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America's First Freeway

Part 2: Northbound Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110)

Go to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

[Los Angeles 1947-1999] This scrolling map shows this route and other important nearby Los Angeles routes in 1947, 1957, 1965, 1976, 1984 and 1999.

Click the thumbnail to open the map in a new window.

[This photoessay is presented with a 16:9 aspect ratio.] In the second part of our three-part photoessay, we travel the Harbor Freeway northbound back through the Four-Level Interchange (which we did in abridged form southbound in Part 1).

One of Los Angeles' major plumbline arterials, the genesis of the Harbor Freeway started with the 1924 widening of Figueroa Street, which stretched (and still does) all the way from Pasadena to the Port Los Angeles in San Pedro, and was designated as part of the original surface alignment of CA 11 in 1934. (On the north end, as signed in 1934, CA 11 then proceeded from Figueroa along Colorado Blvd to Linda Vista Ave and took it north to then-CA 118 on Foothill Blvd where it terminated. The discontinuous northern pieces signed as Figueroa St between present-day CA 134 and La Cañada Flintridge were never part of CA 11.) This was Legislative Route Number 165 in its entirety, though the exact routing varied somewhat prior to CA 11's signage which I will not discuss here. From 1937 the section south of US 99, then on San Fernando Road and Avenue 26 in downtown Los Angeles before moving to the Golden State Fwy, was also US 6.

Originally the Harbor Parkway as planned was supposed to split into an East By-Pass and West By-Pass roughly around where the University of Second Choice Spoiled Children Southern California is now. The East By-Pass was never built as planned (CA 47 and the Terminal Island Fwy/Industrial Fwy may be considered a successor in part), but the West By-Pass was successfully built through downtown Los Angeles and opened in 1952 renamed as the first part of the Harbor Freeway. As sections opened, US 6/CA 11 moved to the new freeway alignment: to Washington Blvd in 1954, 42nd St in 1956, Century Blvd in 1958, Alondra Blvd in 1960 and finally CA 1/Pacific Coast Hwy in 1962. Until its truncation to Bishop in 1964 US 6 then diverged east along CA 1 to terminate at the Long Beach traffic circle, leaving CA 11 to continue alone. A second piece was built between Channel St and CA 1 in 1956, and the final portion south of Channel St connecting to the Vincent Thomas Bridge that we traveled in Part 1 was opened in 1970. The Interstate designation was granted in 1978 and the route number was moved from the unsigned designation of the western spur of I-10 at the East L.A. Interchange, having lapsed since 1968. Although treated as part of Interstate 10, the spur between the US 101/Hollywood Fwy and the I-10/San Bernardino Fwy is no longer technically part of the Interstate system and is better considered as an unsigned CA 10.

Harbor Freeway Northbound (Interstate 110)

Starting on northbound Gaffey St in San Pedro approaching the highway. The portion from 9th St to Gaffey St was once part of Route 110, but was relinquished to the City of Los Angeles to start at CA 47 in 2008.

Signage for NB I-110 and "NB" (actually eastbound in this stretch) CA 47). Note the special Gaffey St markers.
Turnoff onto the freeway.
CA 47 has an immediate exit (unsigned exit 1A). The I-110 is on an obvious coverplate.
From "SB" (westbound) CA 47, I-110 was not coverplated, and a CA 11 shield could be seen peeping out from under it. This sign has been since replaced, sadly.
Channel St (exit 1B), the demarcation line between the 1970 terminus stub and the 1956 section to CA 1.
CA 1/the Pacific Coast Highway (exit 4), between the 1956 segment and the 1962 segment; historic US 6 joins us here.
Advance signage for Interstate 405/San Diego Fwy, both coverplates over CA 11s.
I-405 separation and advance signage for CA 91/Gardena Fwy. Notice the left sign is incompletely covering up an even older one.
This portion is well west of its better known incarnation as the Riverside Fwy, which does not officially start until its interchange with Interstate 5 in Buena Park. The section of CA 91 between the Riverside and Gardena Fwys is the Artesia Fwy, which lies east of its interchange with Interstate 710/the Long Beach Fwy. Neither the Gardena Fwy nor much of the Artesia Fwy was part of old US 91; their prior surface alignments were original CA 14 (BTGR), which was added to CA 91 after the 1964 Great Renumbering when US 91 was decommissioned in California, and the freeway was built between 1965 and 1975.
... lots of advance signage.
CA 91/Gardena Fwy EB separation.
CA 91 WB separation. This is, in fact, a very brief stub; state maintenance ends at the end of the freeway at Vermont Avenue.
CA 91, and CA 14 (BTGR) before it, used to extend to CA 1 in Hermosa Beach. The segment between Vermont and Western Avenues was relinquished to the City of Gardena in 1997, and the remainder to CA 1 abandoned in 2003. However, shields remained up for some time afterwards, including this one I spotted in 2004 at Prospect Ave just before the former terminus at CA 1.
Advance signage for Interstate 105/the Glenn Anderson Fwy, formerly the Century Fwy (and the name I still hear more often).
The highway is named for U.S. Rep. Glenn M. Anderson (D), who represented the area from 1969 to 1993 and was, for just three years, chair of the House Transportation Committee. His district, including Carson, San Pedro and Long Beach, was carved up in 1991 and he did not run for Congress again, passing away in 1994 from Alzheimer's. He was a long advocate of the Century Fwy's construction, which after several decades of community controversy finally occurred between 1982 and 1993, and it was named in his honour upon its opening in 1994 (after the empty freeway was used to film the movie Speed). Notable among the houses demolished for its construction was the childhood home of the Beach Boys' Wilson brothers.

I-105 was originally the designation for the portion of the Santa Ana Fwy, previously US 101, from I-5 to then-I-110 (now unsigned CA 10, as above). It reverted to US 101 in 1968 and is still US 101 today.

I-105/Anderson Fwy EB separation.
I-105 WB separation as we approach the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange.
Under the interchange, with high stacks shooting out all over.
Judge Harry Pregerson was the federal judge presiding over Keith v. Volpe, filed in 1972 alleging violation of civil rights and environmental policies during I-105's construction. Pregerson put construction on hold until the construction could comply, and in 1979 a consent decree imposed multiple additional conditions and required housing removed to build the highway be replaced. Part of the decree also ordered construction in some sections to be built into a below-grade viaduct for noise control, necessitating an expensive sump system when groundwater intrusion destabilized the new construction. He remained with the case until its conclusion despite his promotion to a higher court, and the interchange was named in his honour in 1993.

The interchange is over 130' in height and has five levels, the top-most being an HOV lane flyover from I-110 SB to I-105 WB. The bus in Speed jumped a CGI gap in this ramp, but the ramp had been fully constructed by that time, so the stunt was entirely artificial. The interchange also accommodates Metro light rail and the I-110 bus transitway, and as such is also Caltrans' first multi-modal highway interchange.

Manchester Avenue exit (2009 and 2018), former CA 42 (a ghostly shield appears more clearly in the 2009 image).
CA 42 originally existed as CA 10 (BTGR) from 1934 to 1960 between Inglewood at CA 1 and US 101 in Santa Ana, but only the portion to Norwalk was signed as such. It was renumbered to CA 42 in 1960 due to confusion with I-10 but extended from Norwalk east along an unbuilt routing to CA 39 and Imperial Highway in Orange county, taking the latter to then-US 91. After the 1964 construction of I-605 in that region, everything east of it was moved to CA 90 in 1965 and 1968, including the unconstructed portion which remains unbuilt to this day (and part of why CA 90 has a big gap in it).

In 1968, the Century Fwy was plotted and the routing of western CA 42 was added to the Interstate system as unsigned I-105. However, almost everything through to I-5 remained signed as CA 42 even after I-105 was opened, and the highway wasn't eventually relinquished until 2000.

CA 42 separation (exit 16).
VMS signage with minutes to downtown. Rarely is it this low.
NB I-110 as we sink below the HOV lanes.
HOV lanes running above the highway.
Advance signage for I-10/Santa Monica Fwy, which we last saw in Part 1. Also note in the express HOV lanes to our left an exit to Figueroa St, paralleling us all this distance.
Signage for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Coliseum, used fairly ineptly by the University of Southern California's fairly inept football team, was commissioned in 1921 as a memorial to Los Angeles World War I veterans. By 2028, it will have hosted the Summer Olympics three times, namely 1932, 1984 and 2028. It seats 77,500 Trojan fans who wouldn't know a better college football team if it jumped up and bit them. Sincerely, a University of California graduate.
A pretty good view of the Los Angeles skyline as we sink below the HOV lanes again.
End of the express lanes (2009 and 2018).
In the 2009 image it reads "END CARPOOL LANE," but by 2018 it changed to "EXPRESS LANE ENDS."
Adams Blvd exit (exit 20C) as we approach the Santa Monica and the end of I-110.
The interchange also serves Pico Blvd downtown.
A very old sign still up, with obvious CA 110 coverplates over what were formerly CA 11 shields.
Approaching the interchange, newer pullthrus were put up to reduce weaving.
Separation, again with old late 1960s/early 1970s signage, use of freeway name and control cities for I-10 instead of cardinal directions, and CA 110 coverplates over the CA 11s. This is the end of Interstate 110.
Harbor Freeway Northbound (CA 110)

The run-up to the Four-Level from the south side has some interesting signage, so I'm going to do this in blocks due to notable changes between 2009 and 2018. At this point CA 110 splits into an "express" set of central lanes and a "local" collector/distributor assembly into the downtown slot; we will compare how things appeared then and now.


Downtown C/D signed as "Downtown, 9th & 6th Sts" (exit 22A).
This is using the old 1971-style exit tabs before California's wide use of exit numbering; the Division of Highways installed 313 of these tabs on 141 exits over 5 Los Angeles freeways. The cost was judged prohibitive and they clashed with the pre-existing postmile system, leading to their abandonment. Exit numbers did not return to California until 2002, but where exit numbers were previously posted they have remained the same.
Separation and signage for 4th & 3rd Sts (exit 22B).
The skyline in 2009.
Exit 22B.
Advance signage for US 101, signed US 101 north and I-5 south, as before.


The downtown C/D is now signed plainly "All Downtown Exits."
Despite being CA 110, a single misplaced I-110 shield appears just past it.
Separation. 4th and 3rd are now consolidated with 9th and 6th into "DOWNTOWN."
9th/6th, now signed James M. Wood Blvd and 9th, as a consolidated exit 22; old exit 22B was since obliterated.
The name is for labour leader Jim Wood, who as head of the city Community Redevelopment Agency during Mayor Tom Bradley's tenure led a downtown rebuilding effort partnership between unions and developers during the 1970s and 1980s. Alternately hailed and reviled for his stoic calm during sometimes contentious public meetings, he returned to head the county AFL-CIO affilate in 1995 before dying of lung cancer in 1996.
Advance signage for US 101, now "just" US 101.
6th St and 4th/3rd St exits from the C/D to the right, on persisting original signage.
Four-Level Interchange (Northbound)

Advance signage for the Four-Level Interchange (2009 and 2018).
The 2009 sign (at PM 23.1) shows sign artist Richard Ankrom's famous "guerilla public service" change. Out of frustration over poor signage of the separated north I-5 exit, Ankrom constructed a California MUTCD-compliant NORTH and Interstate 5 shield complete with correct Pantone colours and hand-made button copy, and signed his name on the back. Taking advantage of traffic cones out for nearby unrelated Caltrans work, in broad daylight, recorded by friends with video cameras, he went onto the gantry catwalk and installed his additions as a service to future motorists in August 2001. Those elements are at the upper left.

Technically, what Ankrom did was vandalism, something I ordinarily despise. However, it's hard to be critical of a signage change that was not only accurate and useful, and addressed an acknowledged fault, but was additionally designed to be completely congruent with the existing sign itself. Indeed, the three sign crews that service the area all thought it was work done by one of the others, and Ankrom's stunt went officially unnoticed for over nine months until a friend leaked the story to the press. Caltrans, to its credit, promptly inspected Ankrom's additions, determined they were accurate and structurally sound, and left them in place. Ankrom produced a DVD detailing the process and the footage from the installation, which I bought a copy of as a small thank-you being one of the motorists who benefitted, and the video is now available for free on YouTube.

In November 2010, Caltrans replaced the old button copy signs with the newer retroreflective versions seen in the 2018 image, and reportedly sold Ankrom's work for scrap. This was claimed according to their standard maintenance schedule, which I dispute, since there are loads of signs beyond their use-by date floating around DTLA even now (to my delight, I must add). But it does seem that Ankrom's point was made because the new sign clearly marks NORTH I-5, and it is also clearly marked on other new ones posted in the area.

Ankrom is allegedly up to other acts of guerilla public service, but in 2018 informed KABC-7 he couldn't say what they were, as he has "to wait for the statute of limitations so I don't go to jail."

"No trucks" signage is everywhere, and appears to be multiplying like hamsters.
More advance signage (2009 and 2018). Ankrom did not change this sign, but the later 2010 version also signs north I-5.
Separation (2009 and 2018). Again, north I-5 is well-signed today, so Ankrom's work lives on in spirit.
The split, at least in 2018, still used old button copy.
Compare the split with this image from the late 1950s taken by the Automobile Club of Southern California. US 101 south and north is clearly signed for both the Hollywood Fwy and Santa Ana Fwy, with US 66 on the Hollywood and US 99 on the Santa Ana, and both with the cats-eye reflector style then in use. This also uses white signage and is probably slightly later than the black signage we saw in Part 1.

Assemblies did exist showing CA 11 and US 6 as well as US 66, 99 and 101 all at the same time; here is a nice example.

Recall that US 66 and US 99 both join us here northbound, so we continue as CA 110 and former CA 11, US 6, US 66 and US 99.

A CA 11 postmile at PM 23.69 as we pass through the Four-Level again as "Level 2."
Advance signage for Dodger Stadium and I-5.
Exit to Dodger Stadium (exit 24B) as we leave the Harbor Freeway.
Continue to Part 3
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