October 20: This Date in Los Angeles Transportation History

1935:  The Sepulveda Pass (Sepulveda Boulevard between Sunset Boulevard in West Los Angeles and Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks) is opened amid great fanfare.

According to the November, 1935 issue of California Highways & Public Works:

“The glamorous days of the dons gave way to modern things and the Sepulveda descendants joined the modern march — the old trail grew important to commerce.  In 1922, first steps were taken to transform the Indian footpath to a highway of commerce.”

The 7.6 miles of road between Sunset Boulevard and Ventura Boulevard featuring a 665-foot tunnel was paved with 30-foot asphaltic concrete at a cost of $300,000 completely financed out of revenues from the state gasoline tax.

“Colorful and impressive ceremonies” mark the occasion for San Fernando Valley residents who finally have “an outlet to the sea.”

Map showing new Sepulveda route, 1935 (Click to enlarge)

In attendance at the formal dedication ceremonies featuring a pageant of dances and songs depicting the various stages of California history are California Governor Frank F. Merriam and other state officials, as well as Los Angeles County Supervisors, Los Angeles City Councilmembers and other prominent political, social and religious leaders.

California Highways & Public Works called the “Sepulveda Highway the new gateway and shortcut route between San Fernando Valley and the sea, and a major travel artery linking main coast and inland thoroughfares and serving to bypass future through traffic around the more congested metropolitan areas.”

Completion of the new Sepulveda Highway through the Santa Monica Mountains leaves just two small sections of the entire Sepulveda Boulevard to be completed:  one west of Baldwin Hills and north of Inglewood, the other in the City of Wilmington.

Once completed, Sepulveda Boulevard would eventually become the longest street in Los Angeles, stretching 42.8 miles from the northern San Fernando Valley to Long Beach — including under the runways of Los Angeles International Airport.

More information can be found in the November, 1935 issue of California Highways and Public Works.



1943:  A fire destroys Court Flight, Bunker Hill’s “other” incline railway.

The Court Flight had connected Broadway to the top of Bunker Hill at Court Street since 1904.  It was never rebuilt.  Located mid-block between Temple and First Streets, the line was steeper than Angels Flight, rising 83 feet in just over 170 track feet, making it the shortest and steepest railway in the United States.  The Court Flight also differed from the Angel’s Flight in its use of four tracks over its entire length with cars operating separately, they were not cabled together to counterbalance each other.  As with Angels Flight, the City of Los Angeles required a parallel stairway be provided to prevent a monopoly and taxed the railway as an elevator instead of as an electric railway.

The Court Flight only charged a 5 cent fare for rides going up and not down.  The parallel stairway was 141 steps on a 53% grade to the top of Bunker Hill.