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Newhall (Auto) Tunnel Opens.


Webmaster's note.

The 435-foot-long Newhall Tunnel opened December 21, 1910, bypassing the old, steep climb over the Newhall Pass through Beale's Cut. Note that the politicans who drove up from Van Nuys passed through one of the newly constructed L.A. Aqueduct tunnels which would come online in 1913. Funded through a county bond measure, the Newhall Tunnel was reportedly the "first tunnel ever constructed as part of a county highway system" in the United States.

It was not to last. The tunnel was too narrow for large trucks to pass each other, and as automobiles became more ubiquitous, traffic backed up. In 1938 the mountainside was blasted away and the tunnel was buried under what is now the peak of Sierra Highway adjacent to Beale's Cut at the former Newhall Refinery, south of Eternal Valley Cemetery.



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300 Attend Opening of Newhall Tunnel.

More than 300 persons yesterday attended the formal opening of Newhall tunnel, the latest and one of the most important achievements in connection with the good roads[1] project. Eighty automobiles left the city, starting from the chamber of commerce at 9 o'clock. These were joined by many more along the route. A number of cars went from Long Beach and Redondo and many from the north part of the county went direct to the tunnel without coming to the city.

The first car contained the highway commission and this was followed by one bearing A.E. Loder, chief engineer of the commission; C.E. Norton, secretary, and others. Other officials following were R.W. Pridham, H.D. McCabe and S.T. Eldridge, members of the board of supervisors. They were accompanied by S.A. Butler, representative of the chamber of commerce, and J.A. Adams, former government expert on good roads.

The opening address at the tunnel was made by Judge H.C. Dillon, representing the highway commission. He reviewed briefly the building of the tunnel. Others who spoke were R.W. Pridham and C.J. Nellis, supervisors; S.A. Butler, representing the chamber, and James W. Abbott as good roads inspector.

A bronze tablet bearing the names of members of the highway commission, the board of supervisors, the contractor, E.E. Shafroth, and the chief engineer, A.E. Loder, was placed at the entrance of the tunnel.

An unexpected feature following the exercises was the invitation to cross the pass and return by the aqueduct tunnel. This was done by a number of the most enthusiastic. The party returned to Lankershim, where a barbecue was enjoyed. It reached Los Angeles about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Mr. Butler, who represented the chamber of commerce in the expedition, last evening pronounced the road in excellent condition.

"The work covered by the contract," said Mr. Butler, "is practically completed. It is now in good shape and in a short time will be finished. I believe that two months will see the completion and see it in excellent condition.

"There is get about fifteen miles which is not covered by the contract; that is bqad. When this is attended to, which we hope will be soon, I think that one of the most important pieces of work, done by the supervisors, will have been completed.


1. "Good road(s)" is terminology that refers to the Good Roads Movement which was started by bicyclists in the 1870s-1880s — when the word "road" usually meant railroad. Cyclists came together to lobby for government funding of improved bicycle paths. As automobiles became popular at the dawn of the 20th Century, motorists and car companies hijacked the movement to lobby for government spending on transportation infrastructure, i.e., roads for cars. (Cyclists continued to lobby for bike paths along public highways.) From 1890 to the early 1920s, the movement had its own publication, "Good Roads: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Devoted to the Improvement of the Public Roads and Streets." The philosophical underpinning of the movement was the idea that rural residents should have access, via direct linkage, to the economic advantages of city dwellers; and during the automobile age, good roads would allow farmers to get their crops to metropolitan markets. Each month the magazine's cover declared: "The road is that physical sign or symbol by which you will understand any age or people. If they have no roads they are savages, for the road is the creation of man and a type of civilized society." A major achievement attributed to the movement was the signing by President Woodrow Wilson of the first federal highway bill in 1916.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.



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Excursion to Newhall Bore.

The Chamber of Commerce excursion over the good road of the San Fernando Valley for the dedication of the first good roads tunnel in the United States, was the biggest and one of the most successful ever conducted by that organization. Five hundred people in 125 machines, led by the Alco pilot car, made the seventy-five-mile trip and were given a big barbecue on the famous Lankershim and Van Nuys ranches of 47,000 acres.

A four-mile run through the aqueduct tunnel leading from Soledad canyon into the San Fernando Valley, through which the Owens River will soon be pouring its floods, was one of the sensational features of the trip. Not all of the party made this detour as it was a somewhat difficult undertaking.

The brief programme at the south portal of the Newhall tunnel resolved itself into a vindication of the Highway Commission and Engineer Loder, that was almost a triumph over criticisms that have been made. Judge H.C. Dillon spoke of the work of each of the Highway Commissioners, saying that he did not know of a better selection of men for public service than had been made in this case.

"We used," he said, "to meet with the storm drain difficulty as our chief problem in road building. This Highway Commission has been confronted with the brain-storm problem. One brain-storm originated over in Iowa and other [sic] here in this vicinity and when the two met the good roads system came near being washed out. But after traveling over such good roads as we have seen today, I think we are ready to vote the good roads system in tribute to the men who have spent their time and brains upon it, as well as to all of us who had the enterprise to spend our money in this way. —

J.W. Abbott, a government expert on good roads and a sort of father of the good roads movement in Southern California, made a brief address in praise of the work that has been accomplished here. He called attention to the fact that this was the first tunnel ever constructed as part of a county highway system. He said that within another year or two the foreign governments would have their experts in Los Angeles interviewing Engineer Loder and asking him to show them how to build their roads.

Chairman Bixby of the Highway Commission introduced the speakers. Supervisor R.W. Pridham represented the Board of Supervisors. He, too, spoke in defense of the good roads work, calling attention to the rate of progress made since the county has been able to furnish a rock supply. During the coming year he predicted that a much better showing would be made since the Pacoima and San Dimas quarries have a daily capacity of 3,000(?) tons.

Supervisor Pridham outlined briefly the general good roads scheme, pointing to the roads traversed as an indication of the importance of thoroughfares in all directions out of Los Angeles. With such important arteries open to traffic and a number of intersecting roads connecting them outside of the city, he predicted a greater volume of trade for Los Angeles and a greater degree of prosperity for the surrounding territory.

The people of San Fernando evidenced their progressive spirit by having a committee out to meet the party. Flower girls distributed bouquets, there were boxes of fruit and samples of the olive and olive oil from the famous olive groves of the district.

Barbecue.

Returning, the excursionists visited a part of the aqueduct tunnel and traveled for four miles through the same, coming out at the site of the San Fernando reservoir; proceeding thence to the San Fernando Mission and directly to the Home Ranch Headquarters on the Van Nuys and Lankershim Ranchos where the party enjoyed a delicious and excellently served barbecue, prepared by Don Pedro, well-known as an artist in this line. The party tarried a while after the barbecue and listened to a talk from ex-Sheriff Burr, of San Fernando, who now has the supervision of the parking along the double asphalt boulevard being constructed through the Lankershim ranch for the Suburban Homes Company.

News story courtesy of Stan Walker.


NEWHALL (AUTO) TUNNEL, 1910-1938

See Also:
Newhall Grade

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Tunnel Opens 1910

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South Portal, 1914

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South Portal, 1914

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ca. 1914

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L.A. County Highways 1920

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Tinted Postcard, 1920s

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North Portal, 1920s

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South Portal, 1920s

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Tunnel Traffic, 1920s

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South Portal, 2-7-1926

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Aerial 1930

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South Portal Cut Lines, 1938

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Tunnel Being Replaced, 1938

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Last of the Tunnel, 1938

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Highway Replaces Tunnel, 1938

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Bronze Plaques 2001

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