It was a big day on Feb. 28, 1948 when Balboa Park’s Cabrillo Freeway (today’s Highway 163) was dedicated.

A breathless article in California Highway and Public Works announced the big event, including great details on the luncheon held before the ribbon cutting.

“On the following day it appeared that most of San Diego had turned out to tour the new project, and both lanes of the highway were practically filled for several hours on Sunday afternoon, handling traffic estimated in excess of 3,500 vehicles per hour,” wrote E. E. Wallace, District Engineer.

In 2009 (the most recent stats I could find), the freeway carries 116,000 vehicles per hour.

The freeway cost a whopping $3.5 million ($35 million) today for the 7.1 miles from downtown to Mission Valley. It hasn’t changed much since, except for widening and rebuilding for Interstate 5 in the early 1960s and the I-8 interchange in Mission Valley in more recent years.

Now, about that luncheon…

“Before the dedication ceremonies a luncheon sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce was held in the Stag Room of the San Diego Club, Russell Stowell, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Highway Committee and President of the San Diego County Highway Development Association, was toastmaster. Brief talks were given by DeGraff Austin, Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, Frank Forward, Vice Chairman of the Chamber Highway Committee, District Highway Engineer E.E. Wallace, Highway Commissioners Baker and Smith, Marston, Fred Ridout, Celebrations Committee Chairman of the Linda Vista Merchants Association; Walter V. Pittman, Chairman, Board of Supervisors, Riverside County; Fred Rhodes, San Diego City Manager, and Admiral Blakely. Military representatives attending the luncheon and ribbon cutting ceremonies were Major General L.D. Hermle, U.S.M.C, Commanding General Marine Corps Base; Colonel Fred Waters, U.S.A., Commanding Ft. Rosecrans, and Captain H.S. Agnew, U.S.N.

“Among the guests was Rowland Reed, who is credited by Marston with being one of the original planners of the freeway. Reed conceived his highway plan in 1932 and presented it to the City of San Diego. He consulted with Marston, who in turn interested his father, the State Highway Commission, and later the city council. Finally some of Reed’s ideas were incorporated in the freeway.”

Where was the mayor of San Diego? Hmmmm….

BTW, love that style of writing from the old days; of course, there are many people who write that way today, but that’s another story. Also, the actual author’s name is lost to history, as I’m sure old E.E. didn’t write this. His name in the guest list as if he was just a guest.


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