An artist’s rendering of the Interstate 8/Imperial Ave. interchange construction plans displayed at a forum in El Centro on Jan.13. The project will be completed by the California Department of Transportation. | Photo of Caltrans graphic by William Roller
EL CENTRO — About a half century since Interstate 8 blazed a trail through Imperial County as part of a national highway project, work will finally begin to create an Imperial Avenue overpass.
Besides re-configuring a cumbersome interchange, the project will allow El Centro to extend Imperial Ave. south of the interstate. The initial effort to do that faltered in the 1970s amid resistance from downtown merchants.
The California Department of Transportation and El Centro officials co-hosted a presentation on Jan. 13 to prepare residents and commuters for traffic disruptions on the way as a result of construction starting later this year.
interchange reconfiguration, which will be done first, likely will result traffic
snarls, explained Mayor Efrain Silva in a forum at the Caltrans Maintenance
Station in El Centro.
is an historic day and we have been anticipating these projects for many
years,” said Silva. “As well as the new interchange that will (better)
connect Imperial Avenue drivers with I-8, we’ll be able to connect Imperial
Avenue drivers to our south side residents more efficiently.”
interchange reconfiguration, the Caltrans work will prepare for a the subsequent
El Centro project to extend Imperial Ave. south of the interstate.
cautioned residents to exercise patience, understanding and above all else to
maintain caution while driving through construction cones. The benefits, he
added, will be worth it.
predict the south part of the city will grow to be a thriving business area
with restaurants, retail and business services,” added Silva. “We
have waited so long for this so another two more years’ wait will be worth
Imperial Ave. terminating at the interstate, over the years residential and
commercial development on El Centro’s south side oozed east toward Eighth and
Fourth streets, and Dogwood Road. Most notably, the Imperial Valley Mall was
built on Dogwood south of I-8, opening in 2005.
Cather, Caltrans division chief, noted the agency’s two-year project will
replace the existing overpass bridge on the south side of Imperial Ave. and
then install new on/off ramps to better allow Imperial Ave. traffic to access
important we get the word out well ahead of time,” said Cather, adding a
second forum was scheduled for Jan. 15 at El Centro Regional Medical Center.
Caltrans project will launch in late spring or early summer, noted Cathryn
Bruce-Johnson, an agency public affairs officer. The work will be done in
stages and at various times restrict access to the interchange.
Advantages for Motorists
primary benefit will be improved traffic flow, explained Kazim Mamdani,
Caltrans design manager.
will also provide enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access along Imperial
Avenue,” he said. “It should all be completed by the summer of
million interchange project is supported by the county’s share of the
California Transportation Commission funds, explained Mark Baza, Imperial
County Transportation Commission executive director. He pointed out about $34
million is for construction while the remainder covered an environmental study,
design and acquisition of a right-of-way.
need to be aware of traffic disruptions, he added.
ask that people pay close attention to directional signs and ask for
everybody’s patience,” said Baza. “Your primary access routes to
detour will be Fourth Street/Highway 86. Also, some may prefer the Dogwood interchange
at Ross, or Even Hewes Highway and, depending how far a driver is going, maybe
Blazing Trail to South
new overpass bridge is completed, El Centro is expected to begin the extension
of Imperial Avenue to the south. That project will be done in four phases,
explained Abraham Campos, city director of public works.
Phase 1 will
extend Imperial Ave. out to Wake Avenue. That will cost $7 million with monies obtained
from gas taxes and vehicle-registration fees under state Senate Bill 1, the
local Measure D road-improvement sales tax, local street impact developer fees
and state Surface Transportation Program funds.
Phase 2 of the project would extend Imperial
Avenue from Wake to Danenberg Drive, Phase 3 to Valley View Avenue and Phase 4 to
McCabe Road. Funding for Phase 2 through 4 is still pending noted Campos, yet
it is likely to come from the same sources as Phase 1.