Part 1; the history of California State Route 14U
The history of what is now California State Route 14U is tied to that of Newhall Pass as a transportation corridor. Before Interstate 5, the Ridge Route of US Route 99, US Route 6 and American period in California the landscape of Spanish Las Californias was far different than today. Europeans living in Las Californias largely occupied communities along the coastline which were for the most part were attached to one of the twenty-one Catholic Missions. The Missions were stringed together by a road known as El Camino Real ("The Royal Road") which stretched from Mission San Diego de Alcala in present day San Diego north to Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma in modern day Sonoma. Los Angeles was no different having been founded in September of 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles in close vicinity to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel. Mission San Gabriel Arcangel itself was founded in 1771.
Given that the Spanish Missions were located along the coast the majority of travel in Las Californias was along El Camino Real. Travel into the interior of Las Californias through San Joaquin Valley was a difficult prospect given the lack of civilization and more so due to the Tule Marshes of Kern Lake, Buena Vista Lake, Tulare Lake and the San Joaquin River. That said, travel inland to the San Francisco Bay Area from Los Angeles was desired by some which led to the creation El Camino Viejo (The Old Road) which was in common use as early as 1780. El Camino Viejo is sometimes called "El Camino Viejo Los Angeles" and simply translated as "The Old Road" or "The Old Road to Los Angeles."
El Camino Viejo was the first European route from Los Angeles to San Joaquin Valley. From Los Angeles the route of El Camino Viejo continued northward into San Fernando Valley and to Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana. From San Fernando Valley the route of El Camino Viejo passed through San Fernando Pass, Santa Clarita Valley and ascended into the Sierra Pelona Mountains. El Camino Viejo entered San Francisquito Canyon to San Francisquito Pass where it emptied into Antelope Valley in the western flank of the Mojave Desert near Elizabeth Lake. Upon entering Antelope Valley, the route of El Camino Viejo turned west along the San Andreas Fault to what is modern day Gorman where it intersected part of what would become the Ridge Route. Unlike the Ridge Route which turned north into Tejon Pass to reach San Joaquin Valley via Grapevine Canyon the route of El Camino Viejo continued west into Cuddy Canyon of the San Emigdio Mountains. El Camino Viejo continued to follow the San Andreas Fault through Cuddy Canyon before descending into San Joaquin Valley via San Emigdio Canyon near the shores of Kern Lake. El Camino Viejo continued northward along the western shore of the Tulare Lake watershed following the general path of modern California State Route 33.
El Camino Viejo continued to serve Las Californias until the Mexican War of Independence. Las Californias became a Mexican Territory in 1821 and was renamed to Alta California in 1824. Mexican governance brought further civilization to San Joaquin Valley, but it largely remained a remote landscape with few changes to El Camino Viejo. Everything would change following the discovery of Gold in Sutter's Mill along the South Fork American River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in January of 1848.
In February of 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was ratified which ceded Alta California to the United States at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. By March news of the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill was published by newspapers in San Francisco. The New York Herald published their article on the gold discovery in August of 1848 bringing widespread attention to the newly acquired Californian territory. Later, U.S. President James Polk spoke of the gold discovery in California in December 1848. By 1849 the California Gold Rush had begun which spurred growth throughout California. A large percentage of the influx of settlers made their way to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to take advantage of the plentiful mining claims. California itself would become a State in 1850.
Although the California Gold Rush was mainly centered around the northern extent of the Sierra Nevada Mountains it was wasn't long before additional claims were made further south. By 1853 gold claims were struck along the Kern River which led to the Kern River Gold Rush. At this point the entirety of the Sierra Nevada Mountains had become attractive for prospectors looking to make money on the new mining claims. El Camino Viejo being routed west of the Tulare Lake watershed was suddenly no longer a viable route for the majority of travelers through San Joaquin Valley. A new route from Stockton to Los Angeles following the Sierra Nevada Foothills along the eastern edge of San Joaquin Valley was created and came to be known as the Stockton-Los Angeles Road. In San Joaquin Valley the path of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road followed the general path of California State Route 65, particularly north of the Kern River.
Originally the Stockton-Los Angeles Road utilized an established path from San Joaquin Valley south over the 5,285-foot above sea level Old Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains to Antelope Valley. At the time Old Tejon Pass was simply known as "Tejon Pass" and was an ancient Native American Trail used to traverse the Tehachapi Mountains. In 1772 by Spanish Explorers surveyed Old Tejon Pass and the route became an established way of reaching eastern San Joaquin Valley. Old Tejon Pass was later used by the Jedediah Smith expedition of Alta California in 1827.
In 1853 Castac Pass through Grapevine Canyon west of the Old Tejon Pass was surveyed by Robert S. Williamson of the Army Corps of Engineers for a possible path of Transcontinental Railroad. The 1853 surveying expedition found Castac Pass through Grapevine Canyon to be a far more viable route for travelers and the primary alignment was of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road was shifted west from Old Tejon Pass. Castac Pass had a far lower terminal elevation at 4,144 feet above sea level and had a gentler grade through Grapevine Canyon. In 1854 a U.S. Army Garrison was established at Fort Tejon in Grapevine Canyon near modern Lebec to protect settlers and travelers along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road. In time Castac Pass became known as Fort Tejon Pass and eventually simply Tejon Pass. Tejon Pass would later become part of the Ridge Route alignment and Interstate 5.
The 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California shows all the major routes traversing the mountains between San Fernando Valley and San Joaquin Valley. Highlighted below the Cuddy Canyon alignment of El Camino Viejo, the path over Old Tejon Pass, and the primary route of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road over Tejon Pass can be seen. The route of El Camino Viejo and Stockton-Los Angeles Road south of Antelope Valley took an identical path through San Francisquito Canyon to San Fernando Valley. The Stockton-Los Angeles Road can be seen entering San Fernadno Valley via San Fernando Pass.
Travel on the Stockton-Los Angeles Road from San Joaquin to San Fernando Valley was gradually improved over the ensuing decades but the route continued to utilize San Francisquito Canyon. San Fernando Pass was gradually improved by toll road franchise holders who cut a deep slot for wagons to cross. The cut in San Fernando Pass was improved at the behest of surveyor Edward Beale (who also played a major part in the location of Fort Tejon in Grapevine Canyon) in 1863 who deepened it to 90 feet. The cut in San Fernando Pass would come to be known as Beale's Cut and is still present east of the Sierra Highway and Newhall Pass (the modern name of San Fernando Pass). This photo (which is actually reversed from the original) dated from 1872 shows wagon being pulled up Beale's Cut by horse. Note: for a time, modern Newhall Pass was also known as "Fremont Pass."
The Stockton-Los Angeles Road during it's peak can be seen on the 1873 Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
By 1876 the Southern Pacific Railroad would complete the San Fernando Pass Tunnel. The Southern Pacific Railroad would also establish the railroad sidings of Newhall and Sagus in Santa Clarita Valley. Much of the route of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road was gradually replaced by the Southern Pacific Railroad which had been constructed through San Joaquin Valley and Tehachapi Pass prior to the completion of the San Fernando Pass Tunnel.
Newhall, the Southern Pacific Railroad and Stockton-Los Angeles Road can be seen near San Fernando Pass on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California.
Through much of the 19th Century the State of California was reluctant to get involved with highway building and maintenance. Much of the road building infrastructure was granted by the State Legislature to Franchise Toll Road companies. Typically, a Franchise Toll Company would build and maintain roadways for a period of ten years. Often at the end of the toll franchise maintenance roadways were deferred often back to the county level which led to varying standards of maintenance quality. Such a system was far from adequate for the emergence of the automobile.
In 1895 the State Legislature created the Bureau of Highways. 1895 was also significant year due to Legislature authorizing acquiring the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road to be maintained as the first true State Highway. Although there were various acts related to highways made by the State Legislature in the ensuing decade the next significant change would be during the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act. The 1909 First State Highway Bond Act was approved by voters in 1910 which added 3,052 miles of roadways to the State Highway system. One of the routes included in the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act was a new 359-mile-long State Highway from Sacramento to Los Angeles. This highway was the genesis point of the Ridge Route and was eventually assigned Legislative Route Number 4 (LRN 4) in 1916. LRN 4 in time came to be known as the Inland Route in San Joaquin Valley.
The first major change to the routing of LRN 4 between San Joaquin Valley and San Fernando Valley was made at Newhall Pass. By early 1909 just prior to the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act the Los Angeles County Highway commission posted a bond for the construction of the Newhall Tunnel to replace Beale's Cut. The Newhall Tunnel was completed in December of 1910 and would remain in place until Newhall Pass was bored out during 1939. At the time the Newhall Tunnel was completed LRN 4 used San Fernando Road (now Sierra Highway) through the Newhall Tunnel and took a turn northward on Newhall Avenue to Newhall.
The alignment of the Ridge Route was defined as running from northern City Limit of Los Angeles to Bakersfield. Various alignments for LRN 4 were considered but ultimately most of them were rejected due to concerns over landslides in the canyon grades. Ultimately a route running along Castaic Ridge of the Sierra Pelona Mountains over and Liebre Summit to Antelope Valley was chosen which was the ultimate path of the first alignment of the Ridge Route.
Construction of the Ridge Route began in 1914 and was one of the first projects by the California Highway Commission. The Ridge Route was an ambitious project which had a consistent 6-7% grade between Castaic Junction and Grapevine. The 6-7% grade of the Ridge Route required use of 697 curves throughout the 44-mile alignment. The unpaved Ridge Route opened in October of 1915 and reduced the expect travel time between Los Angeles to Bakersfield to a 12-hour drive. What was once a journey that would take several days on the Stockton-Los Angeles Road was now possible in less than one on the Ridge Route.
While the Ridge Route is most often associated with being part of the initial routing of US Route 99 (S 99) its first signed route was the National Part-to-Park Highway. The National Park-to-Park Highway was an Auto Trail which was signed between the majority of the western National Parks. The National Park-to-Park Highway can be seen on the Ridge Route on the below 1924 Rand McNally Road Atlas of the western United States.
Paving on the Ridge Route would begin by 1917. The Ridge Route was paved with concrete slabs which were designed to have a long maintenance life and handle the heavy weight of commercial traffic. The paving of the Ridge Route was delayed by World War 1 was but ultimately was completed by 1921. Asphalt was added to the Ridge Route between 1922 and 1924 which straightened many of the 697 curves. Despite the improvements it was clear the Ridge Route was becoming inadequate to handle traffic loads as it was assigned to the routing of US Route 99 of the new US Route system in November 1926.
US Route 99/LRN 4 from Castaic Junction through Newhall Pass originally had been routed on what is now Magic Mountain Parkway, Railroad Avenue, Newhall Avenue, and Sierra Highway. During 1930 a new routing of US Route 99/LRN 4 bypassing Newhall Pass, Saugus and Newhall to Castaic Junction was completed through Weldon Canyon on what is now known as The Old Road. The older alignment of US Route 99 and the Ridge Route through the Newhall Tunnel were retained as an extension of LRN 23.
The new route of US 99/LRN 4 through Weldon Canyon bypassing the Newhall Tunnel is discussed in the September 1930 California Highways & Public Works.
A letter dated February 8, 1937, by the AASHO Executive Secretary to the State Highway Engineers of; Colorado, Nevada and California announced the approved extension of US Route 6 from Greeley, Colorado to Long Beach, California.
US Route 6 inherited the existing alignment of California State Route 7 in the Newhall-Sagus. US Route 6 can be seen on the 1938 Division of Highways Map departing US Route 99 through Newhall Pass towards Newhall. US Route 6 can be seen following LRN 23 through the Newhall-Sagus area via Newhall Avenue, Railroad Avenue and Soledad Canyon Road. A proposed realignment of US Route 6 bypassing Newhall-Sagus via Mint Canyon also be seen.
Sierra Highway continues north and intersects Needham Ranch Parkway.