|US 91 and SR-18
Santa Ana Canyon Road
1935 Alignment | 1952
Expressway | Corona
|US 91 was originally built through Santa Ana Canyon between 1935 and 1938 as SR-18. In 1947, the road was given the additional designation of US 91 when that highway was extended south from its original terminus in Barstow. The road was originally two lanes wide, paved with twin slab concrete. In 1951 this road was converted into a four lane expressway. On July 1, 1964, the US 91 and SR-18 designation was dropped and replaced by Legislative and State Sign Route 91; the previous four lane expressway is now covered by the SR-91 (Riverside) Freeway. In several places along Santa Ana Canyon, curves and grading from the old road are still visible|
The pictures below show a well preserved section of old Santa Ana Canyon Rd. When it was built in 1935, it ran through prime farmland, though now that has been covered over by houses, reducing Santa Ana Canyon R. to the status of a tertiary arterial. This was originally built as SR-18, and ran from the intersection of Orange-Olive Ave. in Orange to the Riverside Orange County Line. It also carried the US 91 shield from 1947 to the time it was bypassed by the new expressway (now the SR-91, Riverside Freeway) in 1955.
|Santa Ana Canyon Rd. in Orange. This pristine section is 1 1/2 miles long and looks almost identical to the way it looked when it was built. In particular, notice the wide asphalt shoulders, typical of highways of the era as well as the banked turn evident in the picture to the left.|
|SR18 under construction through Santa Ana Canyon. These before and after pictures show sections of highway similar to the one pictured in Orange under construction. The picture in the middle of the surviving section shows how the highway looks in a modern setting. Note in the picture above that the old highway is visible above the cut for the new highway.|
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By the end of the 1940s, Santa Ana Canyon Road had become a major and heavily traveled route. As acknowledgement of this, in late 1946 this was designated as part of US 91. Of course, signing this road as US 91 was just the start; the road needed to be an expressway. By 1952 the old two lane concrete road had been upgraded to the more modern four lane divided expressway visible in the pictures. Even though this highway had at-grade crossings, it was still called a "freeway" due to the fact it was limited access.
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While Santa Ana Canyon Rd. had been improved to the Riverside County line in 1935, that point marked the limit of the project. It was not until 1939 when work could proceed east of the county line. This was because of the construction of Prado Dam which would determine the final alignment. The old alignment (pre-1939) is currently under the reservoir created by Prado Dam along with the town of Prado; the 1940 alignment, along with the railroad tracks, was built along the south bank of the Santa Ana River and was well above the level of the river. This was particularly significant since the floods in March, 1938 had caused significant damage to the older road.
Prado Dam Relocation (1939)
This section of highway was completed in 1939 as a two lane road on a four lane alignment and widened to four lanes divided in 1950 as shown by the stamp below. In 1970, the current SR-91 freeway was built, bypassing this section; a result of the construction was the the area on the right side of the pictures was filled in. The bridge at right is dated 1938 and has the all-wooden guardrail typical of rural bridges from this era. It also has the recessed divots which used to contain reflective paint. The three historical photos below are from the February, 1940 issue of California Highways and Public Works.
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US 91 Photo Album
Go south on US 91 and SR-18 toward Long Beach. (Future)
Go to the Historic California US Highways Main Page
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