Now I know how a package feels when it gets an unobstructed ride through a chute to the shipping department. I've just made a run out to Pasadena on the completed Arroyo Seco Parkway ... From the relatively narrow Figueroa tunnels you immediately find yourself launched like a speedboat in a calm, spacious, divided channel. Channel is the word, too, for it's in the arroyo, below the level of traffic-tormented streets. No brazen pedestrians nor kids riding bikes with their arms folded! No cross streets with too-bold or too-timid drivers jutting their radiators into your path. And no wonder I made it from Elysian Park to Broadway and Glenarm Street in Pasadena in 10 minutes without edging over a conservative 45 miles an hour (Westways, January 1941).
> Today, the Arroyo Seco Parkway stands as a representative example of an urban parkway still in use but fraught with problems due to its disjuncture between its original conception and ultimate evolution.
> The goal was nothing less than the display of the physical and historic landscape of the region through windshield.
… saving in time to motorists is based, not upon traffic flowing unduly at high speeds, but on its ability to flow continuously at reasonable speeds without delays caused by cross-traffic and left hand-turns.
> Transportation efficiency and aesthetic delight were considered inseparable goals of parkway design, which in the early 20th century was described as “bioengineering”—a marriage of architecture, landscaping and civil engineering in a three dimensional design. These dual values which resulted in the design of a road as both a route and a place were carefully incorporated in the design of the Arroyo Seco Parkway.
In 1930, observing that “parkways are wholly lacking in the Los Angeles Region” Olmsted and Batholomew issued their report Parks, Playgrounds, and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region, proposing a comprehensive and coordinated system of large parks and connecting parkways. The proposed Arroyo Seco Parkway would represent a North-South chain “from the mountains to the sea through the heart of the city.”
> As times were changing fast, the goal of efficiency quickly overshadowed that of aesthetic delight.
> Already by 1940, at the time of its dedication, the Arroyo Seco Parkway, with its crucial goal of aesthetic appeal and connection to a picturesque landscape, began to be identified as the first freeway of the West, with its more concentrated focus on speed, traffic volume, uninterrupted travel, and efficiency. Built in a transitional phase of road building, when the ideal of a recreational parkway was about to give way to the concept of the high-speed freeway, the parkway was seeking to reconcile utilitarian purposes with traditional recreational motives.
> By 1940, the President of the Studebaker Corporation would declare that “in highways lies a new national frontier for the pessimist who thinks frontiers have disappeared.”