Before the 'Carmageddon': A Photographic Look at the Construction of 5 SoCal Freeways | KCET
Before the 'Carmageddon': A Photographic Look at the Construction of 5 SoCal Freeways
As Angeleños prepare to survive the upcoming weekend without access to a ten-mile section of the San Diego Freeway, our thoughts may turn to L.A.'s pre-freeway era, a time before it was possible to cruise through the Los Angeles basin at 70 miles per hour, a time when freeway construction was an occasion for celebrity photo-ops rather than an excuse to coin apocalyptic portmanteaux.
In the twenty years between 1950 and 1970, more than 500 miles of freeways were built in L.A., Orange, and Ventura counties. Southern California welcomed them with the pomp and circumstance usually reserved for foreign dignitaries. Movie stars and governors christened the new concrete rivers, and many Southern Californians drove to construction sites to pose in photographs of half-built highways rising from the ground.
The photos below, culled from several regional archives, illustrate that junction between L.A.'s pre- and post-freeway eras, when work crews built bridges and on-ramps but also razed houses and split neighborhoods. They show construction work on five Southern California freeways: the Hollywood Freeway (U.S. Highway 101), one of L.A.'s first; the Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110); the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10); the San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405); and the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210).
Santa Monica Freeway
San Diego Freeway
The collections of the Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library and Archive at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority constitute an invaluable resource for understanding Southern California's transportation, from early cable cars to the Pacific Electric Railway and from superhighways to the "Subway to the Sea."
Those interested in learning more about how L.A.'s freeways system was conceived should consult the Metro Library's online list of major L.A. County transportation planning documents. Thanks to the library's active digitization efforts, many of the documents are publicly available in PDF format. Particularly relevant to the subject of freeway planning and construction is a 1946 report by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Parkway Engineering Committee, titled Interregional, Regional, Metropolitan Parkways in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. The report includes maps of proposed freeway routes and an analysis of the county's long-term highway needs.
Librarian Kenn Bicknell is currently digitizing another relevant collection that he describes as the "mother lode of information" about freeway construction. Published from the 1924 to 1967, California Highways and Public Works was the official journal of the California Highway Commission and, later, the California Division of Highways. Bicknell hopes to have the entire archive digitized and publicly accessible here on the library's website by the end of the year. He has already digitized the September/October 1956 issue, which contains a treasure trove of photographs, maps, and other information about freeway construction projects in Southern California.
Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, personal collections, and other institutions. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here will provide a view into the archives of individuals and cultural institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.
Astrophysicist Andrea Ghez, user experience designer Evan Sullivan, and choreographer Kyle Abraham talked about everything from what it means to be creative to how we can overcome creative fears.
Places like Taylor Yard give us a window to explore ways to balance the city's critical needs for green space, livable space and climate change strategies.
A Q&A will immediately follow the screening with actor Susan Kelechi Watson and production designer Jade Healy.
After the screening, KCET Cinema Series host Pete Hammond conversed with director Fernando Ferreira Meirelles (City of Gold), and writer Anthony McCarten.
- 1 of 220
- next ›
Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. Its founder, Griffith J. Griffith, donated the land to the city as a public recreation ground for all the people — an ideal that has been challenged over the years.
During World War II, three renowned photographers captured scenes from the Japanese incarceration: outsiders Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and incarceree Tōyō Miyatake who boldly smuggled in a camera lens to document life from within the camp.
Prohibition may have outlawed liquor, but that didn’t mean the booze stopped flowing. Explore the myths of subterranean Los Angeles, crawl through prohibition-era tunnels, and visit some of the city’s oldest speakeasies.
As recently as a century ago, scientists doubted whether the universe extended beyond our own Milky Way — until astronomer Edwin Hubble, working with the world’s most powerful telescope discovered just how vast the universe is.
This episode explores how Yosemite has changed over time: from a land maintained by indigenous peoples; to its emergence as a tourist attraction; to the site of conflict over humanity’s relationship with nature.
- 1 of 4
- next ›