Angelenos torn over funds to fix CA's oldest freeway

The Pasadena freeway, also known by locals as "The 110"


Bill Radke: The oldest freeway in the car-loving state of California sits right outside our Marketplace studios, and it definitely is showing its age. The road is getting some much-needed repairs. Reporter Eve Troeh says it is also getting some cosmetic work done, and with California in a budget crisis, that has raised eyebrows.

Eve Troeh The Pasadena freeway hasn't changed much since it was built 60 years ago, with narrow lanes made for slower cars. Today, it's an infamous Los Angeles driving challenge. Just getting on it is harrowing. It doesn't have on-ramps. Only stop signs.

Troeh: Passenger has to be lookout, OK?

Rico Gagliano:Alright, after this second car here . . . all right go go go go go.

Troeh:OK OK OK OK. Oh my god.

Rico and I made it on OK. But that's just the beginning of this road's issues.

Dali Colorado: There's places where there's no fencing, places where there's no walls, where it just looks like it's abandoned.

Dali Colorado has lived most of her life near this freeway on the east side of L.A. She's thrilled the government is spending $17 million to make it safer with new medians and concrete side walls. Because she likes the ride.

Colorado: You can see the river, there's all this greenery, there's all these parks.

It's so pretty, the road's been named a national scenic byway. And that means another change. The Pasadena freeway is going back to its maiden name: the Arroyo Seco Parkway. All the signs have to be changed. It's costing taxpayers $650,000. A lot of Angelenos say that's way too much, like Jackie Gibson.

Jackie Gibson: Did we vote in it? I didn't! I mean there's better things we can do with that $650,000.

But the California Department of Transportation says the money came from a grant earmarked only for this project. Judy Gish is a spokesperson:

Judy Gish: Funds from the federal highway administration would not be able to be diverted to be used to fund schools.

Resident Dali Colorado agrees it's expensive, but she sees how the new -- old -- name could attract visitors.

Colorado: Open up Sunset magazine and it's like: come to the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway.

But she says probably only tourists would call it that. Locals will likely keep using the road's least romantic moniker: The 110.

In Los Angeles, I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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Actually, the Arroyo Seco Parkway is going on 70 years old.

Forget the highway, we need high speed rail.

Concerns over $650K spent on new signage seem to pale in comparison to spending $17M on so-called improvements that are poorly designed and executed (embossed concrete barrier walls), historically inaccurate (hokey quasi-Victorian light fixtures), destructive (removing many original features) and only marginally improve safety (no changes to on/off ramps or posted speeds). This same money could have been spent on making a grossly neglected freeway into a safer, historic and scenic byway instead of the far uglier, fake-historical mess that is now being built. That's the real story here.

Just for the record, not every entry and exit along the 110 north of downtown lacks an on ramp and off ramp: just certain exits have this predicament. Also, the area around the 110N is not in East Los Angeles, which is a specific, separate area of the city entirely. This area is actually the Arroyo Seco (http://www.arroyoseco.org/watershed.htm). Maybe specifically labeling the 110N "Arroyo Seco Parkway" will ensure people properly identify this unique and fascinating area. In any case, these names area commonly used in the news, traffic reports etc.- the Arroyo Seco (110 N downtown), the Golden State (5 North) the Harbor (110 S of downtown), the Hollywood (101 N to Hollywood), the Ventura (101 N past Hollywood) the San Diego (405S), the Santa Monica Freeway (10 W of downtown) and on and on. If there was ever a place where renaming a freeway was going to be worth the money, its Los Angeles

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