What we measure in minutes traveling the Ventura Freeway today, Don Gaspar de Portola and his expedition of the late 1770s measured in days. The Butterfield stagecoach company, nearly a century later, measured it in hours.
But the San Fernando portion of the Ventura Freeway, stretching from Vineland Avenue to Lost Hills Road, did more than just cut travel times. The freeway, completed in 1960, helped transform the Valley from the home of rustic farming communities into a thriving residential extension of Los Angeles. Now it’s difficult to imagine the Valley without freeways. These lifelines seem so much a part of modern Valley life that we tend to forget that they follow ancient trails and riverbeds. Traffic, whether by foot, coach or Chevy, has flowed along approximately the same path for centuries.
The Ventura Freeway, now 35 years old, is still growing and expanding. Traffic along the route flows more smoothly now than it did 10 years ago, mostly thanks to a widening project completed in 1990 that eliminated several bottlenecks.
Under construction is a new interchange at Valley Circle Boulevard and the extension of Leonora Drive across from the old Leonis Adobe in Calabasas, a Butterfield stagecoach stop between 1861 and 1902.
* The Ventura Freeway is part of the 101 Freeway, which in turn is part of El Camino Real, the longest highway in California.
* The Ventura Freeway extends from the Hollywood Freeway near Vineland Avenue in the San Fernando Valley to the Santa Barbara County line, a distance of 65.1 miles.
* The portion of the Ventura Freeway within the San Fernando Valley from Sepulveda Boulevard to Calabasas is 16 miles long.
* The Ventura and San Diego freeway interchange ranks third in the state in traffic volume. About 527,500 cars pass through it per day.
* With an average traffic volume of 325,000 vehicles per day through Sherman Oaks, the Ventura Freeway qualifies as the third busiest freeway in the state.
* Unlike other California freeways, the Ventura Freeway runs east and west as well as north and south.
A BRIEF HISTORY
* Nov. 20, 1952: State Highway Commission announces route for Ventura Freeway from Sepulveda Boulevard on the east to Los Angeles city limits.
* 1954-55: $2,740,000 in state funds is earmarked for land acquisition.
* Sept. 5, 1956: Groundbreaking for Ventura Freeway construction in Valley takes place between Moorpark Avenue and Laurel Canyon Boulevard.
* Dec. 1956 - May 1960: Construction progresses in segments, beginning with the section linking Sepulveda Boulevard and Encino Avenue that opened in 1958. Last segment to open was 3.9-mile section between Encino Avenue and Kelvin Avenue.
* July 8, 1959: Gov. Pat Brown signed a bill officially designating Highway 101 as El Camino Real from San Francisco to the Mexican Border.
* 1988-1990: Freeway is widened between Wilbur Avenue and Valley Circle Boulevard. Construction includes adding lanes and shoulders, resurfacing pavement and building sound walls.
A current project in Calabasas began in January, 1994, and is scheduled for completion January, 1996. It includes a new on- and off-ramp interchange at Valley Circle Boulevard, a new bridge with an equestrian trail across the bridge and the extension of Leonora Drive to Valley Circle Boulevard.
Sources: Caltrans; Wells Fargo Bank History Museum; Los Encinos Historical Society; Leonis Adobe and Plummer House; San Fernando Valley Historical Society
Researched by MAGGIE BARNETT / Los Angeles Times