Secret Highways Of Los Angeles: Exploring The Hidden And Forgotten Freeways

As one of the most car-centric cities in the United States, Los Angeles is defined by its massive network of highways and freeways. However, not all of LA’s roads are famous; some were partially or fully built before being abandoned, while others are hidden in plain sight.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Although not officially secret, there are a few lesser-known highways and abandoned freeway projects scattered around Los Angeles, such as the Art of the Freeway exhibit along the 101, hidden access points to the 2 freeway, and the remnants of cancelled projects like the Beverly Hills Freeway.

This comprehensive guide will uncover Los Angeles’s forgotten and hidden highways, from decommissioned roads to infrastructure art installations only visible from above. We’ll also look at the historical context and politics that shaped these secretive transportation networks known mainly to locals.

The Origins of Los Angeles’s Massive Freeway System

Los Angeles is often associated with its sprawling freeway system, which has become an iconic part of the city’s identity. But have you ever wondered how it all started? Let’s take a journey back in time to explore the origins of Los Angeles’s massive freeway system.

Early Plans in the 1940s

In the 1940s, city planners in Los Angeles began envisioning a comprehensive freeway system that would connect the various neighborhoods and suburbs. These early plans aimed to alleviate traffic congestion and improve transportation efficiency in the growing city.

The first freeway in Los Angeles, the Arroyo Seco Parkway (now known as the Pasadena Freeway), opened in 1940, setting the stage for the development of future freeways.

During this time, urban planning was heavily influenced by the Garden City movement, which advocated for the separation of residential, commercial, and industrial areas. The freeway system was seen as a way to connect these different zones, making it easier for people to commute to work and access essential services.

Post-War Growth and Automobile Culture

Following World War II, Los Angeles experienced a surge in population and economic growth. The booming post-war economy, coupled with a growing fascination with automobiles, led to increased demand for a more extensive freeway network.

As more people moved to the suburbs and embraced car ownership, the need for efficient transportation became even more pressing.

During this period, the concept of the “car culture” emerged, with movies, music, and advertisements glorifying the freedom and independence that came with owning a car. The freeway system became a symbol of progress and modernity, appealing to the aspirations of a generation eager to explore the vast landscapes of Southern California.

The Interstate Highway Act

The turning point for Los Angeles’s freeway system came with the passing of the Interstate Highway Act in 1956. This federal legislation provided funding for the construction of a nationwide interstate highway system, including several key routes that would pass through Los Angeles.

With the influx of federal funds, the construction of freeways in Los Angeles accelerated rapidly. The city’s geography, characterized by its sprawling layout and vast open spaces, provided ample room for the development of an extensive network of highways.

Over time, iconic freeways such as the Santa Monica Freeway, the San Diego Freeway, and the Hollywood Freeway became integral parts of the city’s infrastructure.

Today, the Los Angeles freeway system comprises hundreds of miles of roads, connecting neighborhoods, and facilitating the movement of millions of people each day. While it may be easy to take these highways for granted, understanding their origins allows us to appreciate the immense effort and planning that went into creating this vital transportation network.

Cancelled and Abandoned Highway Projects

Los Angeles is known for its vast and intricate freeway system, but there are hidden stories of highways that were cancelled or abandoned before they could ever be completed. These forgotten projects offer a glimpse into the city’s past and the ever-evolving plans for its transportation infrastructure.

The Beverly Hills Freeway

One of the most notorious cancelled highway projects in Los Angeles is the Beverly Hills Freeway. Originally proposed in the 1960s, this ambitious project aimed to connect the Pacific Coast Highway to the Hollywood Freeway through the heart of Beverly Hills.

However, due to strong opposition from local residents and environmental concerns, the project was ultimately abandoned. Today, instead of a freeway, you’ll find the scenic and affluent neighborhoods of Beverly Hills.

The Laurel Canyon Freeway

Another cancelled project that would have drastically changed the landscape of Los Angeles is the Laurel Canyon Freeway. This proposed highway was intended to provide a direct route from the San Fernando Valley to the Hollywood Hills, cutting through the iconic Laurel Canyon.

However, public outcry and concerns about the impact on the environment and local communities led to the cancellation of the project. Today, Laurel Canyon remains a winding road that offers a picturesque drive through the scenic hills.

The Seward-San Diego Freeway Extension

The Seward-San Diego Freeway Extension is yet another example of a cancelled highway project in Los Angeles. This proposed extension would have connected the Seward Freeway (now known as the Santa Monica Freeway) to the San Diego Freeway (now known as the I-405).

However, due to budget constraints and objections from local communities, the project was never completed. As a result, the two freeways remain separate to this day, with the I-10 and I-405 intersecting at the notorious interchange known as the “Sepulveda Pass.”

These cancelled and abandoned highway projects serve as reminders of the ever-changing nature of transportation planning in Los Angeles. While some may argue that these projects could have alleviated traffic congestion, others appreciate the preservation of the city’s unique character and natural beauty.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about what could have been, exploring the stories behind these hidden and forgotten freeways is a fascinating journey into the past of the City of Angels.

Lesser-Known and Hidden Access Points

Los Angeles is a city known for its intricate network of freeways and highways that connect different neighborhoods and regions. While many of these roads are well-known and heavily trafficked, there are also a number of lesser-known and hidden access points that provide unique and alternative routes for drivers.

Here are a few of these secret highways:

The 134 to the 2 Interchange

One of the hidden gems of Los Angeles’ freeway system is the 134 to the 2 interchange. Located in the eastern part of the city, this interchange provides a convenient shortcut for drivers looking to bypass heavy traffic on the more popular routes.

By taking this route, drivers can save valuable time and enjoy a smoother driving experience. The interchange is well-maintained and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, making it a scenic alternative for those who enjoy a picturesque drive.

The Invisible Junction of the 210 and the 101

Another lesser-known access point in Los Angeles is the invisible junction of the 210 and the 101 freeways. This hidden gem is tucked away in the northern part of the city and offers a convenient connection between these two major highways.

Despite its lack of visibility on most maps and GPS systems, the invisible junction is a well-maintained and efficient route that can help drivers avoid congestion on other popular routes. It’s a secret shortcut that savvy drivers have been using for years, and once you discover it, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t found it sooner.

Shortcut from the 5 to the 110

For drivers looking for a quick and efficient way to get from the 5 freeway to the 110 freeway, there is a secret shortcut that can save you both time and frustration. This hidden route is tucked away in the heart of downtown Los Angeles and provides a direct connection between these two major highways.

By taking this shortcut, drivers can bypass heavy traffic and enjoy a smooth and seamless transition between freeways. It’s a hidden gem that can make your daily commute or road trip a whole lot easier.

These lesser-known and hidden access points in Los Angeles are just a few examples of the secret highways that exist in the city. By exploring these alternative routes, drivers can save time, avoid traffic, and discover new parts of the city they may not have seen before.

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic on a popular freeway, consider taking a detour and exploring one of these hidden and forgotten freeways. You never know what you might find along the way!

Infrastructure Art Installations

Los Angeles is not only known for its vibrant arts scene, but also for its unique infrastructure art installations. These hidden and forgotten freeways are more than just a means of transportation; they have become canvases for artistic expression.

From the stunning murals on the 2 Freeway to the iconic sculptures along the 101 Freeway, these installations transform the mundane into something extraordinary.

The Art of the 101 Freeway

Driving along the 101 Freeway, one can’t help but notice the impressive art installations that adorn its walls. These murals, created by talented local artists, breathe life into the concrete landscape.

From colorful abstract designs to thought-provoking illustrations, each mural tells a unique story. These art pieces not only beautify the freeway but also serve as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of Los Angeles.

One notable art installation along the 101 Freeway is the “Great Wall of Los Angeles.” This mural, spanning over half a mile, depicts the history of California through the eyes of its diverse communities.

It showcases the struggles, triumphs, and contributions of various ethnic groups, making it a powerful symbol of unity and inclusivity.

LACMA’s Michael Heizer Exhibit

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is not only known for its impressive collection of artwork but also for its unique outdoor installations. One of the most notable exhibits is the Michael Heizer exhibit, located near the 2 Freeway.

This massive artwork, titled “Levitated Mass,” features a 340-ton granite boulder suspended above a concrete trench. The juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made creates a sense of wonder and awe.

The Michael Heizer exhibit is a testament to the power of art to transform spaces and challenge our perceptions. It invites visitors to contemplate the relationship between nature and civilization, and the impact of human intervention on the environment.

This thought-provoking installation has become a landmark of Los Angeles, attracting visitors from all over the world.

The 2 Freeway Murals

The 2 Freeway is not just a route for commuters; it is also home to some remarkable murals that showcase the creativity and talent of local artists. These murals, spread across the walls of underpasses and bridges, add a splash of color and vibrancy to the otherwise gray and monotonous freeway.

One notable mural along the 2 Freeway is the “Sunset Mural.” This vibrant artwork captures the beauty of a Los Angeles sunset, with its warm hues and iconic palm trees. It serves as a reminder of the natural wonders that surround the city and provides a moment of respite for drivers stuck in traffic.

Another captivating mural along the 2 Freeway is the “Street Art Wall.” This ever-changing canvas showcases the work of various street artists, providing a platform for their creativity and expression.

From graffiti-inspired designs to intricate illustrations, this mural celebrates the diversity of artistic styles and voices in Los Angeles.

Exploring the hidden and forgotten freeways of Los Angeles is not only a chance to discover new routes but also an opportunity to immerse oneself in the city’s vibrant art scene. These infrastructure art installations add a touch of magic to the everyday commute, reminding us of the power of art to transform even the most mundane spaces.


While Los Angeles is known for its traffic and endless highways, some of the city’s most fascinating roads are those that are lesser-known and hidden from sight. Exploring the history and remains of LA’s abandoned freeway projects offers a window into what might have been while discovering its hidden art offers a new perspective on the oft-maligned concrete infrastructure.

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