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Open streets event ‘Arroyo Fest’ to shut down 110 Freeway for one day in 2020

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Angelenos will be free to experience the historic roadway without cars

A thick crowd of people walking on a freeway.
A photo from the June 2003 event—the first Arroyo Fest.
Photo by Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In the fall of 2020, if all goes as planned, the 110 Freeway will be shut down from just east of the 5 Freeway to its terminus near Pasadena for people to walk, bike, and move around—without cars—for an afternoon.

”We love working on projects that are ambitious, engaging, and inviting to the public,” Wesley Reutimann, the special programs director of Active San Gabriel Valley, the organization that’s putting together the event.

As wild as the idea may seem, Arroyo Fest has been done before. An event of the same name took place in the summer of 2003.

Active SGV staffers recently connected with a couple of the organizers of the original 2003 Arroyo Fest—both of whom were working at Occidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at the time—and are looking forward to learning the ins and outs of how they pulled it off, especially without major sponsors. (The primary funder of the 2020 Arroyo Fest is Metro’s Open Streets Competitive Grant Program, without which, Reutimann says, the event wouldn’t be possible.)

“The first Arroyo Fest was ahead of its time,” says Reutimann.

A simplified map showing the event route on the 110 Freeway from its terminus in Pasadena to, generally, the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park Gold Line station.
A map of the planned route.
Courtesy of Active SGV

Active SGV has organized two similar events to date, including one that spanned more than 17 sweaty, fun miles and crossed through eight different cities. The group will host two more events before Arroyo Fest.

Surprisingly, Reutimann says, he expects the 110 Freeway-traversing route to be easier to produce than the 17-mile-long one. It requires coordination with fewer cities, and the freeway is easier to secure for participants than city streets, he says says.

This section of the 110 Freeway, called the Arroyo Seco Parkway, opened in 1940 and is a nationally recognized landmark and a state scenic highway. But most people don’t get to enjoy the view or mull over the history when they’re driving on it, as the shockingly short on- and offramps demand undivided attention.

Those who take the Metro Gold Line, which runs along the parkway section and crosses it three times, get a few glimpses, but not much more.

By closing the historic stretch to cars and inviting people onto it, Angelenos will be free to look around, enjoy the scenery, and generally see this roadway in a different light. Active SGV wants that new point of view to get people interested in and excited about moving around the city without a car.

“For us, it’s about introducing people to different modes of mobility, promoting zero emissions, and active and public transportation,” says Reutimann, who points out that the Gold Line is going to be a major element of this route as well. (It opened about a month after the 2003 Arroyo Fest.)

The roughly 7-mile Arroyo Fest 2020 is slated for November 15, 2020. “Save the date!” Reutimann says.