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Despite lack of funding, Brawley Bypass is on track

June 13, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The project that calls for wrapping Highway 111 to the north of the city is on track despite it not yet being fully funded, a California Department of Transportation official said Wednesday.

The timeline would have the Brawley Bypass finished by 2007 and the project is expected to move forward on schedule, according to Gustavo Dallarda, a project manager for Caltrans assigned to the bypass project.

Dallarda said the project will cost about $108 million and will be built in three stages, with the first stage to begin in 2003.

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Dallarda said all but $18 million — the cost of the third stage — has been funded. He added by the time work is to start on the third stage, in 2005, the $18 million is expected to be available.

Before any work can begin on the Brawley Bypass, the federal government must give approval regarding how far north of the city to wrap the highway and where it would connect with Highway 86. The proposal under review would have Highway 111 connect with Highway 86 at Fredricks Road.

Brawley officials have voiced their support for that option, stating it would have the least effect on farmland.

Dallarda said he expects the project to receive final approval before the year's end.

The first phase of the bypass would have Highway 111 expanded to four lanes from Mead Road to Highway 78. That phase is expected to start in 2003 and finish in 2004.

The second stage would expand Highway 111 to four lanes and would begin the bypass as the highway wraps around the city north to Hovely Road.

At this stage an interchange would be built where the bypass crosses the existing Highway 111 that runs north toward Riverside County.

The third stage of the project would have the bypass connect with Fredricks and continue west until it reaches Highway 86.

Street lights would be placed where the bypass connects with Highway 78 and Highway 86.

The Brawley Bypass will come on the heels of the ongoing Highway 111 expansion to four lanes throughout the Imperial Valley. That $120 million project has been fully funded.

The four-lane expansion is being done in three phases. The first and second phase are under way, from Ross Road east of El Centro to Keystone Road in rural Brawley.

The third phase would widen the highway from Keystone to Mead — the road that begins the bypass project. Dallarda said the completion of the third phase of the highway expansion should coincide with the completion of the first phase of the bypass in 2004.

Brawley City Councilwoman Jo Shields said the bypass project is important for the city and she would like to see it expedited. She said trucks that run from the highway through Main Street make it difficult to conduct business downtown.

"It's a problem," she said, adding there are safety concerns having big rigs run through Main Street as people try to cross.

Mayor Toni Carrillo said the bypass has positives and negatives for the city.

She said it is positive that truck traffic will be routed away from downtown, but she is concerned other traffic that would utilize city services will bypass the city.

She pointed out that wherever the bypass is located there will be business development. She said the city could look at annexing the area upon which the bypass will be located so that the city can benefit from the growth.

The project is part of a highway improvement plan known as the NAFTA Net designed to accommodate increased trade due to North American Free Trade Agreement, according to Caltrans.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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