1941’s ‘Modern Design’ was a dud

Anyone sitting in the traffic at Rosecrans Street and Sports Arena Boulevard today might want to have a word with traffic engineers from 1940s and 1960s.

Touted as “modernization of the highway system in San Diego” was the 1941 construction of a new interchange between then-U.S. 101 and Mission Valley Road, today’s Interstate 8.

“An important addition to and modernization of the highway system in San Diego was accomplished recently with the completion of the Rosecrans/Mission Valley Highway,” wrote E.E. Wallace, then Caltrans District Engineer, in the November-December 1941 edition of California Highways and Public Works magazine.

“The highway is 3.5 miles in length and provides a 4-lane divided, concrete paved highway, leading to the east and connecting Point Loma with a proposed new freeway at the southerly end of U.S. Highway No 395, which will extend through Balboa Park directly into the business center of San Diego.” The magazine was published through 1966 and is now on archive.org.

I can vaguely remember some of this interchange, which was replaced in the late 1960s by the massive connection of Interstates 5 and 8, Camino Del Rio West (the remnant of what was Mission Valley Road), Rosecrans Street, Pacific Highway (old U.S. 101) and Sports Arena Boulevard (once Frontier Street).

The Frontier traffic circle was confusing even when new in 1941.
The Frontier traffic circle was confusing even when new in 1941.

Something saluted in the story is the traffic circle that was once where Rosecrans Street, Sports Arena Boulevard (then Frontier Street) and Camino Del Rio West all meet up. It had six traffic-actuated signals! I remember my dad missing the turns from the circle and having to go around a second time to get out of the loop.

Of course, there was no Sports Arena in 1941; it came along in 1966 and the street name was changed a few years later.

Actually, the area is still a traffic mess today, as the Rosecrans/Sports Arena/Camino Del Rio West intersection is one of the busiest in the city. So, as you’re sitting there, waiting for the light to change, think about what you’d say to a 1941 traffic engineer.

Also, think of what you’d say to the 1960s engineers that somehow forgot to put a connection from these streets to I-5 south.

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