Route 110 Photo Album

Los Angeles County - Arroyo Seco Historic Parkway - Between milepost 25.7 and milepost 31.9 in Los Angeles.

Dedicated on December 30, 1940, the Arroyo Seco Parkway was the first of its kind in the West. The limited access, depressed road connected Pasadena with downtown Los Angeles, 6.2 miles away. Conceived in the parkway tradition, its designers had drawn upon similar achievements on the East Coast, the Midwest and in Europe for inspiration. Nevertheless, the Arroyo Seco had a distinctively Western flavor due to the geography, climate and relative isolation of Southern California.

In 1940, the parkway was considered a leisurely, scenic drive, featuring landscaped embankments lush with native chaparral. Its leisurely, curving alignment traversed a chain of lovely small parks shaded by sycamores and eucalyptus, and exposed peek views of the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains. The prohibition of cross-traffic provided additional driving safety and convenience, and marked the road as a thoroughly modern invention.

Alternatively termed an "engineering marvel" and the "big ditch," the facility became the prototype of the Los Angeles Freeway system. Like other Los Angeles area freeways, the road was at its design capacity before it was even built. Consequently, the planned emergency shoulder was converted into a travel lane during construction. The new lane was surfaced with asphalt, providing the road's characteristic two-toned pavement. Intermittent "safety bays" were added in 1949 to compensate for the lack of shoulders. Cramped ramp geometrics and limited acceleration and deceleration lanes can be attributed to the project's tight budget, the topography of the arroyo and the controversy over eminent domain at the time of construction. All three historic conditions resulted in a constricted right-of-way, leading to a road with unusually tight curves. The parkway's design quirks required the early elimination of truck traffic, as well as prudent driving speeds and exceptional motorist courtesy.

Finally, the road could not have been built without the concurrent construction of the Arroyo Seco Flood Control Channel, a Works Progress Administration project providing Depression-era unemployment relief. The channel parallels the east side of parkway and protects it from seasonal flooding in the arroyo. Watch for it, but don't take your eye off the road--it's the original E-ticket ride in Los Angeles!

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Please send comments, suggestions or questions to Caltrans Scenic Highway Coordinator.