It is 196?, Interstate 80 is complete until it hits Lawton’s Hot Springs. We have the Olympics to thank for that. It would take another 14 years for all of us to zip our way from Keystone to Vista, about 12 miles. 14 Years of dust in the summer, mud in the winter, detours, and some wrong ideas by the City Council.
One of those was the Vine St. Overpass.
Vine St. starts at the river and heads north to 7th St. It is a single lane in both directions until it hits US 40, where it widens a bit to accommodate the new Sportsman’s Corner, the Safeway, and the Plaza Shopping Center; Washoe Market, Sprouse Reitz, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Another block north remains one of the last few little markets, The Santa Claus Market. It will not last throughout the year.
The City Council is adamant that the road have an overpass across the freeway. There are more against the idea; every resident north of the ghastly cut through town.
At 7th and Vine the narrow street winds through the then well established neighborhood for another few blocks ending at 11th St. The businesses, led by Chet Piazzo argue that the overpass is imperative, by not having a way across the freeway it would force all the traffic to Keystone or Washington. The fear of forcing more traffic alongside our schools, Mary S. Doten and Central Jr. High were mentioned; both of which would be razed before the freeway was completed.
It is estimated to cost a mere $800,000 to build a steel arch, two lane overpass. They say by 1990 it will handle over 4,000 vehicles a day. It has a long circular ramp for pedestrians and wheelchairs to cross. You walk about 300′ to gain 15 feet in altitude. It is even completed with a inward curved steel suicide fence.
It is now the early 70’s, the freeway is complete, except for the section between Center and Keystone; It would have been opened the summer before, except for the new added feature of the Vine St. Overpass. Cracks! In the steel of the recently completed structure, one of several that didn’t quite work out as planned, Wells Ave, and the collapse of an overpass in Washoe Valley as examples.
I stopped at KFC on Fifth St. for lunch a while back, getting my order, and then pulling into the old Safeway parking lot; some may remember it as the old Grand Auto. I was there about half hour and I watched the traffic that crossed the overpass, all five cars. There is a small group of homeless men sheltering in the circular ramp. A few go under it to a few acres of weeds and litter along Orr ditch.
I drive over it when I can, and as I head north and come to that confusing three lane stop sign at University Terrace, I look at the houses, and almost without exception I see the same exact view I saw a half century ago, the houses have probably gone through several coats of paint, the trees are a little bigger, the only thing really different is the addition of a number of road humps.
As for the bridge, it is still there.
Finally, in the summer of 74′ the freeway is open from San Francisco to Tea Neck, New Jersey, except a few hundred miles in the middle of nowhere. I know this because a friend and I decided to stick out a thumb to take a look, but that’s another story. A lot of stories!