PROMOTION OF HIGHWAY 80

 

Up until  about 1918 our Highway 94 was the main road to Yuma.  After the Mountain Springs and plank road in Imperial Valley were completed there was a demand for a better  main road out of San Diego to this area.   Col. Ed Fletcher (14) was instrumental in this effort and  under his leadership he promoted Highway 80.

There were, and are, three major routes to the north and east of San Diego.   One, was the coast route to Los Angeles, another the inland route north to Riverside and the third Highway 80 to the east.  This was the hardest to build, because of the terrain.  Even after completion of the Mountain Springs grade and the plank road, travel to Yuma and points beyond was fraught with danger.  The first Highway 80 followed about the same route as today's Interstate 8, but at Bankhead Springs it dropped directly south and followed the path of Highway 94 down Mountain Springs.

Finally in 1927, the Federal Government allocated funds for interstate highways and a narrow, concrete highway was built from San Diego to the Imperial Valley.  Although it was paved, it was built to the contour of the terrain and had many dangerous curves.  In the early 1930ís, a wider, better, two lane road was built and it was improved periodically until the present interstate was built.  Had Highway 80 not been built, we would have had the bulk of the traffic on Highway 94.

Back in March of 1941 San Diego Union ran an article regarding a proposal by the Board of Supervisors to use prison labor to build a low altitude highway (not over 3800 feet) running parallel between Highway 80 and Highway 94.  It would branch off Highway 94 at Engineers Springs near Jamul and follow Mexican Canyon into Lee Valley and Lyons Valley until Barrett reservoir is reached.  It crossed Barrett Lake on a bridge at the narrowest point, the new road skirted the south end of that reservoir into Houser Canyon and follow the natural route into Warren, a short distance north of Campo.  Other similar alternate routes were being considered.  I donít know what happened to this proposal, but my guess would be World War II came along and there was more important business to attend to.   Had this come to pass, our back country and roads would be entirely different today.

 

Highway 80 was eventually constructed through El Cajon Valley and across the mountains.  It intersected with Highway 94 at Boulevard.  Demands by the traveling public and commercial freight haulers for a high speed route to the east grew louder.  A political decision was made in Sacramento that a new multi-land freeway would follow the route of Highway 80 (which made people living on Highway 94 very happy).  Had they made a different decision it could have changed our entire back country area.

 

Picture #33  map showing proposed highway  

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