Los Angeles & Pacific

The Los Angeles & Pacific was a proposal1 in 1943 by the “Federal Urban Recovery Agency” (F.U.R.A.)2 designed to revitalize the Pacific Electric in the Los Angeles County area, provide construction jobs, and improve transportation throughout the county. The designers envisioned new rail lines running down the centers of Los Angeles's equally vast freeway proposals, connecting and/or replacing current Pacific Electric lines, while removing the then current P.E.'s worst bottleneck – surface street traffic in Downtown Los Angeles – with an extensive subway system beneath Downtown. A further series of surface and subway routes was to connect the new freeway routes into a broad “net” over most of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernadino Counties in the Los Angeles Basin area.

Unfortunately, much of this visionary system was dependent on the construction of Freeways that were not to be begun for some years (and were then delayed, canceled, and rerouted many times over the next three decades,3) it was decided to initially work on the northern San Gabriel Valley to Downtown Los Angeles segment and its accompanying subway sections in Downtown first, a route that had the advantage of not having to wait for county freeway construction and actually doing more than just connecting two (or more) of the future planned “freeway lines.”

As proposed, this line would be composed of three main segments:

1944 Proposal

The completed line was supposed to improve connections in Downtown Los Angeles by removing much of the interurban traffic from the surface streets and providing direct connections between the Pacific Electric's Northern, Southern and Western districts (and later, several of the proposed “freeway lines”). Further, it would in theory have provided faster transit times from Los Angeles to Pasadena, better connections through the northern San Gabriel Valley, and shorten transit times between there and cities east of the valley as much as half.

Funding for the proposal was passed in August of 1945 and the ground breaking was seven months later. Construction began both on the Pasadena Subway segment and the Pasadena to Monrovia surface rail segment. By late 1947, the surface segment was complete and a temporary flyover was built from the western end of this to the Pacific Electric's East Main St. Line to allow its use.5

Work on the subway segment continued through 1947 and 1948 as the construction authority prepared to begin work on the Los Angeles to Pasadena and Azusa Ave. segments (the Los Angeles Subway segment was put on hold until the Pasadena Subway was completed). However, in early 1949, the new administration ordered the F.U.R.A. to halt the project, defunding all segments not already past a set level of completion.6 The Pasadena Subway was allowed to continue on to completion as far as Fair Oaks station, though many features were cut and construction of the section of the subway from Fair Oaks to what would have been the West Portal was abandoned with only two-hundred feet of boring finished.7 Rushed to completion, the truncated subway opened on December 30th, 1949.8

1949 As built

With no connection to the San Bernadino Line (on which the P.E. abandoned passenger service in 1955 in any event, possibly because of this lack), and only to Los Angeles via a transfer to the P.E. lines in Pasadena (the last of which then ceased in 1959) the line was less the revitalizing interurban it was planned to be and more a local “bus line on rails”9 for the cities it passed through. Due to receiving continual Federal funding for operation, it managed to limp along through the decades as part of the MTA, eventually (in 1969) becoming their sole operating rail line in a sea of buses. It was renamed the Pasadena/Monrovia Line in 1959 and the name Los Angeles & Pacific could now only found on some of the stations decorative ironwork.

One expansion from the original plan was still made during this period, however. In 1951, as the Pacific Electric abandoned the Monrovia/Glendora Line,10 the previously planned connector to it from the eastern end of the L.A.&P. was actually built, continuing the line into Glendora, with a plan – not dropped until its 1955 closing – to continue south to the San Bernadino Line in Covina. This would be the last attempt to institute any more of the original master plan.

Glendora extension

Over the years, low usage caused the MTA to flirt with abandonment for this section of the line, but it remained in use throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Finally, during the early 80s, part of the line was rebuilt as an elevated alongside and in tandem with the new Foothill Freeway between Mayflower in Arcadia and just past Madre Street in Pasadena, as the freeway used that section of the rail right-of-way for its own route. Along with this reconstruction, a new station was built for the Grass Mall between the Prospect and Allen stations. Far less elaborate than the original subway stations, given the Grass Mall's "Victorian London" theme, it was styled to resemble a London "Tube" station.

Freeway elevated section

Then, three years later in 1985, following the “Oil Shock”, the MTA began a process to bring several long-abandoned Pacific Electric lines back into use. Along with restoring these lines, they refurbished much of the Pasadena/Monrovia Line, since passengers had been complaining vigorously after being able to compare the new elevated segment with the badly deteriorating remainder of the line.

The new “Los Angeles Metropolitan Rail System” (unoffically, but much more commonly known as the “New P.E.”) initially began rebuilding/restoring the Long Beach, San Bernadino, Santa Monica Blvd and Glendale Lines. Initial troubles with gaining rights to a route into Pasadena proper, they proposed a variant of the original planned route from Azusa to the San Bernadino line (then under reconstruction), this time, following the San Gabriel River, along the route of the planned northern section of the San Gabriel River Freeway. Unfortunately, due to freeway construction delays (the bane of the L.A.&P. since day one), the proposal was shelved until the freeway could be finished.11

San Gabriel River Connection proposal

This created the interesting conundrum in that the rest of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Rail System still did not connect with its oldest operating rail line. So along with the shelved “River Line,” over the next decade, three other proposed lines designed to connect the L.A.&P. into the rest of the system were created. By 1997, the plans for the western San Gabriel Valley looked something like this:

1997 proposals

Using these proposals as a start – and with the “River Line” still on hold – in 2008 construction began on the long hoped for Los Angeles to Pasadena link along the Pasadena/Alhambra line (which follows the old P.E. Route up Huntington Drive as far as its crossing with the abandoned Southern Pacific “Pasadena Division” RoW). A mile-and-a-half extension along Main from the Brand Line east in Glendale – which would provide the western connection for the proposed Pasadena/Glendale line if built – was also construction, opening in 2010.12

By 2011, both Pasadena connections are about half-way completed and on schedule to be finished by 2013/2014. With the “River Line” also planned for opening at that time, by 2014, the original “Los Angeles & Pacific” proposal from 1944 – at least as far as the San Gabriel Valley is concerned, will finally be complete...seventy years later.


addendum 2014: Old LA&P/Pasadena-Monrovia line now part of the "Valleys Line."
2014 Valleys Line