LA’s Oldest Freeway Gets New Old Name

When construction began in 1938, the road marked the beginning of Los Angeles' massive freeway system

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Library of Congress

How's this for a freeway transition: The Pasadena Freeway, which used to be called the Arroyo Seco Parkway, will now be called the Arroyo Seco Parkway once again.

The re-re-naming of a portion of the 110 Freeway will come with new lighting, a better center divider and low walls on the shoulders. The Department of Transportation decided those changes warranted a return to the road's roots.

California highway officials have been installing new connector road signs reading "Pkwy" for weeks. The LA Times reported that the signs will cost about $650,000.

The Pasadena Freeway was called the Arroyo Seco Parkway when the first 6-mile section opened in 1940. The parkway is located between the four-level interchange in downtown and Glenarm Street in Pasadena.

At the time of its construction in 1938, it was a marvel of engineering. Then-Gov. Culbert Olson declared the much-needed transportation link the "first freeway in the West," according to the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER).

The HAER calls the scenic Pasadena-LA route "a prominent example of the evolution from recreational parkways to more utilitarian high-speed freeways." Check out HAER's photo gallery for some vintage images of the area and the 1938 road construction project.

The road improvements are part of a $17 million rehabilitation project for the eight-mile highway. It's expected to be completed by next spring. 

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