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The freeway that looked like the future in 1940? Now, not so much. Nathan Masters on 'The Road Taken'

The freeway that looked like the future in 1940? Now, not so much. Nathan Masters on 'The Road Taken'

When it opened in 1940, the Arroyo Seco Parkway looked like the future. Its sweeping curves transported motorists between Los Angeles and Pasadena without encountering a single stop sign, traffic light, streetcar, bicycle or pedestrian. It was a roadway designed for the uninterrupted, unimpeded flow of automobiles. It was the work of civil engineers.

If L.A.'s landscape bears the imprint of any one group of professionals, it must be engineers. From the 1880s onward, engineers like William Mulholland and Lloyd Aldrich prescribed bold measures to ease Los Angeles' growing pains. By the 1960s, they had recast the City of Angels as a city of concrete, a metropolis structured around...

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