed restrictions that prevented State Funds from being used to maintain urban roadways.  This change by the Legislature led to the addition of numerous urban highways being adopted.

California Highways Highway Chronology Chapter 3; A Significant System is Created 1933-1946

One of the 1933 additions to the State Highway system was Legislative Route Number 165 (LRN 165) which was routed from San Pedro to La Canada via Figueroa Street.  The addition of LRN 165 made the three completed Figueroa Street Tunnels part of the State Highway system and led to the construction of the fourth southernmost tunnel.  Figueroa Street once completed between Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles would serve as a much more direct corridor with more traffic capacity than early alignments of US 66.

CAhighways.org on LRN 165

Much of the early US Route system around Los Angeles was heavily altered after 1933.  Sometime between late 1934/early 1935 the route of US 101 was realigned through downtown Los Angeles via Sunset Boulevard and Macy Street.  This in turn truncated US 66 from 7th Street to US 101 at Sunset Boulevard.  During 1934 US 99 was realigned off a multiplex of US 66 from Pasadena-San Bernardino (LRN 9) to a new alignment which took it to Redlands via downtown Los Angeles, Pomona and Colton. 






1934 was another significant year as the Signed State Routes were created.  California State Route 11 (CA 11) was routed over LRN 165 which included a multiplex of US 66 between much of the route between Pasadena and Los Angeles.  In 1935 LRN 205 was added to the State Highway system between the LRN 165 at the Figueroa Street Tunnels northeast to LRN 161 at Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.  LRN 205 was the true beginnings of what would become the planned freeway portion of the Arroyo Seco Parkway.

CAhighways.org on LRN 205

The route of US 66 between Pasadena and Los Angeles jumped from various interim routes while the fourth Figueroa Street Tunnel was being built.  There are at least three known interim alignments of US 66 which existed in 1935:

Alignment 1

-  Colorado Boulevard/LRN 161 west from Pasadena over the Arroyo Seco to Eagle Rock Boulevard/LRN 162.
-  Eagle Rock Boulevard/LRN 162 to the portion carrying LRN 61.
-  Eagle Rock Boulevard/LRN 61 to US 99 on San Fernando Road/LRN 4.
-  US 99/San Fernando Road to Figueroa Street/LRN 165.
-  Figueroa Street/LRN 165 to Solano Avenue.
-  Solano Avenue to Broadway.
-  Broadway to US 101/Sunset Boulevard.

Alignment 2

-  Colorado Boulevard/LRN 161 west from Pasadena over the Arroyo Seco to temporary LRN 165 on LRN 165.
-  Temporary LRN 165 on Avenue 64 and York Boulevard to Figueroa Street.
-  Figueroa Street/LRN 165 to Solano Avenue.  US 66/LRN 165 picked up US 99 at San Fernando Road.
-  Solano Avenue to Broadway.
-  Broadway to US 101/Sunset Boulevard.

Alignment 3

-  Colorado Boulevard/LRN 161 west from Pasadena over the Arroyo Seco to Figueroa Street/LRN 165.  Again US 66/LRN 165 picked up US 99 at San Fernando Road.
-  Figueroa Street/LRN 165 to Solano Avenue. 
-  Solano Avenue to Broadway.
-  Broadway to US 101/Sunset Boulevard.

State maintenance on Alignment 1 and Alignment 2 can be seen on this 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Los Angeles below.  I added the shields and LRN numbers to illustrate where routes were at the time, CA 134 was added to the State Highway system in 1935.


The 1935 Goshua Highway Map of Los Angeles shows Alignment 3 of US 66.  The multiplex US 66/LRN 165 carried with CA 11 can be seen and the implied alignment of US 99 is also shown.


According to an October of 1935 California Highways & Public Works article US 66 was extended to US 101A in Santa Monica via what was CA 2.


A full version of the October 1935 Department of Public Works publication can be found below.  It contains additional information regarding movements of State Highways and new US Routes.

October 1935 California Highways & Public Works

According to CAhighways.org the AASHTO minutes from June of 1935 mention US 66 being extended to Santa Monica with a new terminus at Lincoln Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue.  Pennsylvania Avenue was near the corridor of Olympic Boulevard which was under construction at the time.  According to the AASHTO minutes the shift of US 66 to Santa Monica would be effective by 1/1/1936. 

The proposal to formally extend US 66 to Santa Monica appears in the AASHTO Database along with a June 1935 Division of Highways sketch map.  The sketch map and extension description illustrates US 66 as then terminating at US 101 in downtown Los Angeles via Broadway at Sunset Boulevard. 



CAhighways.org on US 66/CA 66

Despite US 66 being extended all the way to Santa Monica it still met US 101 on Sunset Boulevard via Broadway.  This changed on in July of 1936 when the fourth Figueroa Street Tunnel opened to traffic.  An opening ceremony for the fourth Street Tunnel was held on August 4th of 1936.


A full version of the Los Angeles Times article can be found at the link below.  I'd like to thank AAroads Forum user MapMikey for finding the L.A. Times article in addition to the 1935 Department of Public Works document and 1935 Los Angeles Area Goshua Map.

Newspapers.com 8/5/1936 Los Angeles Times Article

CAhighways.org has a page dedicated to I-110/CA 110 which shows a photo of the fourth Figueroa Street Tunnel under construction.  Temporary signage showing US 66/US 99 and CA 11 can be seen in front of the tunnel which is looking southbound.

CAhighways.org on I-110/CA 110

This 1936-37 Division of Highways City Insert was published before the completion of the fourth Figueroa Street Tunnel.  This edition is notable since it shows the planned route of the Arroyo Seco Parkway/LRN 205.


On February 8th, 1937, US 6 had been approved by the AASHO to be extended into California and to a terminus in Long Beach.  1937 was also notable in that the Figueroa Street Viaduct opened over the Arroyo Seco more directly connecting the Figueroa Street Tunnels to San Fernando Road.  US 6 multiplexed US 99/LRN 4 on San Fernando Road where the two routes joined US 66/CA 11/LRN 165 through the Figueroa Street Tunnels.  US 6/US 66/US 99 can clearly be seen multiplexing through the Figueroa Street Tunnels on the 1938 Division of Highways City Insert.


Much of the Arroyo Seco Parkway was completed by December of 1940.  Final work on the Arroyo Seco Parkway was completed through Pasadena in January of 1941.  US 66 was shifted onto the Arroyo Seco Parkway entirely whereas CA 11 joined it with US 6/US 99 via San Fernando Road.  When the Arroyo Seco Parkway originally opened traffic was routed on four lanes through the Figueroa Street Tunnels.  The current southbound lanes of the Arroyo Seco Parkway bypass the Figueroa Street Tunnels and opened to traffic in 1943.


The Four Level Interchange was constructed at the south end of the Arroyo Seco Parkway by 1949.  The first connecting segment between the Arroyo Seco Parkway and another freeway was opened in 1951 when the first portion of the south segment of the Hollywood Freeway opened west of downtown Los Angeles.


The Arroyo Seco Parkway was connected to the first segment of the Harbor Freeway via the Four Level Interchange in 1952.


In 1953 the Arroyo Seco Parkway connected to a new segment of the Santa Ana Freeway via a fully functional Four Level Interchange.


Officially the Arroyo Seco Parkway was called the "Pasadena Freeway" starting in 1954.  The freeway name reverted back to Arroyo Seco Parkway in 2010.  The 1957 Division of Highways City Insert is the first year the name "Pasadena Freeway" appears.  US 66A also makes its first appearance co-signed with CA 134 on Colorado Boulevard and CA 11 on Figueroa Street.


By 1961 the Golden State Freeway is shown on the State Highway Map City insert connecting to the Pasadena Freeway.  US 99 is still shown multiplexing US 6/US 66/CA 11 on the Pasadena Freeway to the Four Level Interchange in 1961.


The 1962 State Highway Map City insert shows the Golden State Freeway bypass of downtown Los Angeles was completed.  Consequently US 99 is shown being routed off the Pasadena Freeway onto the new Golden State Freeway bypass of downtown Los Angeles


In 1964 the State Highway Renumbering occurred.  US 6 was truncated off the Pasadena Freeway and out of the Los Angeles area to Bishop whereas US 99 was truncated to downtown Los Angeles from Calexico.  US 66 was truncated off the Pasadena Freeway from Santa Monica all the way back to Pasadena.  US 66A was removed entirely and CA 11 was shifted off its surface alignment north of the Golden State Freeway.  CA 11 was subsequently moved to the entirety of the Pasadena Freeway with its former surface portion on Figueroa Street becoming CA 159.


Interestingly before the 1964 State Highway Renumbering there was plans to reroute US 6 into downtown Los Angeles via the Hollywood Freeway.  More about the plans to move US 6 onto the Hollywood Freeway can be found on the link below.

Hollywood Freeway; California State Route 170, US Route 101, US Route 66 and California State Route 2

By 1981 CA 11 was changed to Interstate 110/CA 110.  CA 110 was applied to part of the Harbor Freeway and all of the Pasadena Freeway.  CA 11 is still shown signed on the 1982 State Highway Map City insert but the legislative route is 110.




Part 2; examining the early known terminus points of US Route 66 in downtown Los Angeles

Upon my arrival in downtown Los Angeles I parked on Bunker Hill and made way eastward towards former US 66 on Broadway.  Along the way I checked out the east portals of the 2nd Street Tunnel and 3rd Street. 

2nd Street and 3rd Street Tunnels in Los Angeles

After descending Bunker Hill via 2nd Street to Broadway.  At the time I was unaware that Broadway at 2nd Street was ta signed terminus of US 66.  Once on Broadway I began walking towards the 7th Street terminus of US 66.



At the southeast corner of Broadway and 3rd Street is the location of the Bradbury Building.  The Bradbury Building is a five-story high rise office building constructed in 1893 which has become a US 66 landmark.  The Bradbury Building is mostly known for being the location of several scenes in the movie Blade Runner.




Broadway is signed with various marques directing pedestrian traffic to the numerous districts of downtown Los Angeles.  Despite some garish new skyscrapers popping up in the background the look of Broadway still retains the feel you'd expect to see on a city traversed by US 66.








At Broadway and 7th Street I met what was the signed terminus of US 66 at US 101.



Interestingly the historic US 66 placard above the 7th Street sign displays several errors which.  Even though the US Route system was designated in 1926 the route of US 66 in California wasn't signed immediately.  As evidenced by Part 1 above the original western terminus of US 66 designated by the AASHO at US 99 near San Fernado followed by San Fernando Road via Fletcher Drive.  




Part 3; a drive on the Arroyo Seco Parkway

My approach to the Arroyo Seco Parkway was from 9th Street onto CA 110 north on the Harbor Freeway.  The Harbor Freeway north of Interstate 10 to the Four Level Interchange is not compliant with Interstate standards and thus signed as CA 110.




Exit 23A on CA 110/Harbor Freeway northbound accesses 6th Street.




Exit 23B on CA 110/Harbor Freeway northbound accesses 4th Street whereas 3rd Street is accessed via Exit 23C.




CA 110/Harbor Freeway northbound approaches the Four Level Interchange.  Access to the Santa Ana Freeway is presently signed as US 101 south to Interstate 5/Interstate 10/CA 60 whereas it once was US 99/US 101 south.  Access to the Hollywood Freeway is signed as US 101 north whereas it would have once been US 101 north/US 66 west.  CA 110 continues northward onto the Arroyo Seco Parkway and would have once carried; US 66 east/US 6 east/US 99 north/CA 11 north.  Truck traffic is advised of they are prohibited on the Arroyo Seco Parkway.  Interestingly the truck prohibition on the Arroyo Seco Parkway dates back to 1943.






The Arroyo Seco Parkway begins north of the Four Level Interchange.  The older character of the Arroyo Seco Parkway is evident immediately due to the button-copy signage and older Arc Deco bridge structures.  CA 110 north on the Arroyo Seco Parkway accesses Stadium Way via Exit 24.




CA 110 north on the Arroyo Seco Parkway proceeds into the 1936 Figueroa Street Tunnel.  The 1936 Figueroa Street Tunnel is the longest of the four tunnels at 755 feet in length.  Academy Road and Solano Avenue are signed as being accessible from Exit 25.  Before the completion of the fourth Figueroa Street Tunnel the alignment of US 66/US 99/CA 11 made a right-hand turn towards Broadway via Solano Avenue.






The next three Figueroa Street Tunnels were completed in 1931.  The next northward tunnel is 461 feet in length.


The third Figueroa Street Tunnel northward is the shortest at 130 feet in length.  


The fourth northernmost Figueroa Street Tunnel is 405 feet in length.  I-5 north traffic is directed to use Exit 26A from the left.  This junction previously would have been where US 6/US 99/CA 11 split from the Arroyo Seco Parkway and US 66.



CA 110 north on the Arroyo Seco Parkway crosses the Arroyo Seco via the 1937 Figueroa Street Viaduct.  The junction for US 66 with US 6/US 99/CA 11 before the Arroyo Seco Parkway was built can be located via Exit 26B onto Figueroa Street which connects with San Fernando Road/Avenue 26. 



CA 110 north traffic crosses under Avenue 26 and is greeted by Historic Arroyo Seco Parkway signage. 



CA 110 north Exit 27 on the Arroyo Seco Parkway accesses Avenue 43. 



CA 110 north Exit 28A on the Arroyo Seco Parkway accesses Avenue 52 whereas Exit 28B accesses Via Marsiol. 



Exit 29 on CA 110 north/Arroyo Seco Parkway accesses Avenue 60. 


Marmion Way and Avenue 64 are accessed from CA 110 north/Arroyo Seco Parkway Exit 30A. 



CA 110 north/Arroyo Seco Parkway Exit 30B accesses Bridewell Street. 



CA 110 north/Arroyo Seco Parkway north crosses the Arroyo Seco into San Gabriel Valley.  Traffic is advised that the Rose Bowl can be reached via the following three exits. 



Orange Grove Avenue is accessed from CA 110 north/Arroyo Seco Parkway Exit 31A whereas Fair Oaks Avenue is accessed via Exit 31B. 



CA 110 and the Arroyo Seco Parkway terminate at Glenarm Street in Pasadena. 






US 66 and LRN 205 continued north past the terminus of the Arroyo Seco Parkway on the surface street known as Arroyo Parkway to Colorado Boulevard where US 66A would have been met.   I headed as far north as Green Street where I followed signage to Interstate 210. 








Part 4; Roadwaywiz on the Arroyo Seco Parkway

During September 2020 Dan Murphy of the Roadwaywiz YouTube Channel and Gribblenation featured real-time drives on the Arroyo Seco Parkway.  Below the northbound Arroyo Seco Parkway can be viewed.  


Below the southbound Arroyo Seco Parkway can be viewed.


During May 2020 the Arroyo Seco Parkway was featured as part of the Roadwaywiz Los Angeles Webinar.  The Arroyo Seco Parkway is discussed by panelists Dan Murphy, Scott Onson and Steve Alps at 41:00-50:54.









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