Route 66 once was the High Desert’s sole connection to the San Bernardino Valley and the Los Angeles basin. Then the 1950s ushered in Interstate 15 and the era of the freeway.
As every local commuter well knows, Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass is undergoing a major upgrade, including widening, resurfacing and new transition roads. The $324 million project is set to be complete in mid-2016.
But what most people don’t know is that segments of old Route 66 in San Bernardino County will soon have new life.
The first is a partial bypass road in the Cajon Pass.
Cajon Boulevard (as Route 66 is known in the Cajon Pass) runs from Kenwood Avenue in Devore, up the pass until a couple of miles below the Highway 138 junction. At that point, I-15 obliterated old Route 66. Building a road to reconnect Cajon Boulevard to Highway 138 would require bridging the railroad tracks and traversing a long section of Cajon Creek and would be hugely expensive. Bulldozing a new roadway might be physically possible, but environmental obstacles would be daunting.
To the south, Cajon Boulevard currently proceeds three-quarters of a mile south of Kenwood Avenue where it again dead ends into I-15. However, the I-15/I-215 Interchange project currently under construction will, based on the County’s recommendation, rebuild Cajon Boulevard from this current terminus, underneath the new interchange. It will then connect with the existing portion of Cajon Boulevard that ends just north of Devore Road. From this point, Cajon Boulevard continues south into San Bernardino.
Nearby, Caltrans is planning to straighten many of the hairpin curves on Highway 138 going east of I-15 into Summit Valley. That could start as soon as next spring. This project will improve traffic flow for those interested in using Summit Valley Road from Hesperia as an alternate to the portion of I-15 above Highway 138.
Elsewhere in in the County, Route 66 is being also being restored.
In the spring, the County will begin work on almost six miles of National Trails Highway, from the Victorville City Line to Bryman Road. This is in addition to six miles of paving work on National Trails Highway from the Victorville city limits to Bryman Road. In 2013, the County completed a four-mile resurfacing project on National Trails in the Helendale/Oro Grande area. And on Dec. 15, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution of support for the California Historic Route 66 Needles to Barstow Corridor Management Plan. It’s the first step toward seeking National Scenic Byway designation for the segment.
Out in the East Mojave, storms last year did significant damage along National Trails Highway to 40 bridges and even washed away sections of pavement, making segments of Route 66 impassable. County work crews quickly repaired 12 areas of roadway and all but three of the bridges allowing us to reopen the segment of National Trails Highway between Barstow and Cadiz Road. Repairs on the more heavily damaged bridges was recently completed, allowing us to reopen the section between Cadiz Road and Essex Road, reconnecting National Trails Highway to Interstate 40.
While freeways are essential to our transportation network, old Route 66 in San Bernardino County is seeing new life.