The plaque was placed in a bulb-out on the south side of Newhall Ranch Road, just east of Interstate 5 (see red circle on map below) and dedicated
October 8, 2002. Photo and map courtesy of Sydney Croasmun, 2020. Text of plaque:
THE RIDGE ROUTE
The super highway of its day when first opened in 1915, the Ridge Route, California’s first mountain highway, has been credited by some (for better or worse) as saving the state from being divided into two separate states. Constructed, graded, and paved at a cost of about $1,500,000, it was considered one of the most scientifically constructed mountain roads in the world. From Castaic in the south to Grapevine in the north the Ridge Route was 48 miles long and had 39,441 degrees of curves, roughly equating to 110 complete circles. The strictly enforced speed limit was 15mph. The road was replaced by the Alternate Ridge Route (later known as US-99) in 1933, which in turn was replaced by I-5 in the 1960s.
Dedicated October 8, 2002
Platrix Chapter No. 3, E. Clampus Vitus
and the Ridge Route Preservation Organization
(Note: Platrix is Chapter 2, not 3.)
Click to enlarge.
Assemblyman George Runner introduced legislation Friday to enable the Ridge Route Preservation Organization to place a monument at Castaic Junction, commemorating the historic highway.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution 98 is expected to have its first committee hearing in August. If passed, the bill would instruct Caltrans to issue a permit for a monument at Interstate 5 and state Route 126, when the interchange is reconfigured in the next three years.
"The Ridge Route is historic in that it opened up travel between southern and northern California," said Runner, R-Lancaster. "Without this road, California very well would have become two separate states.
"Certainly, a monument would serve as a good reminder of the historical significance of what helped to develop California into the economic state that is today."
Runner said he is optimistic the bill will receive a stamp of approval.
"Given the historical value of the road, I think it will have a good chance of being approved," he said.
In 1915, a narrow, curving stretch of highway known as the Ridge Route traversed the threshold of destiny by uniting a state that would become the land of the golden dreams. The 30-mile Ridge Route is a 20-foot-wide roadway that was carved out using horse-drawn dirt scrapers that zigzagged across the ridges of the western San Gabriel Mountains. The road was named for the way it followed the ridge line of the mountains.
Paved in 1919, the Ridge Route highway, officially named the Castaic-Tejon Route, became the first direct road connecting Los Angeles and Bakersfield.
Often referred to as the original Grapevine route, the nickname stems from the fact that early wagoners had to hack their way through thick patches of cimarron grapevines that inhabited "La Canada de Las Uvas," or Canyon of the Grapes.
In 1933, the state opened the Ridge Route Alternate, a three-lane road with fewer curves that would eventually be designated California 99. This alternate was widened to four lanes in the 1950s, then realigned and rebuilt in the 1960s as a high-speed interstate. The original Ridge Route was all but abandoned.
Nearly a century later, through the efforts of Harrison Scott, president of the Ridge Route Preservation Organization, and a few of his associates, motorists can still take the winding, rugged drive and re-live a part of California's heritage.
Six years of research and perseverance culminated in 1997 when Scott accomplished his goal of qualifying 17.6 miles of the Ridge Route for the National Register of Historic Places.
A Torrance resident, Scott became interested in the Ridge Route after driving the road known for its 697 curves, which make the equivalent of 110 complete circles as they cross the mountains. His son remarked that it must have been a tough climb back in the early 1900s when a Model T Ford was the transportation of the day.
"I wasn't a member of any historical societies, but I though that this road had to be saved," said the retired Pacific Bell engineer. Poring through reams of paperwork, Scott found that while there was once a proposal to close the road and turn it into a bike path, the plan was abandoned and went into limbo.
To help raise awareness of the need to preserve the historic engineering marvel, Scott enlisted the aid of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society to bring the idea of a monument to the attention of the local assemblyman.
"Mr. Runner has consistently been at the forefront of saving our valley's history," said historical society President Leon Worden. "Hopefully this new monument will be one of many ways the SCV Historical Society and the Ridge Route Preservation Organization can work together to ensure that the historic road will be remembered.
"Harrison Scott is a star in the effort to preserve this piece of history that is important not only to the Santa Clarita Valley but to all of Southern California," he said.
The plan calls for the local chapter of the fraternal organization E Clampus Vitus to install the commemorative plaque and monument at no cost to the public.
E Clampus Vitus grew out of the state's Gold Rush era with a group of miners who would work together to support each other in time of need. The group evolved into an organization dedicated to erecting monuments for historic places.
Scott said he has high hopes for preserving the old Ridge Route.
"I hope it the bill passes. Having a monument will help to raise awareness about the road. I would like to see the road remain open for future generations to enjoy."