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California State Route 86

This past October I visited part of the recently completed expressway segment of California State Route 86 in Coachella Valley of Riverside County.


CA 86 is an approximately 90.7 mile State Highway which is routed from Interstate 10 in Indio of Riverside County south to CA 111 in Calexico of Imperial County.  Historically the corridor of CA 86 was part of US Route 99 but has been modified substantially from it's precursor highway in recent decades.



Part 1; the history of California State Route 86

As noted above the present route of CA 86 was part of US Route 99.  During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering US 99 was truncated from the Mexican Border in Calexico to downtown Los Angeles.  Between Coachella south to the Mexican Border what had been US 99 was renumbered CA 86 south to Heber and as an extension of CA 111 from Heber south to the Mexican Border.  The CA 86 portion of US 99 was part of Legislative Route 26 which was defined in 1916 during the Second State Highway Bond Act according to CAhighways.org.

The future corridor of CA 86 appears to not have ever been signed as part of an Auto Trail which can be seen on the 1924 Clauson Highway Map of California. The Clauson Map denotes LRN 26 between Coachella and Heber simply as a State Highway. 


In late 1926 the US Route System was announced and LRN 26 between Coachella and Heber was assigned as part of US Route 99.   US 99 can be seen traversing the western shore of the Salton Sea on the 1927 sectional map by the National Map Company. 


US 99 can be seen routed between Coachella south to Calexico for the final time on the 1963 Division of Highways State Map.


CA 86 can be seen replacing US 99 south of Coachella to Heber on the 1964 Division of Highways State Map.


On the 1966 Division of Highways Map a planned bypass route of Indio and Coachella appears for the first time.  This would be the genesis of the modern CA 86 expressway which later obtained infamy as CA 86S.  As originally defined CA 86 departed Coachella via Harrison Street to Oasis on what had been US 99.


The 1977 Caltrans State Highway Map is the first to display the future route of the Indio/Coachella Bypass expanded south to Oasis and a clearly defined as a future path of CA 86.  An extension of the planned route of CA 86 seems to appear on the 1975 Caltrans State Highway Map but isn't as clearly defined as the 1977 Edition.


CA 86 between Oasis south along the western shore of the Salton Sea to CA 78 appears as an expressway on 1990 Caltrans State Highway Map.


According to CAhighways the route of; CA 7, CA 111, CA 78 and CA 86 between Calexico to I-10 was selected as a priority NAFTA Corridor in 2002.  The NAFTA corridor was the driving force behind completing the Indio/Coachella/Mecca Bypass route of CA 86 in addition to a bypass route of Brawley (part of CA 78).  Funding as part of the 2005 SAFETEA-LU Act provided money to complete the Indio/Coachella/Mecca Bypass to an expressway (then formally known as CA 86S) from Avenue 50 to Avenue 66 (which was once CA 195 and even earlier US 60/70).  CA 86S is shown to be functionally completed south of I-10 towards Mecca on the 2005 Caltrans State Map but as unbuilt highway south to Oasis.


In 2008 much of CA 86 between Avenue 52 south to Avenue 82 (CA 86S) was authorized by the California Transportation Commission to be relinquished according to CAhighways.org.   According to CAhighways a 2011 report tends to imply that Caltrans was considering shifting CA 86 onto the corridor of County Route S30/Forrester Road to route it west of Brawley.  In 2012 the full length of the CA 86S expressway had been completed and was renumbered to mainline CA 86.  Part of the renumbering of CA 86S was that the new CA 86 Expressway between Avenue 66 and Coachella was to be co-signed as CA 86/CA 111.   The renumbering of CA 86S to CA 86 moved the north terminus of the highway to I-10 in Indio (which had been legislatively changed in 1984).  The route of 66th Avenue was formally added to CA 111 in 2014 as Post Mile RIV 18.5-19.4 in 2014.

In March of 2016 the California Transportation Commission authorized the relinquishment of CA 68 between Post Mile IMP 8.758 to IMP 12.317.  A further Caltrans District 11 Transportation Concept (this is complicated so I thought it best to directly quote it) Report cited on CAHighways from December 2016 goes into far greater detail on the prospective future of CA 86 south of CA 78 to CA 111:
  1. SEGMENT 1 is from Route 111 to McCabe Road with agricultural fields surrounding the route in the beginning of the segment. The route begins as a two-lane conventional highway as it enters the community of Heber that includes two four-way stop sign intersections.
  2. SEGMENT 2 is from McCabe Road to I-8 and traverses from a rural to an urban landscape, north of McCabe Road in the City of El Centro.
  3. SEGMENT 3 is from I-8 to Main Street in El Centro, known locally as 4th Street
  4. SEGMENT 4 is from Main Street to Adams/North Imperial Avenue and extends from North 4th Street and merges into Adams Avenue at North 5th Street in the City of El Centro
  5. SEGMENT 5 is from Adams Avenue/North Imperial Avenue (El Centro) to Aten Road (City of Imperial)
  6. SEGMENT 6 is from Aten Road to Barioni Boulevard in the City of Imperial. In this segment, the Imperial County Airport and Imperial Valley Expo are directly across from one another with North Imperial Avenue (Route 86) separating the airport land use and the events center.
  7. SEGMENT 7 is from Barioni Boulevard to Legion Road and is known as the Frank A. Story Memorial Highway
  8. SEGMENT 8 is from Legion Road to West Main Street in the City of Brawley. In this segment there are commercial shopping centers, motels and restaurants on West Main.
  9. SEGMENT 9 is from West Main Street in the City of Brawley to Fredericks Road/Junction Route 78, or the western edge of the Brawley Bypass, also known as the Route 78 Expressway.
  10. SEGMENT 10 is from Fredericks Road/Junction Route 78 to Forrester Road/Center Street. The highway is a four-lane conventional highway with commercial businesses that serves the City of Westmorland.
  11. SEGMENT 11 is from Forrester Road/Center Street to West Junction Route 78.
  12. SEGMENT 12 is from West Junction Route 78 to the Imperial/Riverside County Line.
Suffice to say with all the above in mind that the future of CA 86 isn't likely to stay static.  More as the years progress CA 86 will only morph further from what the corridor of US Route 99 had been.   

Part 2; a drive on the CA 86 expressway from CA 111 in Mecca to I-10 in Indio

I pulled onto CA 86 northbound from west 66th Avenue at what is the junction of CA 111 on east 66th Avenue on the outskirts of Mecca.  CA 86 north at the junction for CA 111 is located at Post Mile RIV R11.171.




CA 111 north is co-signed with CA 86 north of 66th Avenue but quickly disappears.  Considering that CA 111 in Indio was relinquished in 2007 it makes little to no sense to co-sign it on the CA 86 expressway.


Indio is signed as 12 miles away from Mecca on CA 86 northbound.


A trace of CA 86S can be found at Post Mile RIV R12.10 as CA 86 north crosses over the Route 86S/111 Separation atop former CA 111 on Grapefruit Boulevard.



At Post Mile RIV R16.674 CA 86 north has an Exit with Airport Boulevard.






At Post Mile RIV R19.099 CA 86 north has an at-grade intersection with Avenue 52.




At Post Mile RIV R20.432 CA 86 north has an at-grade intersection with Avenue 50.




At Avenue 50 CA 86 north becomes a freeway and is signed with the typical pedestrian/bicycle/motor-driven cycle prohibition common in California.




CA 86 north traffic heading to I-10 east is directed to exit onto Dillon Road at Post Mile RIV R22.176.





CA 86 north terminates by merging into I-10 west in Indio.





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