Pasadena’s Freeway Tunnels

Jun 13, 2010 by Lisa Newton

How does a freeway go over a mountain? It doesn’t. That’s partly why tunnels are built. In the case of the Pasadena Freeway, it took a total of four tunnels to be exact. After discovering these tunnels, I’ve wanted to find a way to photographs them for some time to no avail.

Yesterday, while heading to The Big Parade LA 2010 Prologue, I found my perfect opportunity. Just after passing through the first tunnel, Exit 25 – Solano Avenue approaches. From there, on a small neighborhood street one can almost touch the tunnels.

Built in 1931, the first three tunnels were built as a bypass for a section of North Broadway. It wasn’t until the Arroyo Seco Parkway (the Pasadena Freeway) was completed in 1940 that the tunnels became part of the California Interstate freeway system.

When the tunnels were initially built, they bisected many neighborhoods, especially Chinatown and Elysian Park. As a result, children now walk underneath the freeway, in order to get to school.

At Solano Avenue–the neighborhood students–many times accompanied by their parents–walk past the Solano Canyon Community Garden, go down the steps, and enter the tunnel which leads them to their school.

Not the most picturesque or friendliest of walks– but with Mom’s hand, it feels safe.

It’s amazing to know the roads we travel, both literally and figuratively, but also in how they affect and determine our relationship to our environment in this giant city and which directions we head in.

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