21 February 2010

Carbon Canyon Road State Route 142 History

The origins of the California state highway system go back to 1895 with the creation of the Bureau of Highways.  That year, the first state-mandated road laws were drawn up and published.  The following year, a change was made to the bureau, which was rechristened the Department of Highways.  Because of fallout from the national Depression of 1893, however, very little was done with respect to building and maintaining state highways.  The first of these was a road from Placerville, an 1849 gold town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to Lake Tahoe, which opened in 1895.  Still, the number of highways was very small and these were still being mainly used by horse-drawn vehicles.

In 1907, as automobiles were starting to become less a novelty and more commonplace, another transformation took place as the highway department became the Division of Highways under the aegis of the Department of Engineering.  Again, the economic outlook was not good with a significant recession that began that year.  Despite a state highway act passed by the legislature in 1909, followed by an $18 million bond act approved the next year by voters, there were, two years later, only 550 miles of state highways built and operating.  Meantime, in 1914, Carbon Canyon Road was engineered and built through from the Olinda oil field in Brea in Orange County to Chino in San Bernardino County.  The road wasn't paved, but it was a passable route.

As the 1920s dawned, however, the car was becoming a transportation staple in California and the state was becoming known as the biggest market in the world for the automobile.  At the start of the decade, there were 6,400 miles, a figure that grew by a little under 20% to 7,700 miles by 1931.  In the mid-1920s, the completion of Los Serranos Country Club in Chino and interest in its developers and operators in bringing a faster route to the club and associated housing subdivision from Los Angeles, the gradual development of shortcuts from inland areas to Southland beaches, and a demand for tourist and weekend pleasure driving routes led to the paving and rerouting of Carbon Canyon Road.  Even though the Great Depression was worsening, the first big boom period for state highway construction was between 1931 and 1933, when the mileage shot up to almost 14,000 miles, nearly double in just two years.

The early Thirties, in fact, brought about a major change to the state highway system.  Numbered roads had been part of a federal highway system since the 1920s, including such roadways as US-101, US-91, US-395, and the famous US-66.  But, in 1933 numbered state highways were introduced.  Among those designated was Carbon Canyon Road, which was from Route 90 (later Imperial Highway) to Route 71 (today's Chino Valley Freeway, previously the Corona Expressway) and given the highway number 177.  Interestingly, the new highway was originally started at what is now Kraemer Avenue and didn't get relocated to its current Valencia Avenue terminus until much later.  Despite the designation, Carbon Canyon Road was never actually provided with signage as Highway 177.

Between 1933 and 1954, there was relatively little highway construction as the Great Depression worsened, followed by the ration years of World War II when resources were devoted almost exclusively to the war effort.  By the mid-Fifties, however, a new economic boom was on and in tandem with a massive federal interstate highway system that was underway, a modest increase in state highway building took place.  In the five years between 1954 and 1959, another 2,000 miles, about a 15% increase, of highways were built in the state.  In the fifty years since, highway construction has only increased by about 400 miles to the current total of just under 17,000.

In 1959, another change occurred to Carbon Canyon Road as Route 177, which was a plan to eliminate an old route 274, which was designated to go from Route 71 along Central Avenue in Chino and Montclair and connect to the old Route 30 (now the relatively new State 210 freeway) and add it to the 177 route.

It also appears that, by 1963, the Route 177 designation was replaced by the current one of State Route 142.  The surprise for most of us is that, while Highway 142 is constructed and fully designated as going from Imperial Highway at Valencia Road  to Highway 71, a distance of twelve miles, CalTrans still considers the overall length of SR-142 as being twenty-one miles, the remaining nine miles of "unconstructed" roadway being, evidently, the Central Avenue corridor.  It is hard to believe that there will ever be a "construction" of that route and, in fact, there might even be compelling reasons to question whether it makes sense for the current, constructed part of SR-142 to remain a part of the state highway system.  More on that later!

Information for this post comes from: 

State Highway Routes, Selected Information (1995 revision of a 1994 report) by the Office of Highway System Engineering, State Business and Transportation Agency, Division of Highways, Department of Transportation of the State of California.

Traversable Highway Report issued in October 2002 by the Highway System Engineering Branch, Transformation System Information, Department of Transportation, and Business, Transportation and Housing Agency of the State of California.


Zaphod said...

I found this discussion quite interesting. Since I began reading the CC Blog, I have been mystified at the 142 designation, not remembering the numbering system as it presently is. When you wrote that it was originally 177, that made sense to me. There must have been signage at some point, somewhere, however, inasmuch as that old number rang a bell in my memory.

Zaphod said...

No doubt some wild-eyed motorist took them out long ago.

Paul said...

Hello Zaphod, sorry for the long delay in replying. It would be great to know if there was signage for the old Route 177. Maybe someone's got one in a garage somewhere.