Arroyo Seco Parkway marks its 70th anniversary

The Arroyo Seco Parkway at the Avenue 60 Bridge in Highland Park
The Arroyo Seco Parkway at the Avenue 60 Bridge in Highland Park
Metro Transportation Library and Archive/flickr

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You may know it as the Pasadena Freeway. Its original name - Arroyo Seco Parkway – is back in use as of Dec. 30, the anniversary of the day California opened its first freeway to traffic 70 years ago.

Engineers intended the first six-mile segment, between just north of downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena, to carry 27,000 cars a day. The original plan for the parkway suited that capacity. These days, though, the freeway carries 122,000 vehicles a day.

Jammed though it may be at times, it still offers a scenic ride. Aided by four arched tunnels, it winds gently through wooded hills past Chavez Ravine, the L.A. Police Academy and Highland Park. The parkway is one of only three federal scenic byways in California, and is designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a historical engineering landmark.

Seven decades ago, during the economic downturn known as the Great Depression, the parkway construction project put a lot of people to work. That’s still true. A $17 million improvement project is adding new lights, medians and barriers along the six-lane road. When construction wraps up a couple of months from now, the thoroughfare will also sport signs that bear its once and future name: The Arroyo Seco Parkway.