Interstate 210 - The "Highway of Death"
I, like many other residents of the Inland Empire could not wait for the 16-mile extension of the 210 freeway that runs from San Dimas to Fontana to open a few years back. Each day me and tens of thousands of others jammed Baseline Avenue and Foothill Blvd. each morning counting down the days to the freeway Grand-Opening - Watching as the Caltrans workers slowly made progress - inch, by painfully slow, inch.
When the "big day" finally arrived I was one of the very first to drive on the new 210 freeway. After impatiently waiting for the Highway Patrol to remove the roadblocks that were blocking the entrances to the on-ramps, my wife and I gleefully cruised from Milliken Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga to the Baseline Avenue exit near San Dimas - all in under 5 minutes. A trip that only hours earlier would have taken 15 minutes, and 40 minutes on a "work day"! Finally.. Our lives are complete, we mused. The daily drive to the office into the San Gabriel Valley would now take only minutes, instead of hours, and the value of our home would surely increase now that our neighborhood was freeway close. We followed the news of the construction of the freeway closely. It seem that the closer opening day got, the more delays or schedule changes there were.
These were to be expected for such a large project. But, sprinkled in the weekly news about the new construction of the 210 extension were the occasional stories of things gone wrong. The Caltrans worker severely injured now and again, the occasional major traffic incident on Baseline due to rubberneckers trying to look at the new freeway at 55MPH, instead of watching the road in front of them, etc. These things are to be expected. But there was one story that stuck out in the headlines. The story of the jogger, a doctor and his friend on their daily jog along the freeway construction path. The doctor it seems decided to hop over a three-foot high retaining-type wall - but instead of continuing his run on solid ground, he found himself dead, 35 feet below the small wall he just jumped over. This educated and intelligent man had jumped right off what was now an overpass and right onto the new freeway below. His jogging partner, in a desperate attempt to help his friend, was critically injured trying slide down the embankment to help.
Then there were the accidents
After the new section of the freeway had been opened for about 2 weeks, it seemed there were daily traffic accidents. All of these accidents seemed to happen between Mountain Avenue in Upland and Haven Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga. Some would say that collisions on freeways are commonplace, but we (my carpool partner and I) began to realize something was different. Over the span of approximately 2 months we personally had witnessed or driven by the aftermath of approximately 10 crashes between Mountain and Haven avenue. In that same amount of time, there were ZERO accidents east of Haven Avenue all the way into Fontana, and ONE accident west of Mountain all the way into Monrovia. This short, 5 or 6 mile stretch of Interstate 210 had 10-times more accidents than all the rest of the freeway, based on our observations!
Calle De Los Muerte
My carpool buddy and I jokingly began calling this short stretch of the 210 freeway The Highway of Death. My carpool partner, being of Hispanic persuasion, also referred to this stretch of freeway as Los Calle De Muerte. We were amused at first, but things got worse.
Freak accidents and tragedies
The stories of freak and tragic accidents, all on this short stretch of the 210 continued unabated. The woman that was killed by a wrong-way driver going UP an onramp, the story of the man killed as his car went out of control, up the embankment, and flipped-over. The stranded motorist and a tow-truck driver killed while in the emergency lane - struck by someone passing on the right in the emergency lane at 80 miles per hour, causing entire tow-truck to explode and burst into flames. The U.S. Solder, just back from a tour in Iraq, driving home from the airport that mysteriously went out of control, went up the embankment, hit a light standard and was instantly killed. The van driving normally, suddenly swerving from the far left fast lane, across all lanes of traffic to the far right, and up the embankment (this one witnessed by my carpool partner). The motorist, struck and killed while changing a tire in the emergency lane. The cement truck whose brakes went out coming down Haven avenue that went thru a red light on Haven hitting several cars, then proceeded thru the guardrails on the Haven overpass and diving headfirst into oncoming traffic on the westbound lane of the 210. And of course, the tragic shooting death of the teenagers on their way to school - shot and killed from another car while exiting the freeway at Haven Avenue. The shooter, later shot and killed by police while being pursued for another crime. Of course, we also have the permanent reminders of countless other collisions and near misses as evidenced by the skid-marks - so numerous that the cement is almost totally black in some spots. All starting at approximately Mountain Avenue and ending at almost exactly Haven Avenue.
Angry Mother Earth and Curses
My car pool partner and I have theorized that maybe this section of the 210 was built over an ancient Indian burial ground - and now the Indian spirits, or perhaps the spirit of mother earth herself has been angered. Or perhaps a homeowner who's home was taken under the guise of eminent domain, put a curse on all those who shall pass on this now cursed section of evil freeway. Or, then again, maybe it is just one of those things.. A coincidence - a statistical anomaly.
Stay Safe Inland Empire Commuters
One thing is certain though. To this day, every time my [now former] car-pool partner or I drive through this section of the 210 freeway, we slow down, stay alert, and refuse to stop in the emergency lane - no matter the cause. Stay safe my friends.. Stay safe.
If you remember any other 'odd' traffic accidents along the "Los Calle De Muerte", please post them below.