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Old Highway 395, Part 5: US 395 Bypass/Escondido Freeway (1950-1969), South Centre City Parkway in Escondido

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[US 395, 1957 -- 98K] Pomerado Road's narrow routing and twisty curves were already a liability by the 1940s, not to mention the traffic volumes heading into northern San Diego county. By 1950, the old routing along Pomerado had been relinquished for a new one-lane-per-direction bypass routing over the new Los Peñasquitos Creek crossing constructed in 1949, and is roughly the same routing Interstate 15 uses today. This key bridge still stands, now parallel to the Interstate, and is used as a bike route today; we will examine it closely in this Part. This revised routing, along with the old Pomerado Rd routing, can be seen on the 1957 map at right (click for a 98K enlargement in a new window).

Even this new routing got cramped quickly, and was expanded into expressway by 1965 up to Carmel Mountain Road. This was the extent of the upgraded US 395 up until its truncation in 1969 when the remainder of the planned upgrades were instead completed under the Interstate aegis; the freeway portions completed as US 395 were designated the Escondido Freeway and this term continues in the Interstate age, as we will discuss in Part 12.

In this section we will also proceed along the common routing of old and later US 395 in the southernmost part of the city of Escondido. The area that would become Escondido was first identified by Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza in 1776, although a Luiseño Indian presence in the valley was already well-established by then. In 1886, after the cessation of the area from Mexico to the United States several decades earlier, the land was acquired by the Escondido Land and Title Company and the town was laid out (incorporated in 1888). Where the name "Escondido" actually comes from is disputed: the name in Spanish literally means 'hidden' but it did not actually become associated with the region until 1861, when an "Escondido Mining Company" obtained gold mining concessions during a small local gold rush that persisted into the 1920s. No one knows why the name was chosen, although it may refer to its shallow valley being hidden by the surrounding hills; nevertheless, here is an interesting historical tale of Escondido. Today, the modern city's population numbers 133,559 [2000], growing from a small agriculture-based community to a large upscale modern city. This common routing will split over the next sections into the earlier routing through San Marcos, Vista, Bonsall and Fallbrook, and the later routing which is now signed as Old Highway 395 parallel to Interstate 15.

I have intentionally photographed very sparsely on Interstate 15 in this edition because of the large amount of construction occurring between San Diego and Escondido, especially on the upgraded managed lanes and new transit connectors. This project is slated for completion somewhere around 2012, at which point you can look forward to a refresh. ;-)


US 395 Bypass (1950-1969) and Interstate 15 (Escondido Freeway)

Back in Part 3, we split off into a fork crossing over the modern I-15 Miramar Rd interchange, and chose the earlier routing along Pomerado Rd. This time, we choose the later routing which is mostly under Interstate 15 itself.

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As we enter Poway this time from the west side, if we exited Scripps Poway Pkwy, we would find a small side street leading down parallel to the freeway named Cara Way.

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This road ends abruptly, so bring a bike or your walking shoes.

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At this vantage point we can see the Interstate and this single lane road ending at the sign just to the right of image centre. From there a path travels down beside the I-15 bridge. The road continues parallel to a dead end at a pumping station.

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Park now, please.

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Like the Old Highway 395 Trail in Part 4, this section of road is relatively well preserved in its original form except for some patching and edge surfacing for bike traffic.

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At the end of the path, we come to an obviously older crossing and sit in the shadow of the much larger Interstate one. This is Los Penasquitos Creek; the older crossing, of course, is former US 395.

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[Parallel US 395 bridges, 1965, 61K.] What are today the southbound lanes of I-15 were actually built as the southbound lanes of US 395 as part of the 1965 upgrades, as shown during their construction in the thumbnail at right (click for a 61K enlargement). The old US 395 then became purely northbound. New northbound Interstate 15 lanes were built in 1977 between the earlier bridges, after which the US 395 bridge was converted to bike duty. Mark Furqueron has a picture of the original bridges in operation in 1975, including the old exit configuration, before the 1977 bridge was built.

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Above us on the Interstate is a marker for the Knott Memorial Bridge, named for Cara Knott, a 20-year-old college student who was strangled on an isolated portion of nearby Mercy Road in 1986. Her body was found under the original US 395 crossing in the wee hours of the following day with her abandoned car still on the asphalt; a tip led investigators to California Highway Patrol officer Craig Peyer, whom the District Attorney hypothesized had apparently strangled her when she spurned his advances. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in a second trial, the first having deadlocked, in 1988. Offered a chance in 1994 for DNA testing to uphold or overturn his conviction, Peyer declined.

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Looking at the creek bottom.

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[Old US 395 two-lane bypass routing in Poway, 1965, 50K.] Looking down the old US 395 bridge. Drivers probably saw something similar in 1965, as seen in the thumbnail at right (click for a 50K enlargement). Notice that both lanes of traffic were then on this bridge because US 395 was only one-lane-per-direction, and the congestion is obvious.

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Old Hwy 395 marking on the bridge (added by the city).

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The later white striping is still visible on the bridge.

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A 1949 bridge date is stamped into the approaches on both sides.

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Some of the striping extends off the bridge onto the asphalt.

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Looking at the superstructure from the parallel trail to the east. Although not an especially high crossing, it is rather long for its era and open spandrel type with a total beginning-to-end length of 434' and an arch span at the base of 220'.

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Looking at the supports.

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The creek under the older bridge, partially hidden by the trees.

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Comparing the later bridges with the old US 395 bridge, which dwarf it in sheer mass and height.

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The parallel road continues beside us to the pumping station with its fascinating bas-reliefs on the retaining walls. These are part of the Rock of Aegis, built and designed by Philip Merlin Matzigkeit and commissioned in 1998. The symbols are modeled on old Kumeyaay petrographs.

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A garden sits in the shadow of the bridges, with a nearby place to sit. The garden is named the San Diego Crime Victims Oak Garden and was founded by Sam Knott, father of Cara.

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On that seat is a memorial to Mr. Knott, from "his poker buddies."

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The rest of the garden is beautifully planted.

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A picnic area sits under the shade of a gazebo along the north end of the garden.

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Heading back.

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Continuing north on Interstate 15 towards Escondido. The new construction on the managed lanes is visible in the background.

This and the next series of several photographs into Escondido are my old photos; they will be retaken once the construction is finished.

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Crossing Lake Hodges on I-15, with the new construction in parallel. In 1968, the 1919/1955 bridges we saw in Part 4 were finally demolished and replaced with this bridge which was built for the new Interstate 15. It was upgraded again in 1981, and is being widened a third time at the time of this writing.

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Escondido city limits, at the Via Rancho Pkwy exit (with the Trail from Part 4 on the right of us).

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Interstate 15 curls around Escondido to the west -- this was originally intended as the US 395 bypass and was adopted in 1961 but wasn't actually built until 1977. On US 395's last day of life in San Diego in 1969, this was in fact as far north as the original Escondido Freeway in San Diego county went; we'll come back to it ever so briefly since it's not actually and never was US 395. Instead, we exit here at Centre City Parkway, which is also now designated as Business Route 15 and is actually excellently signed for a business alignment (unlike poor Business Route 8). We will not resume the Escondido Freeway designation until we reach I-215 in Part 12.

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Centre City Parkway and Escondido Blvd

Centre City Parkway is the prelude to our great split in northern San Diego county and the two "forks" are seen in the image: Centre City Parkway (formerly Pine Street), the uppermost road we're on and the 1949 bypass of downtown Escondido, and old Escondido Boulevard (formerly Nutmeg Street), the original routing of US 395 and CA 71. The split here is artificial; both used the same turf until the construction of the Interstate 15 freeway, and subsequent extension of Escondido Blvd to the south has now rendered the two old highways fully separated.

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Signage for Escondido Blvd.

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First Business Route 15 shield and an END FREEWAY sign, a holdover from when this was temporarily Interstate 15 (until 1977).

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A Nevada-style "PREPARE TO STOP WHEN FLASHING" overhead that was simply replaced with less useful traffic warning signs, at Citracado Parkway, the next major junction.

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Just past Citracado Pkwy, Escondido Blvd splits off to the downtown segment. For Part 6, we will follow it and continue the old routing first.

Continue to Part 6

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