By week’s end, many Napa County residents will travel on the local roadways to reach their Memorial Day get-away or activities. These roadways and the general topic of transportation were frequent subjects of 1950s Napa Register newspaper articles. The focus of those numerous articles varied widely, from the power of a writing campaign to the end of one mass transit system and and more.
During the mid-20th century, many locals voiced their concerns and opinions regarding the traffic patterns, flow and safety in and around Napa. Adding their thoughts to this discussion were the local politicians and municipal agencies. For instance, in late-1950 the Napa city council “tabled plans for a one-way street system and a ban on truck unloading after 1 p.m., pending a formal study of the entire downtown traffic problem,” said the Register. That one-way street system was eventually implemented in the downtown Napa area by the city.
But, before Napa’s politicians began to ponder downtown Napa’s traffic issues, another transportation problem was about to be resolved by local agencies. In early-1950, the construction began on the Solano Avenue by-pass between Foster and Redwood Roads.
Years later when Highway 29 was improved to include a section of freeway with overpasses and on-off ramps, the section of Solano Avenue between First Street and Lincoln Avenue was abandoned to make way for the freeway project. As a result, the stretch of Solano Avenue south of First Street was renamed Freeway Drive.
Although the motorized vehicle was the favored mode of transportation in the 1950s, mass transit systems were in the local and regional news. Sometimes those reports covered the details of problems with and inconveniences caused by those systems. One such incident was the on-going bus strike in 1952. The Register said, “Napa continues to be without a scheduled transportation service due to the Greyhound Lines strike. The buses apparently will remain idle due to an impasse in negotiations between the labor union and company management.”
In the spring of 1956, the Register published two article about both an old and new form of rail mass transit. The first article stated the San Francisco and Napa Valley Railroad Company stockholders approved the dissolving of the electric interurban rail line. Established in the early 1900s, the San Francisco and Napa Valley Railroad Company offered convenient connections between all of Napa County’s communities, Vallejo and San Francisco via its interurban and ferryboat system for many years.
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As one transportation system was formally ended, a new one was being considered by local politicians. Also in the spring of 1956, the Register reported the Napa County Board of Supervisors were in the process of discussing at great length the pros and cons of joining the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. Ultimately, they opted out.
Frequently, those who influence or make the decisions regarding transportation and traffic issues are politicians and large lobbyist organizations. On occasion, however, a single voice can create positive change. A brief springtime 1952 Register news item validates this point. While not disclosing the influential individual’s identity, the article stated a local boy’s letter of concern about speeding traffic inspired the State Division of Highways to install signals along the Solano Highway.
As illustrated by the previous item, roadway safety has always been of paramount concern to almost everyone. However, it has almost always been the responsibility of the local law enforcement agencies to uphold the safety rules and regulations. In an effort to perform those duties, the local policing departments have enlisted the media’s help to convey their roadway safety messages to the public.
For example, a mid-1958 Register article headline said, “Munk Warns On Playing In Street.” The article continued, “Napa youngsters — and their parents — were reminded today that the law forbids the use of streets as playgrounds.”
It also said, “(Napa) Police Chief Sherwood Munk, in issuing the reminder, noted that the school grounds are available for play, and supervision and equipment is being provided at elementary school grounds by the Napa Recreation Commission.”
The reminder also pointed out a safe and happy summer for local children was everyone’s responsibility. The Register added, “Motorists are being asked to be on the alert to the hundreds of children who are circulating about town on foot and on bicycles during the summer vacation.”