Los Angeles, California Highway History

By | December 5, 2022

1870 – 1940: First growth

According to answermba, by the late 1800s, Los Angeles was an insignificant town on the Los Angeles River. The first growth of the city took place after 1880, with the arrival of the first railway lines. In 1869, the first railroad opened between Los Angeles and the port town of San Pedro in the south, which would later become a Los Angeles neighborhood. More significant was the opening of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1876 and the California Southern Railroad in 1885. In 1892, oil was found on the site of Dodger Stadium now. In the early 20th century, many oil wells were found in the Los Angeles Basin, and by 1923, Los Angeles produced a quarter of the world’s oil. The early 20th century also saw rapid industrialization of the Los Angeles Basin, growing from 102,000 to 577,000 residents between 1900 and 1920. This growth continued until World War II. In 1909 the towns of San Pedro and Wilmington in the south became part of the city of Los Angeles, and Hollywood followed in 1910. In 1915, the San Fernando Valley became part of the city of Los Angeles, which tripled in size.

In 1926, the US Highway system was established, and US 66, known as Route 66, became a well-known highway. From that time on, the long-distance roads were massively paved, so that especially the western United States was better opened up. Before that it was isolated, with long journeys through the deserts of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. In 1911, the Los Angeles Aqueduct opened, providing the city with abundant water. This made large-scale farming possible with irrigation, especially east of the city, around the villages of San Bernardino and Riverside. In 1940 the city grew to 1.5 million inhabitants. However, there was no real large-scale suburbanization yet.

In 1935, the region’s first grade separated road, the Ramona Parkway, opened part of today’s Interstate 10 east of downtown. Yet before the Second World War, no plan was made for a large highway network, as Robert Moses did in New York City. The region was dotted with railway lines, which mainly had an industrial function.

1940 – 1956: Careful beginning

The proposed Interstate Highway network in Los Angeles in 1955.

World War II broke out for the United States in 1942, and Los Angeles quickly grew into an industrial center for the production of war materials. It was the second largest producer of automobiles after Detroit, and one of the country’s largest tire manufacturers. The first highway opened to traffic in 1940, the Arroyo Seco Parkway, between Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles, today part of State Route 110. In 1940 also opened the first 2 kilometers of the Hollywood Freeway. In 1944, the Ramona Parkway was widened towards Alhambra and El Monte. As early as the late 1930s, plans were being made for a highway between Los Angeles and Santa Ana, which would eventually become the Santa Ana Freeway would become. At that time, Anaheim and Santa Ana were clearly isolated places in the region, with their own center function. Construction of the highway began in 1947 and was completed in 1956, then part of US 101. The Golden State Freeway was also constructed at the same time, as a result of the Santa Ana Freeway through the northern neighborhoods of the city. Construction began in 1953, and this highway was completed in 1956. Since this area was already highly urban at that time, many buildings had to make way for construction.

After World War II, the suburbanization of Los Angeles County boomed, and the Los Angeles Basin was one of the first areas to be significantly urbanized. In the southeast are the Gateway Cities, industrial towns. The rivers through the region were channeled to curb seasonal flooding. A corridor of large-scale industry developed between downtown Los Angeles and Anaheim. The same happened in the San Gabriel Valley and the shared port of Los Angeles and Long Beach also increased in importance. Los Angeles International Airport also grew strongly in the 1950s. In the early 1950s, the city had a population of 2 million and a significant suburban area. The growth of Los Angeles County started in 1930, then mainly through the city of Los Angeles,

Yet a real highway plan never got off the ground. The city was soon plagued by traffic jams, as the city only had a few fast connections. In the 1950s, the San Bernardino Freeway was slowly extended eastwards to open up the agricultural area of the Inland Empire. Interstate 110 along downtown Los Angeles was also opened in the first half of the 1950s.

1956 – 1975: Interstate Highways

After the Interstate Highway system was established in 1956, the construction of the highways took off. Nearly all of Los Angeles’ freeways were built in 20 years. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, I-110 reached the ports of Los Angeles, and Interstate 405 was built through the north and west of the city. However, most of the infrastructure of that time was built in Los Angeles County. The Santa Monica Freeway opened in the first half of the 1960s. From the mid-1950s to 1965, Interstate 710 opened, serving freight traffic from ports to transfer stations in the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire.

From 1960, Orange County began to grow strongly, as Los Angeles County became increasingly saturated. Between 1960 and 1970 the population doubled to 1.4 million inhabitants. Initially, construction was mainly done around Anaheim and Santa Ana, and along the coast as far as Costa Mesa. Irvine has long been the southern boundary of the conurbation. The San Fernando Valley was also largely built up around that time. In 1967, the Garden Grove Freeway, connecting the ports of Long Beach to Santa Ana, opened and was the first tangential connection not running toward Los Angeles. Beginning in the late 1960s, State Route 57 was opened, which was extended to San Dimas in 1972. At that time, Interstate 210. also received in the north of the city form. In 1969, Interstate 405 was completed through Orange County.

In the late 1960s, State Route 118 ‘s northern east-west route through the San Fernando Valley was completed in 1979. In the mid-1970s, most highways were completed.

1975 – present: Congestion

In the first half of the 1970s almost all highways as we know them today were completed. However, suburbanization was accelerating, which soon put enormous pressure on the road network. Orange County grew to 3 million residents, with some suburbs more than 50 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Therefore, from the 1990s, a number of toll roads were built in Orange County, such as State Route 73, State Route 241, and the toll lanes on State Route 91. However, these were of little use overall for urban traffic, most of them being little more than short bypasses with no real relief on the highways.

Already in the 1970s, kilometer-long traffic jams and towering traffic intensities were commonplace in the urban area. However, with Orange County filling up in the late 1980s, the growth didn’t stop. As early as the early 1980s, western San Bernardino and Riverside County began to grow rapidly, continuing eastward through the 1990s and early 21st century. The once sparsely populated agricultural areas of the Inland Empire developed into a sub-agglomeration of 4 million inhabitants, with suburbs more than 100 kilometers from Los Angeles. However, the region remained mainly industrial, with many low-tech jobs. From the 1990s, a mass migration began in the area, housing prices around Los Angeles tripled in 10 years, starting a large-scale search for affordable housing.

The metropolitan area grew from 10 million in 1970 to 18 million in 2010. The Inland Empire filled up, and a fourth tidal wave of home seekers made its way north of the San Gabriel Mountains, in the deserts north of the city. from 2000, remote desert towns such as Palmdale and Apple Valley began to grow strongly. The population is also growing in Ventura County, but not as quickly as in other areas. These places are 100 to 80 miles from downtown Los Angeles, causing long commutes for commuters, who saw their commute increase to 2 hours or even more, one way.

The last major highway opening was Interstate 105 in 1993. It forms an additional east-west route through the Los Angeles Basin. In the early 1990s, a number of toll roads were also opened in Orange County, the added value of which is relatively limited, however. In 2007, Interstate 210 was completed at San Bernardino.


There are a number of reasons why the Los Angeles highway network has barely expanded since the 1970s. The 1971 San Fernando earthquake caused approximately $500 million in damage (1971 dollars) and the destruction of a number of highway segments, such as the grid opened up Newhall Interchange in north Los Angeles. Then came the oil crises that changed the view of highway construction. In the late 1970s, bills were also passed by voters that lowered taxes. The fuel tax is 64.5 cents per gallon in 2009, or approximately € 0.12 per liter. In Western Europe, the tax burden on fuel is almost ten times higher. As a result, too little money is being raised to structurally widen highways. Almost all highway plans after 1975 have been cancelled, and only the highways already under construction were completed. One of the few exceptions was the completion of I-105 in 1993 and the completion of I-210 in 2007. In addition, some toll roads have been built in the periphery in Orange County, which, however, do not cover most of the urban area. can bring relief. However, since the end of highway construction in the 1970s, the population has grown by 8 million inhabitants, and is still growing at about 200,000 inhabitants per year, increasing the problems every year. Ultimately, only 61% of the which, however, cannot provide relief for most of the urban area. However, since the end of highway construction in the 1970s, the population has grown by 8 million inhabitants, and is still growing at about 200,000 inhabitants per year, increasing the problems every year. Ultimately, only 61% of the which, however, cannot provide relief for most of the urban area. However, since the end of highway construction in the 1970s, the population has grown by 8 million inhabitants, and is still growing at about 200,000 inhabitants per year, increasing the problems every year. Ultimately, only 61% of the lane kilometers of the master plan from 1954, while the population has increased faster than could be foreseen at the time.


The traffic jam problem has in fact remained constant during the 80s, 90s and 2000s. However, the traffic jam problem continued to spread further away from the city. Traffic jams are already starting 60 to 70 kilometers outside of Downtown Los Angeles, which has caused several subcenters to emerge, especially in Orange County. Slowly this is also starting to take shape in the Inland Empire. The metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Diego are separated by a large naval base, Camp Pendleton. But the Inland Empire and San Diego are increasingly growing together. In fact, the south of the Inland Empire is actually closer to downtown San Diego than that of Los Angeles. The increasing population is putting increasing pressure on the functioning of the city. House prices are skyrocketing and travel times are becoming unacceptable.

However, traffic jams are an accepted fact in and around Los Angeles. All extensions of the motorway network are quickly absorbed because the peak periods are particularly wide and last 8 hours a day. Despite this, expanding the highway network is not seen as pointless by Caltrans, which has several ambitious plans. From time to time, visions and plans for making double-decker highways pop up, although they rarely turn into serious plans. Lack of money is a big problem, as is deferred maintenance. Many highways still have the original road surface from the 60s and 70s and are made of concrete. Recent plans include widening a number of highways, including the Santa Ana Freeway and tunneling under the Santa Ana Mountains that separate the Inland Empire from Orange County. The mountains to the north are a major obstacle, steep mountains up to 3,000 meters and a width of 30 kilometers, making road tunnels not a realistic option. Today, only two highways open up the fast-growing area north of the conurbation. The furthest suburb is Banning, 140 kilometers from downtown via I-10.

Los Angeles, California Highway History