gmhTODAY 13 gmhToday March April 2017 - Page 64

Crossroads Designation A Gilroy Legacy Written By Elizabeth Barrett I n retrospect, it seems Gilroy’s geographic position as a major crossroads was a given: it was on the stage line starting in the 1850s, and by the 1870s the town was a railroad terminus. Then the automobile arrived, and with it, the start of paved roads and highways. Briefly, Gilroy’s stature as an auto crossroads came under question when Hollister tried to grab away the glory. It began with one highway project that soon morphed into several more. Before long, Gilroy won out, becoming an easy convergence for the hundreds of new autos taking to the roads. In 1923, with the completion of a new Pacheco Pass Highway, the modern road system set a fresh course for Gilroy’s place on the road map. The new highway was designed to be a far cry from its days as a once bandit-infested stage route between Visalia and Gilroy. The highway was the start of a newly conceived “Yosemite-to-the Sea” road project, a design enthusiastically supported by local Chambers of Commerce along the proposed route. When completed, the streamlined road would take travelers from Merced County all the way to Santa Cruz in one simple connection. 64 Before Pacheco Pass Highway was finished, getting over to the coast from the Central Valley was a hard day’s drive. Motorists heading north from the San Joaquin Valley had to take Altamont Pass through Livermore to get into the Santa Clara Valley. Those heading south took the Cholame Pass to Paso Robles before turning toward the Salinas Valley and finally reaching Gilroy. Either way, it was a long trip. The new Pacheco Pass Highway would enable motorists coming directly from Modesto or Fresno to follow a redesigned route, saving about 88 miles of travel distance. By the 1920s, highway construction had heralded the start of a new popular fad: auto tourism. Cars by the thousands were expected to flock westward from the Central Valley. The hitch, for awhile, was, which direction to head from there? During the final construction phases of the last highway segment from Pacheco Pass, Gilroy boosters cheered for the west- bound traffic to head their way, while those in Hollister thought it should be directed through their town instead. Until the final linkup was completed, travelers passing outside of Hollister were greeted by large billboard announcements set up by local promoters. Motorists were encouraged to divert their route and head GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MARCH/APRIL 2017 through San Juan Bautista, or better yet, head straight for Hollister. From there, some ads claimed, they could head to the Pinnacles. Neither proposal brought motorists to their planned coastal destination. Gilroy was not only closer to the coast, an added plus was its position in a direct line south from San Jose, where another highway system was in the ea &ǒp7FvW266&Fvǒv&vG26P2FR6V7F"bFR6V֗FRFЧFR6V&WFRB6W'6R6V7F2vW&PVB'#2fBvFP67&WFR&B&WGvVVFW&W7G&VW@BBv&&Bv2W&VBFƖ氧vFFR6֖r6V672vvFR'F6RbFfW'Fr7FFPG&ff2F&Vvv&v2FG&W76VB'V&W"bFR67Bvv766FB6&W"b6W&6RVWFrV&ǒVRb#RRFVBFBb֖VWVFGW&RbCW"F6VB&RWV7FVBg&V66&B`FW&7G276rF&VvFvFVS6'2W"FvVB'&r&WfVVW2`CRW"FvVfƷ27FVBf V6Bv2FW&Vf&RR6BBv0FRFvWBvF67G'V7FrFR&W7@bFRƖWFFR67BVFFVF&V6vG6fRF&7G2BFVB6WFg&v&vևFF6