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Women Who Built L.A. Freeways

Civil Engineers Marilyn Reece and Carol Schumaker, 1964

1964 photo from L.A. Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library Digital Collections and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

State highway engineer Marilyn Jorgenson Reece (above photo on the left) designed the three-level Santa Monica-San Diego Freeway (I-10/I-405) interchange near Sepulveda and Olympic Boulevards, seen here under construction in the background in 1964. The interchange is today named for her. With her is fellow highway engineer Carol Schumaker, who worked closely with Reece on the project. Schumaker herself later designed the two-level San Diego-San Gabriel River-Garden Grove (I-405/I-605/22) interchange complex. In 1954, working for the State Division of Highways (today’s CALTRANS), Reece became the first woman to become a registered civil engineer in California. She was quoted as saying, “Being a woman has never hampered my career.” Reece went on to be key engineer on the I-605 and I-210 expansion projects. These engineers did not directly supervise day-to-day freeway construction. They were the freeway designers, the architects. They would, however, visit construction sites to monitor how their plans unfolded and address any problems.

Both of Reece's daughters also entered technology professions, one following her mother into highway engineering for CALTRANS.