Coachella Valley is located in the Sonoran Desert of Riverside County, California. Coachella Valley is home to Indio and other communities which were part of US Routes 99, 60 and 70. This blog will explore the alignment history of US Routes 99, 60 and 70 within the communities of Indio and Coachella Valley. Pictured above as the blog cover is US Route 99-60-70 in the Indio on Fargo Street business district during 1935.
This blog is part of the larger Gribblenation US Route 99 Page. For more information pertaining to the other various segments of US Route 99 and it's three-digit child routes check out the link the below.
Part 1; the history of US Routes 99-60-70 in Indio and Coachella Valley
Modernized transportation in Coachella Valley dates back to the days of the Bradshaw Trail which was a stage route originating in San Bernardino which crossed through the Sonoran Desert east to the Colorado River. During the California Gold Rush the Bradshaw Trail was plotted through the Sonoran Desert by William D. Bradshaw. The Bradshaw Trail was plotted in 1862 through the Coachella Valley and Sonoran Desert east over the Colorado River to a new mining strike found in La Paz, Arizona. Bradshaw consulted the Cahuilla Tribe who advised him of the best route east of the Salton Sink between the Orocopia Mountains and Chocolate Mountains. More information regarding the Bradshaw Trail and where to find it can be found on desertusa.com.
Below the Bradshaw Trail can be seen aligned through Coachella Valley (shown as Cabazon Valley) on the 1873 Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona
Construction by the Southern Pacific Railroad east from Los Angeles to Arizona City (now Yuma) began during 1873. The new Southern Pacific Railroad line to Yume would pass through San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley on its course through the Sonoran Desert. The Southern Pacific Railroad would establish numerous siding facilities and communities in Coachella Valley. Indio was plotted by the Southern Pacific Railroad which reached the site of the community in 1876. Other sidings in Coachella Valley founded by the Southern Pacific Railroad included Woodspur (now Coachella) and Garnet.
What would become US Route 99 (US 99), US Route 60 (US 60) and US Route 70 (US 70) in San Gorgonio Pass was added to the State Highway System as part of the 1916 Second State Highway Bond Act in the form of Legislative Route Number 26
(LRN 26). The initial definition of LRN 26 originated in San Bernardino and terminated in El Centro. LRN 26 appears as a planned highway through the communities of Coachella Valley on the 1918 California Highway Commission map
The initial draft of the US Route System was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture during November of 1925. The US Route System within California was approved by California Highway Commission (CHC) with no changes recommended which can be seen in January 1926 California Highways & Public Works. US 99 is shown departing San Bernardino via LRN 26 towards Coachella Valley.
The US Route System was formally approved by the American Association of State Highway Engineers (AASHO) on November 11th, 1926. which formally brought US 99 into existence on LRN 26 in the Coachella Valley corridor.
As originally envisioned in the early drafts of US Route System what became US 66 in California was intended to be US 60. The designation of the Chicago-Los Angeles corridor was intended to carry a X0 route number given it was to denote a major east/west US Route. Ultimately the State of Kentucky petitioned to have a X0 US Route and the Chicago-Los Angeles corridor became US 66 in the finalized US Route System created by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) during November 1926.
US 60 would rapidly be extended after the US Route System was created and would come into play in California during the early 1930s. A letter from the AASHO Executive Secretary to the California State Highway Engineer dated Marth 30th, 1931 noted that US 60 had been tentatively approved to be extended to California during the AASHO Executive Committee on May 26th, 1930. The approval of US 60 being extended to California carried the stipulation that the Colorado River Bridge in Blythe be purchased by the California Division of Highways and Arizona State Road Department. The letter noted California and Arizona had taken steps through their respective legislatures to purchase the Colorado River Bridge and the terminus of US 60 to be at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles.
A letter from the California State Highway Engineer to the AASHO Executive Secretary on April 13th, 1931, noted legislation to purchase the Colorado River Bridge had been passed in California. The purchase of the Colorado River Bridge effectively made the extension of US 60 into California active.
The California State Highway Engineer submitted a recommended routing of US 60 to the AASHO Executive Secretary on September 8th, 1931. The route description of US 60 show as ending in Los Angeles by way of Pomona at an undisclosed terminus. The routing of US 60 defined it entering Coachella Valley via LRN 64 through Box Canyon to Mecca towards Coachella. From Coachella US 60 joined US 99/LRN 26 passing through Coachella Valley towards San Gorgonio Pass.
The May/June 1933 California Highways & Public Works
announced the completion of improvements to US 99/US 60/LRN 26 in Coachella Valley. The improvement of US 99/US 60/LRN 26 included widening 14.5 miles of highway between Whitewater-Indio and the elimination of 31 dips via bridging structures.
A September 1934 exchange of letters between the California State Highway Engineer and AASHO acknowledged US 70 had been extended into California with an endpoint following US 60 into downtown Los Angeles. The routing definition of US 70 indicated it would multiplex US 99/US 60 east from downtown Los Angeles to Pomona and onwards multiplexed with US 60 east to Beaumont and US 99/US 60 through San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley to LRN 64 near Coachella. From Coachella US 70 followed US 60 via LRN 64 to the Arizona State Line.
The September 1934 California Highways & Public Works
announced construction on the Indio-Cutoff Spur of LRN 64 had begun. The Indio-Cutoff was to serve as a new alignment of US 60/US 70 which would enter Coachella Valley via Dillon Road and would provide a bypass to the hazards of Box Canyon.
The 1935 Division of Highways Map
displays the original alignment of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 in Coachella Valley. From the junction with CA 111/LRN 187 US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 can be seen passing through Garnet siding via what is now Garnet Avenue. From Garnet US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 can be seen following what is now Varner Road to Edom. From Edom US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 can largely been seen following Varner Road to a railroad crossing near what is now Madison Street to Indio Boulevard towards downtown Indio. US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 originally passed through the downtown Indio business district via what is now Fargo Street where it jogged back to Indio Boulevard. From downtown Indio US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 ran concurrent to Coachella. US 99 split via what is Cesar Chavez Street on LRN 26 towards El Centro whereas US 60/US 70 followed Grapefruit Boulevard on LRN 64 towards Mecca and Box Canyon.
US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 can be seen on Fargo Street in Indio during 1935 in photos sourced from Darin Kuna of the US Highway 60 Facebook page.
The July 1935 California Highways & Public Works
featured the opening of the Indio-Cutoff and realignment of US 60/US 70 onto the new spur of LRN 64. The Indio-Cutoff is stated to have opened during June 1935 five months ahead of schedule. The Indio-Cutoff is stated to be 9 miles shorter than the original alignment of US 60/US 70 through Box Canyon. Despite Box Canyon no longer being part of US 60/US 70, it would remain under State maintenance and become part of the second CA 195.
Ongoing construction of the Indio Rail Overhead on US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 is featured in the June 1936 California Highways & Public Works
. The article notes the reasonings for why the Indio Rail Overhead was needed and references the structure having a targeted completion during the upcoming July.
The January 1937 California Highways & Public Works
announced a realignment/widening of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 in downtown Indio was budgeted for 89th/90th Fiscal Years. The realignment of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 in Indio is stated to begin at Oasis Street and extended to the southern city limit.
The realignment and expansion of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 in Indio bypassed Fargo Street during 1939 in favor of a newly continuous Indio Boulevard. The aerial images below (courtesy Darin Kuna) depict the alignment shift of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 onto the continuous Indio Boulevard. The first image is from 1934 whereas the second is from 1939.
The May 1941 California Highways & Public Works
features the new junction of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 with that of CA 111/LRN 187. The new "Palm Springs Junction" featured channelized traffic which was carried via two-lanes in each direction of travel on US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26. Previously US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 intersected CA 111/LRN 187 at what is now Tipton Road.
US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 can be see bypassing downtown Indio via the continuous Indio Boulevard in a 1943 sourced from Darin Kuna. The original alignment of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 towards Fargo Street can be seen branching away on the left. Much of the original alignment of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 in downtown Indio was obliterated in modern times to make way for the Jackson Street Overpass Bridge.
US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 can be seen passing through Indio on Indio Boulevard during 1946 in a photo sourced from Darin Kuna.
The July/August 1954 Department of Public
discusses the progress on expansion of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 to expressway standards in Coachella Valley. A bypass of the 1923 Whitewater River Bridge is displayed as having been bypassed by a new four-lane alignment of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26. The article describes the ongoing expressway project as spanning 14.4 miles from west of Garnet to Thousand Palms (previously Edom).
On June 29th, 1956, the Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 was signed into law on the Federal Level. The Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 was the genesis point of the Interstate Highway System which would in the coming decade sew the demise via of US 99, US 60 and US 70 in Coachella Valley by way of being replaced by Interstate 10.
The May/June 1957 California Highways & Public Works referenced US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 being realigned onto a new four-lane divided grade between Garnet-Thousand Palms. The realignment of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 onto an expressway in the Garnet-Thousand Palms corridor replaced much of Garnet Avenue and Varner Road. A new divided four lane segment of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 northwest of Indio is cited as also having been recently opened.
The November/December 1958 California Highways & Public Works
references design studies being underway to convert US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 between Banning-Whitewater to full freeway standards. The four-lane divided corridor of US 99/US 60/US 70/LRN 26 between Whitewater-Thousand Palms is stated to have been completed during 1956 and included an interchange at Indian Avenue.
The November/December 1958 California Highways & Public Works
noted US 60/US 70/LRN 64 from Indio-Cactus City was under study to expand to freeway standards. US 60/US 70/LRN 64 from Cactus City east to the Arizona State Line is stated to have had a freeway alignment adopted by the CHC.
The truncation of US 99 from Calexico to the junction of the Golden State Freeway and San Bernardino Freeway in Los Angeles was approved by the AASHO Executive Committee on June 19th, 1963. The justification by the California Division of Highways to truncate US 99 was to avoid what the agency viewed as confusing multiplexes on the new Interstate corridors of Southern California. The truncation of US 99 to Los Angeles left US 60, US 70 and Interstate 10 as the multiplexed highway through Coachella Valley.
US 70 was approved to be truncated from Los Angeles to US 95 in Blythe by the AASHO on August 26th, 1963. The truncation of US 70 left only US 60 and Interstate 10 as the only signed routes through Coachella Valley on LRN 26. LRN 26 and LRN 64 would be dropped along with all the Legislative Route Numbers as part of the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.
The November/December 1963 California Highways & Public Works
notes US 60/Interstate 10/LRN 26 at Whitewater Junction had been converted to freeway standards. 3.4 miles of US 60/Interstate 10/LRN 26 northwest of Thousand Palms is stated to be budgeted for freeway conversion. A 9.7 mile section of US 60/Interstate 10/LRN 64 east of Indio is stated to be under the process of construction.
The 1964 Division of Highways Map displays the impact of the 1964 State Highway Renumbering and 1963 changes to the US Route System. US 99 truncated to Los Angeles and CA 86 replacing it between Indio-Heber. US 70 is displayed as being truncated out of Coachella Valley to US 95 in Blythe. Interstate 10 and US 60 are shown running concurrent through Coachella Valley.
The AASHO Executive Committee approved US 60 to be truncated from downtown Los Angeles to US 95 in Blythe on October 2nd, 1965. The truncation of US 60 to Blythe left only Interstate 10 on what had been the corridor of US 99/US 60/US 70.
The California Highways & Public Works publication ended in 1967 prior to Interstate 10 through Indio being completed. Interstate 10 appears on the 1967 Division of Highways Map
with a determined freeway routing which would bypass Indio and would connect with a planned freeway to Thermal. Interstate 10 is shown following an interim alignment through Indio from the Indio Rail Overhead along Indio Boulevard and Dillon Road to the Indio-Cutoff.
During the early 1970s Interstate 10 was completed through Indio and CA 86 was extended north through the community via Indio Boulevard to the Indio Rail Overhead. The completion of Interstate 10 in Coachella Valley and Indio appears on the 1975 Caltrans Map
. CA 86 would ultimately be shifted to the corridor what was the expressway corridor of CA 86S during 2012. The shifting of CA 86 to the former corridor CA 86S saw Indio Boulevard and much of what was US 99 south to Oasis relinquished from State Inventory. Former US 60/US 70 on CA 195 through Box Canyon was also relinquished in 2012 following the shift of CA 86 to its new expressway alignment.
Continuing north on US Route 99 to Whitewater?
Continuing south on US Route 99 to Westmorland?