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Public places transportation priorities at border

November 09, 2001|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Feedback from regional transportation workshops shows the public places highest priority on transportation improvements closest to the Mexico border.

The 2002 Imperial County Transportation Plan is an update to the 1997 plan and provides a 20-year projection of changes in population, state highway use and land use growth, said Mark Baza, California Department of Transportation chief for San Diego and Imperial counties.

The workshops last month were a joint effort of Caltrans, the Imperial Valley Association of Governments and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The transportation plan listed 18 improvement projects. According to public input the priorities are:

>> A north-south corridor linking east-west state highways 98 and 78, by either widening Forrester Road or creating a new connection west of Forrester.


>> Widening state Highway 98 to four lanes between the above proposed corridor and state Highway 111. The project includes bridge improvements where the highway crosses the railroad in Calexico.

>> Also in Calexico, a new north-south corridor west of Highway 111 from Highway 98 to the Mexico point-of-entry. This project is waiting for more information from the Calexico/Mexicali border transportation study.

>> Improve Highway 111 to a four-lane freeway from Interstate Highway 8 to Highway 98 with off-ramps at several locations.

>> Widen Highway 98 from Dogwood Road to state Highway 7. The summary report states the preliminary design and environmental anaylsis for this improvement is in progress.

"The No. 1 priority for the region is the NAFTA route," said Tim Jones, Imperial County director of public works.

The NAFTA route will accommodate increased cross-border traffic resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The route is a north-south corridor starting at the border with Highway 7 to I-8, from I-8 to Highway 111, from 111 to the Brawley bypass, and from the Brawley bypass to Riverside County via state Highway 86, Jones said.

Sections of the NAFTA route are in different stages of completion. Highway 111 is being worked on and Highway 7 and the Brawley bypass will be started soon, he said.

Non-highway transportation improvement projects proposed include increased countywide transit service for the elderly and disabled; railroad connections to San Diego, Yuma, Los Angeles, Calipatria and Mexicali by 2025; and a bullet train to San Diego as an alternative to I-8 and Interstate 10 by 2050.

The public questioned why improvements in El Centro were considered and not improvements in eastern communities such as Ocotillo and Plaster City.

The workshop feedback was prepared by Caltrans for IVAG, which will bring its recommendation to SCAG sometime next spring, Jones said.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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