In 1965 plans were unveiled to continue the 60 (Pomona) Freeway from the Los Angeles County line, east to Mira Loma, consisting of three lanes in each direction. Construction was estimated at $7.5 million for the 4.6 miles across Chino, starting east of Reservoir Street and running to Euclid Avenue, between Walnut Avenue and Philadelphia Street.
City officials insisted that it be constructed below street level. They did not want the city divided, or the view of the mountains obstructed by an elevated freeway. They felt the submerged freeway would protect surrounding property values. Mounds of dirt were was pushed from Chino, east to Ontario.
Completion was expected in 1968, but due to state budget issues and a Teamsters union strike, the Chino section was delayed. In September, 1970, concrete was laid at a mile a day. As completion neared, the City of Chino realized tremendous growth was on the way. Plans for housing, shopping centers and schools were discussed as the city prepared for a boom in population.
On December 30, 1970, dedication of the Chino section was held in the eastbound lanes at Reservoir. A three-mile long motorcade of classic and modern cars darkened the fresh concrete with their black rubber tires. Public officials and several hundred invited guests attended. The city agreed to provide the water if the state would landscape the slopes.
Public use of the freeway would have to wait. Rain-induced mud slides around the summit between Diamond Bar Boulevard and Highway 71 in Los Angeles County pushed back the opening. Finally, shortly after 1 pm on Monday, January 25, 1971, the freeway opened through to Euclid Avenue. The front page of the Chino Champion exclaimed, “Freeway finally open!” 266 days after breaking ground, the Pomona freeway would lead many from metropolitan Los Angeles to Chino, opening a gateway and forever changing life in the quiet dairy town.
The population in Chino in 1970 was 20,411. After the freeway opened, it doubled to 40,165 by 1980. Some felt the boom ruined the small town. Others believed the freeway was progress that created industry, revenue and jobs. The population in Chino is currently around 87,000. While the city has grown, I still bump into people I know all over town. To me, Chino feels like a big little city.