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Old Highway 395, Part 14: US 395/US 91 from Riverside to San Bernardino County via Market St/Riverside Fwy

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By the mid 1950s a tremendous amount of traffic was passing through the Inland Empire, not only from US 91 and southern Los Angeles bound for Las Vegas and points north, but US 60 was also becoming a major east-west arterial between Phoenix and Los Angeles, and increasing population in San Diego started putting even more pressure on US 395. Initial steps were taken in 1949 to rectify the situation with the opening of the La Cadena Freeway, connecting Riverside to Colton, but the first real relief did not come until this section of the Riverside Freeway was built from 1957 to 1959 (US 91 and US 91/US 395).

[US 60-US 395 Moreno Valley Fwy through eastern Riverside, 1963, 119K.] In 1961, the other portion of the equation was built in the form of the Moreno Valley Freeway, its first segment from Orange St east to the 8th St/University Avenue deviation, and subsequently extended further west to Sunnyslope as the continuation of the Pomona Fwy in 1963. The thumbnail at right shows the Moreno Valley Freeway as it existed in 1963; click for a 119K enlargment with 8th St (University Avenue, Part 13), US 91 (then the Riverside Fwy) and the young University of California Riverside marked on the image. The groves and groves of oranges everywhere seem incongruous to those of us who routinely travel through the modern city.

[Riverside Interchange as originally constructed in 1961, photo 1963.] The centrepiece of the new freeway was its new intersection with the Riverside Freeway, appropriately named the Riverside Interchange. Today the junction of Interstate 215, CA 91 and CA 60 (with its outputs running, starting west and going clockwise, WB CA 60, NB I-215, SB I-215/EB CA 60, and "WB" [actually SB in this stretch] CA 91), this humble cloverleaf, as depicted in the 1963 photograph at right, rapidly became the gridlocked focus of every southern IE commuter and the interchange drivers loved to hate as long backups and traffic snarls resulting from overcapacity ramps and drivers unable to understand the meaning of the word 'merge' conspired to make it one of the most congested junctions in the entire state.

In 2002, the first set of "targeted improvements" to certain high traffic areas and to facilitate further upgrades were started by Caltrans District 8, completed at a cost of $16 million by 2004. This upgrade rebuilt the Spruce Street bridge, changed the EB CA 60 onramp from Orange Street to Main Street and widened the undercrossing bridges at University Avenue, Mission Inn Avenue and Third Street along CA 91. We saw one of these widened bridges in Part 13 when we crossed under it on University.

[Artist's rendition of completed interchange, Caltrans District 8.] In 2004, Caltrans District 8, the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Federal Highway Administration started work on what as of this writing is the largest and most complex public works project ever in the Inland Empire. With an estimated price tag of $317 million, the project will construct four miles of new HOV lanes plus widened regular traffic lanes on all three freeways (with new bridges at Linden Ave, Iowa St and Blaine Ave to accommodate the wider alignments), add new soundwalls and retaining walls, add a new Martin Luther King Blvd interchange, add a truck bypass to the Moreno Valley Interchange, reconstruct the Moreno Valley Interchange flyover, and improve the Blaine, University Ave, Central Ave and (CA 60) Day St interchanges. The upgrades also completely and permanently removed the CA 91 Poplar Street interchange, and the I-215 El Cerrito Drive interchange (Part 13).

However, the biggest news is that the project also intends to significantly improve the Riverside Interchange and replace the two most congested movements with flyovers, finally gutting the much maligned and underdesigned cloverleaf, as shown in the Caltrans artist's impression at left. A towering flyover ramp ("NW Connector") will connect NB I-215/WB CA 60 with "WB" CA 91, over a mile long with a peak vertical clearance of 72', and a second flyover ("SE Connector") will connect SB I-215 to SB I-215/EB CA 60, approximately 2/3 mile long and a peak vertical clearance of 65', leaving a "quarter leaf and diamond" on the lesser movements from "EB" CA 91 to WB CA 60 and SB I-215 to WB CA 60. Due to the massive support requirements for the NW Connector, it is supported by 26 columns reaching up to 135' in depth through 12' pile shafts, while the SE Connector is "only" supported by 16 such columns down to 115'. New signage will be erected at the new interchanges, and the alignments leading to and leaving the Interchange will be widened with extra lanes. As of this writing (fall 2008), both flyovers are built and in operation and have already greatly improved commute times through the Interchange. Although no official date is given, it is probable that most of the major work should be complete by 2009-10. For road closure information and public inquiry, please see the official Caltrans District 8 60/91/215 Improvement Project Home Page.

Incidentally, similar improvements are planned and in progress for I-215 in San Bernardino county. We will discuss that more in Part 17.

[Four phases of 395: 1933, 1937, 1947, 1959.] US 395 via Market Street (1940s-1959): University Avenue (Old Eighth Street)

Back to downtown Riverside first, though, as we now take the alternate alignment down 8th St/University Ave to Market St and up that to Main. For the history of this change, look back at Part 13, but in short this alternate routing around what is now the Main St Pedestrian Mall seems to have been designated between 1937 and 1947.

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Junction Market Street and US 91 until 1959, continuing up from Magnolia Avenue from the south. For an unspecified period of time, this was also part of BUSINESS US 91 and later BR CA 91. We turn right.

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Market Street

Market St/old CA 18/old US 60/old US 91/old US 395 (sheesh), coming up on 7th St/modern Mission Inn Avenue.

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Mission Inn Avenue was where US 60 turned west towards Los Angeles on the continuation of LRN 19. It isn't certain whether this brief portion with US 60 and US 91 together was part of LRN 19 (US 60) or LRN 43 (CA 18/US 91), but we now continue for sure on LRN 43.

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Fifth St. The Convention Center in Part 13 is to the right.

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Third St.

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1st St. US 91/CA 18 and US 395 turned right here and so do we.

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First Street

We only sit on First St for a block before we get to Main St.

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And here we are, uniting our fork from the end of Part 13, as we turn left onto Main St.

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US 395 via Downtown Riverside (1934-1959): Main Street

Up to the northern city limits Main St passes through this older industrial-commercial zone.

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Spruce St.

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Unlike what many have surmised, though, our mini-maps above show that US 91/CA 18 and US 395 did not continue straight on along Main, but diverged east on what is now a quiet residential street, Russell St. We turn right.

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Russell Street

Orange Street. The top flyover ("NW Connector") for the Riverside Interchange (WB CA 60/NB I-215 to "WB" [SB] CA 91) is now visible.

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Continuing down this palm-lined street.

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Mulberry St and an imposing sculpted friend.

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End of Russell St. As we saw on the mini-maps above, this is roughly where we would have turned left onto what was then the southern extension of La Cadena Drive, and after 1949, the La Cadena Freeway. With the construction of the Riverside Freeway this connector was completely cut off.

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So, here's some construction p0rn of the flyovers during their construction. The lower ramp is the SB I-215 to EB CA 60/SB I-215 connector (the "SE Connector"), and the ground "leaf" is the EB CA 60 to NB I-215 connector.

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Expansions being made on the CA 60 bridge crossing. CA 91 is the road at the bottom with the white K-rail.

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Looking south at CA 91 and the EB CA 60 to "WB" [SB] CA 91 connector.

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A final look at the understructure of the NW Connector.

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[La Cadena Drive expressway at Down Street, 1952, 48K.] From the Riverside Interchange north to the San Bernardino county line, what was formerly La Cadena Drive on the mini-maps is now under the asphalt of Interstate 215, and what is now signed as West and East La Cadena on either side of the modern freeway was reconstructed frontage road built as part of the Riverside Fwy project. However, a small section of the original concrete and asphalt still peeps through on W La Cadena Dr just north of the Interchange. Compare this view of the old road and the Interstate with the picture at right, taken in 1952 (click for a 48K enlargement). This is the old 1949 La Cadena Freeway, complete with CA 18, US 91 and US 395 shields, just north of what is now the Riverside Interchange at a now obliterated junction with Down Street. Notice that other than the locations of the roadbeds, the general layout is very similar.

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If we look south instead of north, we can also see the reverse angle where the trajectory of the concrete took us back to the stub end of Russell St. The newly constructed frontage road south of here curls back to Strong St and thence across Orange and Main Sts.

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From the northbound view again, we can see where its trajectory took it under the southbound lanes of the Interstate from where it will emerge again at the beginning of Part 15. We'll pick it up there and instead rewind to cover the rest of the ...

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US 60/US 395 Moreno Valley Freeway (1961-1969)

We continue this portion west of the University Avenue exit, where we branched off in Part 13. These photographs were taken during the construction of the expanded Mo Val Fwy in 2007. I will replace them with new photographs, like in the last Part, when the construction is complete. The quality of these pictures is considerably poorer because there was no safe place to set up, and they are mostly windshield shots, so I apologize for the abrupt stylistic change.

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Going under the Blaine St exit.

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Approaching the Riverside Interchange.

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Riverside Interchange Construction (2007-8)

During its construction, we were graced with these temporary signs.

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The NW Connector makes its way towards CA 91 on our right, with the SE Connector visible beneath it. The right "lanes" will connect to I-215 NB.

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This old sign on SB I-215/EB CA 60 used to mark the beginning of the Moreno Valley Fwy at the interchange, but was wrecked during construction.

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[US shield edge damage from 2004 Riverside Interchange.] Original Riverside Interchange (Rot In Pieces)

Just to show you what those of us who drive this area routinely had to contend with, I raided my photoarchives for what I had left of the old interchange signage and layout. This was one of the first pictures I took for the original six-part Old Highway 395, in December 2004, shortly before the sign was taken down. Notice at that time that CA 91 and I-215 were crammed together on a single low-capacity collector/distributor arrangement that was always backed up with CA 91 traffic (it will become rapidly obvious why). One other thing to notice is a suspicious pattern of glue damage under the NORTH -- while the I-215 undoubtedly covers up an I-15E shield, something else used to be on this sign (contrast enhancement at right).

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If we continued along the C/D we would come to this split, where traffic coming up from the "EB" [NB] side of CA 91 (behind us) would have to weave across traffic trying to get on the 25mph leaf to "WB" [SB] CA 91 to get onto WB CA 60. That worked about as well as it sounds.

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But don't worry, because once you got off onto "EB" [NB] CA 91, then you had the same situation with traffic trying to get onto SB I-215/EB CA 60, and that's why CA 91 traffic was always backed up onto the C/D (which in this view is on the bridge above us). And, of course, ain't nobody ever heard of yield around here. My least favourite trick was people zooming up to the gore point and then horning in, daring you to hit them. I cut off a lot of people that way.

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This is a placeholder for the future I-215 exit, but here it was during construction.

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However, the Riverside Interchange, as bad as it was, did preserve one vital link to the past that I am delighted to note has so far survived the CA 60 widening. If we look at the underside of the CA 60 bridge (from either SB I-215 to WB CA 91 or EB CA 91 to NB I-215; this was from EB CA 91), we see that the Interchange still remembers its former masters on the bridge stenciling: "JCT 60-395/91-395 SEPARATION" (PM 21.64).

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Interstate 215

We now continue on I-215 NB, which was US 91/US 395 (and again, CA 18/US 91/US 395), part of which was the old La Cadena Dr under the SB lanes as I mentioned above, and later the Riverside Fwy.

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An old "Freeway" marker at Columbia Avenue, a holdover from the way the Division of Highways simply signed freeways as, well, Freeway.

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Center Street exit to Highgrove as we leave the Riverside city limits proper.

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And just after that, the San Bernardino county line and Colton city limits. Only recently was this sign replaced after having been down for a good several years, but the SBD PM 0.00 is still not there, so I've chosen to keep this older picture. The AHEAD/BACK postmile next to it is an internal fix for the +8.70 miles in Riverside county (see Part 13 for why this happens). In the next Part, however, we'll be looking at what the Interstate suddenly isn't covering up anymore.

Continue to Part 15

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