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NewThe Ridge Route Book - Now Available for online purchaseNew


Discovery, Find, Beginnings, Early, Challenge, Breaking, Paving, Residents, Tourists, Kelly's, Conclusion

Beginnings of the State Highway System

   At this point it is necessary to review early events which to the Ridge Route's birth. In 1895, the State Bureau of highways was created. Governor James H. Budd appointed three highway commissioners, R.C. Irvine of Sacramento, Marsden Manson of San Francisco and L. Maude of Riverside.

   These three officials purchased a team of horses and a buckboard wagon and proceeded, during the next year and a half, to cover the state, logging some 7,000 miles. Upon their return they submitted a report to the governor recommending a system of state highways which would connect all large centers of population. Every county seat would be reached. Their recommendation included the utilization of existing county roads to the fullest possible extent.

   Specifically was suggested a direct route from Los Angeles to the San Joaquin Valley to replace the roundabout Midway Route.

   The California Legislature of 1897 dissolved the Bureau of Highways and created a Department of Highways. The members of the new department made exhaustive studies of road construction practices and economics. Members of the department toured Europe to observe methods used in England, France and other countries. (Even then, justified extended trips on tax dollars!)

    Their findings on such factors as drainage, and roadbed and pavement construction, were based on fundamental engineering policies. At the outset, modern highway development in California was on a firm foundation.

   In 1907, the Department of Engineering was organized, but due to lack of funds, no road construction began. A resolution in 1911 designated three men as an executive committee to the Department of Engineering to be known as the California Highway Commission. These three gained immediate control over all state road and highway activities, with the Tehachapi receiving special priority. Before the Tehachapi barrier succumbed to the Ridge Route, there was a strong political movement afoot to carve California into two states.

   In 1909, the State authorized a bond issue of $18 million for the purpose of constructing a state highway system. The voters approved the bonds the following year. Los Angeles purchased the bonds when the Commission was unable to market the securities in the East.

    In 1912, an intensive survey was begun  with 18 months taken in laying out the Ridge Route The preliminary study, made by W. Lewis Clark, Division Engineer at Los Angeles, dissipated all doubt as to the feasibility of a direct route over the mountains. To Highway Commissioner N.D. Darlington of Los Angeles belongs the chief credit for the selection and the construction of the route.

   Since travel to the south first began there had been only two routes followed. The Tehachapi, (midway route) mentioned earlier which was due east from Bakersfield to Mojave, then south through Lancaster to access Mint or Boquet canyons. The other being the '"Tejon Pass Route," which used an old wagon road to climb up the Grapevine grade from the Bakersfield side to Quail Lake (today Hwy 138), then east roughly following the San Andreas rift to the head of either San Francisquito (Tumer Pass) or Boquet canyons. The Tejon Route was considerably shorter than the Tehachapi Route but neither pass could be called direct, for both curved widely to the east to reach the heads of the canyons while the objective point was at most due south. It may be of interest to note that the "Grapevine" refers to the 6.5 mile stretch of road between Fort Tejon and the bottom of the mountain giving entrance into the San Joaquin Valley'"

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