Home » This Southern California Mountain Road Could Reopen After Nearly 50 Years, But Should It?

This Southern California Mountain Road Could Reopen After Nearly 50 Years, But Should It?

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Road closures are quite common in mountainous regions of the United States. They’re often seasonal, and due to the amount of snowfall that their respective elevations see; many passes are simply too treacherous to traverse. Another common reason for closure is mud- and rock slides—in fact, a large stretch of Los Angeles County’s Angeles Crest Highway, also known as California State-Route 2 (SR-2), reopened late last year after a lengthy closure caused by such an event. It’s the main arterial road through the San Gabriel Mountains’ Angeles National Forest.

However, there’s another road not too far east of ACH that’s been closed for far, far longer, to the tune of 46 years: California State-Route 39 (SR-39), also known as San Gabriel Canyon Road.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

This 4.4-mile stretch of road could finally reopen in the not-too-terribly-distant future, and it’d be a major quality-of-life improvement for anyone who’s been inclined to hike, camp, explore, cycle, or enjoy a nice drive in this breathtaking corner of the West Coast. Let’s discuss its upsides and downsides.

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Where SR-39 ends – Peter Nelson

The Road As It Is

SR-39 isn’t entirely closed; you can still jump off from the town of Azusa and cover most of it, but you’ll eventually get to a gate that’s been closed to the public ever since a massive rockslide in 1978. The drive up the gate is quite pleasant: It snakes through the mountains alongside the San Gabriel River, passing by dozens of hiking paths, campsites, a gun range, and even an off-road vehicle area.

There have been attempts to restore and reopen the road since 1978, but it’s in a tricky part of Angeles Forest where Mother Nature just won’t let up, laying down more rock slides, as well as mudslides, flooding, and wildfires.

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The thing is, where SR-39 ends and where it used to intersect with Angeles Crest Highway is a stretch of under five miles. It may not sound like much, but it’d have a big impact on recreation and scenic driving for a massive chunk of the Southern California population.

Angeles Forest Sunset 1
Peter Nelson

The Positive Potential

The California Department of Transportation’s (Caltrans) District 7 recently unveiled to the public that it’s got SR-39 on its mind, and has come up with four potential methods of what to do with it.

One possibility, which is music to any responsible driving enthusiast’s ears, is full access to any vehicle, like any of the half-dozen other roads that people travel to take in all the mountain-top splendor. It would also serve car enthusiasts who attend the many car meets along Angeles Crest Highway on any given weekend. Or Friday morning.

This seems like the best option, as it would significantly cut down transportation time between different areas of Angeles National Forest (in turn reducing carbon emissions along the way), increase accessibility, and would perhaps require the fewest tax dollars to keep the road open. Full access to the road could also have a positive impact on the small businesses in the area that cater to people passing through.

Newcombs Golden Hour
The Newcombs Golden Hour Meet at sunset – Peter Nelson

Another option is to keep the road as-is – meaning closed. Easy enough. A third option is to do a limited restoration for forest service and evacuation access only.

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Another possibility is only granting access to cyclists and what Caltrans refers to as “active transportation.” Besides roadie dorks like me getting their weekly elevation in, there’d be a shuttle service moving outdoor enthusiasts up and down the area throughout the day, plus service vehicles. This would give hikers easier access to all the trails that jump off SR-2 in that region.

I actually kind of dig this option – it’s nice enjoying mountain roads on the bike and not having to worry about shitty drivers who aren’t paying attention coming up behind me. But for the greater good of boosting access and allowing more people to enjoy the outdoors, this seems like a less-ideal option than fully reopening.

Angeles Forest Sunset 2
Peter Nelson

The Negative Potential

Here’s the thing, though: More roads means more traffic, which increases the likelihood of bad apples spoiling the bunch. People driving too fast on Angeles Forests’ roads is nothing new, but it persists as a problem. Ask anyone in Southern California who enjoys these roads responsibly, and they’ll tell you there are too many morons who pride themselves on “being the fastest in the canyons” and incessantly cross the double-yellow line when demonstrating their imagined prowess. No less dangerous are the clueless everyday drivers who aren’t used to driving on two-lane roads and cut across the double-yellow line out of pure stupidity. Do we really want to give either of these types more real estate to do so?

Then again, there will always be idiots, so perhaps it doesn’t matter. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m tired of a few bad drivers ruining the fun for everyone, whether they’re wannabe racers or clueless idiots – both of which are a whole ‘nother blog, by the way. If SR-39 indeed reopens, perhaps there could be ways to cut down on irresponsible driving, which is something I’d love to write about in the future.

What do you think about reopening this twisty mountain road, or driving on twisty mountain roads in general? I’ll see you in the comments.

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Top image composite: adobe.stock.com; Peter Nelson; Google Maps

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John E
John E
1 month ago

See, I look at this a bit differently. Open it up unimpeded (ACH, too). And every Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. let it be “for car enthusiasts only”. No speed limits. No police. No emergency vehicles. Then close it from 12:00 p.m. until however long it takes to remove the cars and bodies. Then back to normal traffic Sunday-Friday. Do this EVERY Saturday until natural selection has cleared the idiots out of Southern Kalifornia. Then it will be safe for bikers and tourists.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 month ago
Reply to  John E

Then change the name of the road to the “Darwin Highway”.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  John E

Support if not for the families, friends, employers, and others who are impacted by Darwinism…

But if we weren’t social beings, roads like this would never be constructed in the first place.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago

Open the road, but introduce huge fines for crossing a double yellow center line. On roads like this, double yellow lines should be constructed of irregular concrete or asphalt turtles that upset vehicles traveling over ten or fifteen mph.

Sure, reality is dangerous, but there is now a huge segment of selfish people these days who want to force that danger onto others where there used to be just a few like that.

Yes, I’m a killjoy regarding this road, but society is getting stupider by the day, and there will be backlash from those who simply want to enjoy their lives instead of constantly risking it.

Last time I was on the Tail of the Dragon, I was twice faced with speeding cars fully over their line and in my lane, It’s become an almost regular occurrence, and I’m over it.

If you need to challenge yourself on public roads, you should be seeing how far you can push it without touching the lane markers, not how far you can push it without going off the road. Anything more than that should only take place on a track. Track days are not that expensive.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago

As a motorcyclist that has lived in Southern California ‘huge fines for crossing’ wouldn’t save my life. No one’s crossing when they’re being watched, so it would be enforced only after some yahoo broke the rule and hurt someone. Outside of jail and loss of license (yeah right!) a fine wouldn’t stop people.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago

As much as we might deny it, large fines are a deterrent.

When they changed the law to double the fines in construction zones, people said it wouldn’t work. But the statistics prove that it does work to reduce but not eliminate construction zone accidents.

I doesn’t help the dead motorcyclist, but it does help the ones who don’t get hit…

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago

Fair enough.

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
1 month ago

I’m all for it. Even after rolling a car at ACH a few years back, I still keep coming back for more like some kind of an addict.

John E
John E
1 month ago

Go drive the highway 60 Hawks Nest in West Virginia. And just ignore the 15 mph signs on the curves. They’re just a stupid suggestion.

Is Travis
Is Travis
1 month ago

Every road gets spoiled that is near people, the roads that aren’t just get pushed farther out. Never drive like an idiot on public roads.

Last edited 1 month ago by Is Travis
Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 month ago

I’m too far away for it to matter but maybe it’d be nice if it was for cycling if that reduced cyclists on other fun roads and made those easier to drive. But responsible enthusiast drivers should always be looking for cyclists anyway.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago
Reply to  Shooting Brake

I think this is my thought. Not to be a hater, but I don’t love cyclists on the road. I am in Appalachia where people don’t look for them, and in a blind corner on a curvy road you can be on them in an instant even if driving responsibly. A road closed to other traffic seems safer all around.

Unless street luge comes back into fashion, I guess.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 month ago

As its in California, I have no opinion on the matter, and don’t believe it would be appropriate for me to express one if I did, its for the locals to figure out for themselves, whatever they decide they want. Not my monkey, not my circus.

Loren
Loren
1 month ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Thankgawd you still replied then.

Turkina
Turkina
1 month ago

I think Space has the right idea, it just needs a little adjustment. Instead of concrete barriers separating the lanes, they should install Panzersperre/Hinkelsteins between the lanes. Either way, the road would need to be altered where the curves are sharp, to give plenty of room for a CalFire or rescue vehicle to navigate the curve safely. I’m suggesting the anti-tank stones vs the barriers as the stones present more of a hazard to careless drivers and will decrease the average speed over the stretch.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

I see your points and they are pointy. Frankly as congested as California roads are anything that spreads traffic out is an improvement. I say who is paying for it? If it’s gas taxes only fair cars allowed. The general population well for evacuation. If the $25 bicycle license fee is generating the millions needed to fix it well by all means a exercise, camping, hiling trail it is. As long as the tax payer sponsored buses and other amenities are financially paid for by cyclists. What is the propensity of people to think their wonderful and healthy hobbies should be paid for by the tax payers? Yeah they say I pay taxes too. Yes gas taxes and you use the roads as much as everyone else does or you wouldn’t own a car and be paying gas taxes. Oh you work from home? Well then you aren’t paying as much taxes as the rest of the state. If cyclists and campers, and hikers and beach goers want extra amenities well let’s as car enthusiasts agree you want more options pay more.

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

True. Since not a single cyclist owns a car (or four…)

Last edited 1 month ago by R53 Lifer
Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
1 month ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

I pay four lots of road tax on cars and motorcycles.

I’m thinking of getting that printed on my hi-viz top for the next time I get knocked off my bicycle.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

True and as I stated those gas taxes go towards the road use of their cars. You buy a deer hunting license it’s to hunt deer not moose or fishing. You have a driver’s license you can’t lend it to an unlicensed driver. So gas taxes paid for your gas for a car are for that car to use the road. Heck people pay more gas taxes for gas in their lawn mower, which you can’t use on the road, than cyclists do.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

But then when the uppity cyclist have to pay taxes for the riding on the road, they’ll start depending infrastructure be built with their an accommodation, instead of “Idk, try and stick to the side, and if you die you die.” Plus do we tax rate reflect there general level of damage to the road? Because it’s takes 16k bike trips to reflect the damage of 1 passenger car trip. With a high estimate the average US driver pays 400 bucks in gas tax a year. So if we’re paying our fair share I owe my state a buck every 40 years! But our we going to account for my percentage of sales and property tax that go to road upkeep? Because then I’m over paying! Damn this society making me pay for things I might not use for overall healthy function of the greater good!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

I accept your premise that cyclists cause far less damage to the roads. However you have to build the roads before damaging them. Cyclists have paid nothing to the construction of the roads. And agreed once they start paying for building and maintaining the roads they should have the dedicated lanes that they are calling for and now have in many cases.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Gas tax isn’t the sole source of funding for roads. Gas tax covers around state dependent 66%-19.1% of road infrastructure depending on state. The rest is subsidized by the state general fund. As cyclists also tend to buy things, and work places they will likely pay into the fund. Given that cycling traffic is at most an after thought with limited dedication for mode, and almost no real wear on infrastructure. And tends to not be legally allowed on big ticket shared cost items like highways and freeways. Cyclist by far subsidize their mode of transit more than any other, including straight up walking (this is due to there being more sidewalks then bike lanes). The cyclist not paying their fair share is a myth and a meme parroted by parties with ulterior motives. No one ever brings up the fact that everyone massively subsidizes commercial traffic, as social having goods is probably a good thing.

Fishcake
Fishcake
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Someone already pointed out that bicycling and driving enthusiasm are not mutually exclusive, so I’ll just chime in that gas taxes don’t cover the cost of maintaining roads (https://pirg.org/california/resources/who-pays-for-roads/), so if anything it’s cyclists subsidizing car enthusiasts’ nice driving roads

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Fishcake

Haven’t gotten to reading it yet. I will though.

Studdley
Studdley
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Did you say bicycle license? Is that a thing?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Studdley

Well it is in PA for decades. Mostly for documentation for theft and ownership as opposed to riding/driving.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago

Ok yeah, in my opinion…ideally if it was a perfect world…it should be based and broken down into a simple view (Obviously there are lots of variables as mentioned):
-We have a road that has been closed a long time for good reason- landslides, etc
-Ok, now it’s actually being considered to reopen, so might as well use it as long as landslides are mitigated, made safe, etc and the tax dollars are there
-It’s up to the state to decide best use case but of course based what would be best for majority of citizens
(OK, these 3 things are not as simple but just thinking of ideas)
Also, in the real world, yes there are a lot of damn morons that ruin things for everyone (in other things too) and I’m not gonna get into it, but basically I’m sick of it and angry at times because why should our happiness and quality of life be ruined and held hostage by these fuckfaces? Ideally, again in a perfect world…and how things should be and used to be…enforce and prevent shit that should never happen in the 1st fucking place. Make the risk as high as the sky to where ok, you act stupid=prison for life! So what it comes down to is: Don’t do dumb shit. PERIOD. It CAN ALL BE PREVENTED.

Ian McClure
Ian McClure
1 month ago

Open it as a speed-unrestricted toll road like the ‘ring. Get the racers off all the other roads

Not that it would ever happen, but we can dream.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

Grew up in the Rockies at 7-14K elevation. We have a road that closes for the winter. The highest elevation road in the US.
It’s called Trail Ridge Road and it crosses the Continental Divide to the western slope. It is truly the coolest road I have ever seen. All 65 miles of it.
At the highest point it’s common to see snow in July, and there’s snow that never melts.
Here’s the coolest /worst part about this masterpiece of engineering.

It’s in Rocky Mountain National Park…There are unreal curves, very few straight areas longer than 1/4 mile. There are no guard rails, if you go off the edge it’s not uncommon to end up like Toonces the Cat…

Being in the National Park means no Real Cops, none. Only the Park Rangers.
In the off months the road is pretty empty of traffic. You can really haul ass and explore the levels of your own skill, car’s handling, and the size of your balls.
It is so good that it’s hard to find words to describe how much fun it is to run this thing. But I have been blessed.
In high school my girlfriend was the daughter of the Superintendent of the park. For some unknown reason he liked me. The couple times I was stopped for speeding, I would always say was on the way to the Super’s house to get my girlfriend. Never got a ticket.

The first time I drove it with my wife the rental car floor was literally dented from her imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side. No joke.

The bad part?
Tourists. There’s over 4 million visitors at RMNP a year.
Most freak out over the road, and drive like below the already conservative speed limits. Or just stop completely on this highway because they see a deer 500 feet away, in a frickin meadow…Never mind that they can safely pull off the road 50 feet ahead. JFC…
But the other sad thing is they have to close it early each fall till just before summer.
The snow drifts get close to 30 feet high in places, and the Park service does not have the manpower or money to keep it plowed. Which sucks.

There are a ton of cool roads in the US, but Trail Ridge will always be the holy grail to me. Please check it out. The Tube is full of decent videos and worth a look. YMMV

And yes, reopen this road…

Last edited 1 month ago by Col Lingus
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Unless the road was closed while you were exploring “the levels of your own skill, car’s handling, and the size of your balls”, you’re the problem I have with reopening this road.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

And yes it was.
Thanks for your excellent pov. /s

But thanks for your pontification Dad…
It’s people like you that make America Great.

Who pissed in your cornflakes?
Your life must be a ton of fun…

Last edited 1 month ago by Col Lingus
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I’ve only faced and dodged “Fast and Furious” style wanna-be racers crossing over into my lane on my motorcycle, maybe ten or more times so far… That’s not even counting other bikers drifting over.

I’m over people using public roads as private race courses, mostly just because they’re locals and think they know it well enough not to kill someone.

I don’t even ride Tail of the Dragon anymore. It’s still worth the trip for those who haven’t been there a few times, but it’s not something I’ll do again. There are too many selfish idiots out there lately.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

Understand your reply.

Former Emergency Services driver here. Trained to drive fast, as part of the job. In the relative safety of less traveled roads. Sometimes a minute or two saved can save a life.

But I do get pissed off at the knee jerk, uninformed, judgmental comments at times made those those who really don’t know of understand the motivations and life experiences of others.

Sometimes thinking/feeling we are the smartest guy in the room just reveals a lack of understanding. Sorry to have offended you.

Sometimes it’s maybe better to give a bit more thought before firing off one’s POV? YMMV?

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I appreciate the apology, but two things: I don’t get offended easily, and know your comment history well enough that you’d have to try a lot harder for that.

So we’re cool, as long as I didn’t offend you. 😉

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

No harm, no foul.

Red865
Red865
1 month ago

Same on the Dragon…lived in the area for decades and now completely avoid it.
Cherohala Skyway starting to get too much attention also.
Used to able to ride the off road trails in Cherokee, but the idiots ruined that too. All are locked/gated now.

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Highest continuous paved road in the country.

I also grew up nearby (Meeker Park), and Trail Ridge is indeed amazing. But at no point have I ever considered it an appropriate road to push the limits. Even years ago, before the number of drivers turned it into a parking lot most of the time, it was just too narrow, with too many blind corners, sharp drop-offs, and wildlife to drive that fast. A great drive to be sure, but for spirited driving I’d drive something like the Peak to Peak, not Trail Ridge.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  ColoradoFX4

Agreed. My bad. I should have been more clear in first post. And to elaborate further it should be understood that I in no way support, nor encourage anyone to put others at risk. Please re-read original post. There is no mention of at all of doing that at all. Nor of driving outside of the proper lane. It’s just not a good idea.

As mentioned, we took both driver’s ed. and Emergency Services driving ed. in the park when roads were specifically closed for public traffic.

Somehow this post has been misunderstood by some who think I advocated for driving recklessly, with no concern for others. Again, my bad here?

As mentioned in other posts in the past, I have enjoyed this road for over 60 years.
In our area there was not really other good areas for this training without putting others at risk. As such that is why the park was used, and with the approval and permission of the park authorities. Some found my post to imply that it was/is ok to just act like a dumb ass. Nothing is further from the truth.

Just like in real life, (and racing) the better one knows their own limits, as well as the limits of their vehicles, the safer you are. That is basically my point here.

I like the Peak to Peak highway a ton. Yet having basically grown up in the park, the roads there are what we know the best. RMNP is not the place to drive like an idiot.
But under controlled and safe conditions it was/is a great place to learn how to drive, slow or quickly, if needed. As such I have really enjoyed learning both there.

The main point is that no others were ever put at risk by my enjoyment of driving this road. Ever. That would just be selfish and stupid beyond words.
But yes, when it was appropriately safe, the road could be enjoyed at a bit higher speed than usual.

I have a brother who was hit on his bike over 50 years ago, and the resulting brain damage has left him with the mind of a child. Yet his life was saved by the Emergency Services drivers who managed to get him to the ER in Boulder in time to save him. For this we are ever thankful to their skills to save his life. As well as the training they received to drive quickly on roads and conditions that made that possible.

It may seem like I am trying to defend driving like a fool. I assure you this not not my intent at all.

Thanks, and wish you a good day as always.

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I didn’t really take your comment as advocating for foolish driving, but a recommendation for Trail Ridge as a good option for driving enthusiasts. If that wasn’t your intention, my apologies for misunderstanding.

You’re extremely fortunate to have had the access to Trail Ridge that you did. The rest of us plebes could only dream of driving that road without having to worry about other drivers. But that obviously isn’t the case, which is what prompted my response.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  ColoradoFX4

No harm, no foul.

Sometimes my comments are misunderstood by others. This is regrettable, and I own my own contribution to that fact. It’s too easy for some of us to assume or misunderstand the words of other posters. And I am certainly guilty of that at times.

I guess the point here is simply that am grateful for the great roads there, and the chance to learn how to drive there. Peak to Peak is a beautiful drive. Slowly, and quickly when needed. Our drivers ed teacher lost his son in the Hwy 34 canyon when he flipped into the river and was unable to escape the car before he drowned.
A heartbreaking tragedy.

After that happened, our teacher began to teach us all he could in the relatively safer RMNP. He was crushed by the loss, and could have easily just quit teaching. Yet he chose to dedicate himself to making us the safest, best drivers possible. And I am forever in his debt for that strength. Do not consider myself to be a better driver than others. And have learned some hard lessons along the way the times that I once did.

I do apologize if sounding defensive here though. We all have different skills, and life experiences. That’s something that can be easy to forget.

We live in a world and time where it seems easier for us to just react, and throw rocks at others whose positions and life experiences are different from our own. As an old hippy type, it makes me nuts at times. Our society has made it all too common to just toss a rock before we really understand or know the perspective or life experiences of the other person. BTW I am not saying you are guilty of this. We obviously don’t know each other.

But I do get pissed and offended by some other’s quick knee jerk reactions and comments, especially when they show their ass and ignorance. Again, my bad…

Thanks for the interaction. Mutual respect and understanding makes this world a better place for us all. My late wife always said that I should re-read and try to understand the other POV, before ripping someone else a new one. Sometimes I forget that.

Take care, and thanks as always.

Last edited 1 month ago by Col Lingus
Donald Petersen
Donald Petersen
1 month ago

I’ve hiked up the closed section before; it’s gorgeous. But there are an absolute buttload of gorgeous hiking trails in the San Gabriel range, from gentle and easy to strenuous and demanding, and generally at least as scenic as moseying up and down an abandoned 2-lane paved highway. It’d be great to reopen 39 to vehicular through traffic again, since having it closed means lengthy detours for anyone trying to get up into the high country from or through Azusa rather than La Cañada (20+ miles west) or Cajon Junction (40 miles east). I’m not worried about the irresponsible speed freaks; they’re already there, and I doubt this would attract many more.

Joe L
Joe L
1 month ago

Yeah, this. While it looks like a fun driving road, more importantly it’d make it so much easier to get up to Angeles Crest from Orange County. I’m shocked they’re actually considering opening it after all this time.

Swedish Jeep
Swedish Jeep
1 month ago

Grew up in Covina and Glendora, we had GMR and ACR (this is part of Azuza Canyon Road)- which branches off into Glendora Mountain Road. We would spend many summers up at or near the locked gates or at Crystal Lake (about a mile from the gates). This place is amazing. People who don’t know California don’t understand that this is part of Los Angeles- There were many years where Crystal lake remained partially frozen in the middle of summer. These roads get landslides, closed for being snowed over- but there are areas for Fishing and Camping. All this is 6000 feet straight up from the 210 freeway. It’s an amazing place and not stereotypical of what people think of when they think LA. It’s one of the greatest things about LA; beaches to real mountains in under an hour…..

Now for the road- It was already being used for hiking and biking- we brought our bikes up to the gate- or the lake- and hiked or biked to ACH from ACR- it got narrow from slides or washouts, but was passable and the forrest service has always maintained it enough for their vehicles and Cal-Fire vehicles to pass. So in effect one of the options you mention is how it’s been since the 70s. Now there are big warning signs, so I am sure if they “opened” it they would nerf it a bit and put up guide rails and make better facilities, but this has always been used and loved by people who lived in the area.

Kalieaire
Kalieaire
1 month ago

I don’t approve of center yellow crossing, but I also don’t approve of people driving slow when there are cars behind them and never use a pull out.

Loren
Loren
1 month ago
Reply to  Kalieaire

I fully agree and a reality of sport use is that sometimes you need to be able to pass them in less distance than what the highway-construction book calls for in providing passing lanes. What to do is, make a good and safe decision on when to pass including that you know the road well, bring enough power with you to make it quick, get back in your lane asap, and preferably do your driving at times other than when families etc. are up there to enjoy the view and have a nice day. It’s their road as much or more as it is yours.

At night you do have the advantage of seeing oncoming cars’ headlights but by-gawd don’t be stupid about it.

None of this is OK with the CHP who are the very-most respectable law-enforcement people in California. And if you ever hurt anybody else doing your thing, you’re going to Hell. Just sayin’.

Kalieaire
Kalieaire
1 month ago
Reply to  Loren

regretfully, the main problem is that reality is risky

ideal worlds don’t exist

Last edited 1 month ago by Kalieaire
Space
Space
1 month ago

I take issue with your assertion that more roads = more traffic when you literally countered that argument in your positive potential section.
To be fair I do not know this area but you stated it will be a shortcut for people traveling between two points. That should reduce drive hours.
Yes there can be an argument that in this specific case people may leave the house specifically to go hiking using this road which may lead to an increase of use and may counteract some of the CO2 savings, but is this such a bad thing? Do you really want people locked in thier house not going on hikes, enjoying nature and the health benefits of exercise?
How about we just let people live their lives and drive to hikes in peace.

Space
Space
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Nelson

Perhaps I focused in too much on the use of “more roads means more traffic” part. There have been some false claims that expanding roads increases congestion and using faulty data as proof, and I hate when data is used incorrectly. I was thinking traffic = congestion when it seems you used traffic = people in cars driving. I’m sorry, my mistake.
I have no disagreements with you on this one, stupid will as stupid does.

Studdley
Studdley
1 month ago
Reply to  Space

Are you talking about induced demand? It is very real, like it or not.

Space
Space
1 month ago
Reply to  Studdley

It is real, in this case more people will go to this road specifically to hike and drive the scenic road. What I have an issue with is systems and variables and how they can be conveniently omitted to push a narrative.
1)systems
If we only consider this road it looks like congestion will go up, but if we include the other roads between the two cities we will see traffic drop there.
An expanded highway may eventually become congested again but not on day one, and if we include alternate routes overall congestion drops. Plus latent demand is satisfied which is a good thing (unless you don’t want people driving).
2)Variables
Not car related but one that really grinds my gears is our local school district stated last year we had the highest graduation rate ever! Sounds great right? What they failed to tell the clueless public was they introduced minimum F, and introduced unlimited test retakes. Did students learn more or did they just lower the bar? The Act scores came out later and confirmed it was the latter, students scored lower, way lower.
You can’t blame the highway for things including: population growth, zoning changes, more fuel efficient cars etc. Just tell people the truth and let them sort out the facts.
Sorry for the long reply.

Loren
Loren
1 month ago

I was one of those guys who ran Angeles Forest and Angeles Crest highways in the late-’70s/early-’80s…it must have been a different time because people who generally crossed yellow lines or otherwise presented a hazard to others or themselves were regarded as fools and not welcomed. (You get a lane…stay in it.) I also biked and hiked in the area and fished in the creeks, it was all a big wonderful back yard for people making their existence in the northern end of L.A. and love for the land and roads was something it seemed like everybody just had. “Hey, let’s go up the canyon” might be heard any off-work day, any time.

I would have really appreciated it if 39 had been open during those years, just the section from Azusa up to the gate was amazing enough.

With that, an enormous amount of effort went in to building those roads back in the days when highway construction was regarded as a national pride and it could never happen again. Having 39 with its beautiful views and opportunity for recreation sit there closed due to maintenance on a few parts is a shame. I don’t think ideas about special-use with special government controls (referring to other comments), belong there anymore than on the other nearby highways; users of all varieties including cyclists, pleasure cruisers and sport users within reason need to be understood and respected as well as well as them respecting the area. I say, encourage people to get up into the mountains, they are among the best features of Southern California.

That guy “Ridge Chaser” in the linked video which I could stand about 30 seconds of is an Utter Fucking Moron and needs to spend a few weeks in jail.

Swedish Jeep
Swedish Jeep
1 month ago
Reply to  Loren

Totally agree, I grew up at the foot of these mountains and people outside of LA don’t understand how a kid from LA could learn to hunt, fish and camp while being from liberal LALA land….

Drh3b
Drh3b
1 month ago
Reply to  Swedish Jeep

I grew up at the other end of hwy 39 (Beach Blvd) and while we only did it a couple times, it was only two hours for skiing(never did that) or tobogganing.

Laika
Laika
1 month ago

Seems like it’s getting to be routine, unfortunately.

https://ktla.com/news/local-news/topanga-canyon-landslide-not-close-to-being-cleared/

Greg
Greg
1 month ago

I think there should be a next level drivers license, and anyone with it can drive this road, and similar ones like the dragon in NC.

To get this license you need to show control at high speeds, maybe take a class or two on driving that teaches advanced techniques. Basically it gives you permission to drive fun roads fast and maybe do 10 over on a regular road. But you can’t be any dweeb off the street! You need training, better insurance etc..

I think this is needed, because awesome roads like this can be totally ruined by a big RV, or someone who drives 20 under. I’d rather let someone go fast and maybe they go off the edge, that’s their choice, make their insurance pay for the clean up.

How do we keep them from crossing the yellow lines tho? No idea! Suggestions welcome.

Space
Space
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg

Concrerte barriers seperating opposing traffic should do the trick.

Handlebar
Handlebar
1 month ago
Reply to  Space

I was thinking similar:
– Jersey walks between each side at corners, far enough that even a wannabee can see no benefit of hopping sides
– two or three level kerbing between lanes. Benign, a wake up, and a WTF level. Could have decent gaps for EVs as appropriate
– I thought about chicanes and realized that a) no space, and b) fueling the fools-fire.

JC Miller
JC Miller
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg

That is called just a driving license in many places, you know, where they require a much more than just maintaining a pulse, and breathing to pass the exam.
https://allaboutberlin.com/guides/driving-licence

Greg
Greg
1 month ago
Reply to  JC Miller

We are required to take driving classes and if under a certain age, live driving with an instructor (6 hours total) and then you take a government book and driving test accompanied by a police officer who grades you. But I don’t think it costs 3-4k, maybe 1-2? I got my license quite a while ago though so it probably has gotten more expensive.

Now, during my drivers ed, many kids smoked weed at the breaks and the tests were gone over before we took them, so you knew the answers. Then the driving test with the police, I drove down a 35 mph road in a small city, most would call it a town. I was required to pull into a gas station and back into a spot. Then I drove back to the testing center and was passed. So, on paper, you really needed to be on your shit to pass and get your license. In reality, anyone with a pulse.

As a bonus, when I was taking my lessons, some other kids water balloned my car front windshield and the instructor almost had a heart attack and wanted to call the police. So you aren’t getting real “solid under pressure” types teaching!

Jb996
Jb996
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg

I do my part.
See most people, when they see the “Student Driver” sign, drive extra careful. This is the wrong approach.
There is probably an instructor or adult in the car teaching them. What are they going to learn in the limited 6hrs instructor or 50hrs of permit driving if everyone is super nice and careful??
I think we have a duty to drive terribly around them! They need to quickly encounter every possible idiot situation, while there is an instructor to help them through it. It’s our duty to help them learn how to handle idiots, not to give them a false sense of security!

So, do your part. Drive badly around Student Drivers.

Greg
Greg
1 month ago
Reply to  Jb996

I might even hit a few lightly after that pep talk! Watch out kiddos here I come!!

59turner
59turner
1 month ago

oneway hill climb with controlled toll booth. exit gate controls input gate so one person at a time or notifies EMS if they don’t come out.

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago

If you can’t stay in the lane, you didn’t make the turn. Not that morons need reasons, but it doesn’t help that I have frequently seen magazines, comparos, whatever where the jerkoffs demonstrating the cars cross the lines like it’s a normal thing to do, though this seems most prevalent from overseas videos where the laws might be different, even if the physics and chances are the same. Maybe they close the roads for the shoots, OK, but the optics are still terrible and make for unrealistic demonstrations compared to what a potential customer should experience, like the dumb practice of publishing acceleration times only achieved from highly abusive high rpm launches, though potentially more dangerous to other road users if idiots choose to imitate.

Financially, does it make sense to have this open? Sounds like it was shut for a reason and there are already other in-use roads that need expensive clearing, is there a real need for another one to spend money on with fires, floods, landslides, and so on to keep up with? I don’t live there or know the particulars to have a good answer, but I’m leaning toward maybe just allowing cyclists and hikers as that way it doesn’t become a road people depend on that is then taken away periodically and the maintenance requirements and repair timescales are lower and less important.

Patches O' Houlihan
Patches O' Houlihan
1 month ago

I appreciate this article and the way you addressed it. I’m both a car enthusiast and a cyclist, and these are my local mountains, so this hits home.

It’s a beautiful area and I want people to enjoy it, but it’s so hard to get behind fully opening it because of fears of the inevitable idiots that ruin it by pushing past their limits. I don’t want them to get hurt as much as I don’t want to get hurt.

I’m not sure what the best answer is, but it’s nice to hear some planning for fixing it, because right now almost no one can enjoy it.

Jb996
Jb996
1 month ago

Option 4: Make it a pass-required, timed entry, scenic route. There is precedent with the Red Rock Canyon scenic drive:
https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10075177/ticket/10075178
Red Rock is a $20 fee, but even if SR39 should be free, the point would be that you have to register, and have a timed entry ticket.

1) Less traffic since timed entry tickets are required.
2) Guess what happens if you are stopped for irresponsible driving, speeding, crossing the center line, etc? No more entry passes for you. (This would actually require highway patrol or traffic cameras, especially at first.)

EDIT: Or maybe just browsing YouTube/Tik-Toc/etc. would be enough to enforce #2. “Wow, that’s a great video, you really are a “race car driver”! (smirk) Congratulations, you’re now on the black-list.”

Last edited 1 month ago by Jb996
Space
Space
1 month ago
Reply to  Jb996

I have serious issues with the red rock scenic drive:
1) the $2 fee goes to a private company not back to red rocks or even the federal government. How is this ethical.
2) the timed entry thing started because they ran out of parking on high use weekends/holidays. Seems like an easy fix to add more parking but no they refuse.
3) they almost never sell out not kidding (there is over 1000 unsold entry’s just today) so we end up paying $2 extra and dealing with an extra system & signs all because they might be busy on holidays. In fact red rocks probably makes less money now because they have to turn away tourists (you can’t buy same hour entries, you have to wait for the next hour many may not wait that long)

Luckily this is California and not the federal government, so maybe they can run it better? I’m not holding my breath.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
1 month ago
Reply to  Space

California is the poster child for bad management. In 2022 the state had a $98 Billion surplus, now… $68 Billion shortfall. California could not manage a one car funeral parade.

Jb996
Jb996
1 month ago
Reply to  Space

Hey, I’m just the idea-man.

Sounds like there are some bugs to be worked out… by someone else. 🙂

Space
Space
1 month ago
Reply to  Jb996

Yea they ain’t paying you, not your fault. But if any state’s department of transportation is reading this they should hire the autopian’s writers, I’m sure Torch would have some interesting ideas for this road.

RataTejas
RataTejas
1 month ago
Reply to  Jb996

I see you have a future in consulting.

Jimmy7
Jimmy7
1 month ago

I bought my first bike, a Honda 400F, in 1977. I took it up 39 and discovered that the road was closed. I’ve waited long enough.

Willybear
Willybear
1 month ago

If opening the road doesnt limit hiking, biking, off-road use, etc then I’m in. I do think its important to ackowledge how priority use may have changed in 50 years.

I’ve never seen as many motorbike riders wadded up in a ditch or wrapped around guardrails as the Blue Ridge Parkway, but that road is without a doubt a national treasure. Also, for a number of reasons, most of which I strongly agree with, it is extremely hard to build a road like this in modern times anywhere in the world really, but especially North America. They are extremely damaging and expensive to put in, but frankly, if the damage is already done, lets use the damn thing for liesure driving, and access to the outdoors, maybe even commuting.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 month ago

If the road is safe, open it. There will always be idiots and jerks who put everyone else at risk for their own enjoyment. That’s a police issue.

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