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California State Route 111 in Coachella Valley

This past October I spent some time driving the remaining segments of California State Route 111 in Coachella Valley.


CA 111 is a highway completely contained within the Sonoran Desert of Southern California.  CA 111 begins at Interstate 10 near Whitewater in San Gorgonio Pass of Riverside County.  CA 111 traverses Coachella Valley and the eastern shore the Salton Sea where it terminates at the Mexican Border in Calexico of Imperial County.  Prior to recent relinquished segments CA 111 was 129 miles in length.



Part 1; the History of California State Route 111

CA 111 was one of the original run of Sign State Routes announced in an August 1934 Department of Public Works Guide.  The original route of CA 111 was aligned entirely over Legislative Route 187 between US 60/US 70/US 99 near Whitewater to US 99 in Brawley.  LRN 187 had been added to the State Highway System a year prior in 1933 according to CAhighways.



CA 111 first appears in substantial detail on the 1935 Gousha Highway Map of California.


At some point between 1935-1938 CA 111 was extended south of Brawley over Legislative Route 201 to US 99 near Heber.  According to CAhighways LRN 201 was added to the State Highway System in 1933.  CA 111 terminating at US 99 in Heber can be first be seen on the 1938 Division of Highways Map.


In 1950 a new direct path of CA 111 northbound from Mecca to Thermal was opened via Grapefruit Boulevard.  The original alignment of CA 111 used a less direct route from Mecca via; west 66th Avenue, north Pierce Street and Grapefruit Boulevard.   The new alignment of CA 111 from Mecca to Thermal can be seen for the first time on the 1950 Division of Highways Map.


The 1950 Division of Highways Map also shows CA 111 on Palm Canyon Drive west of Palm Springs partially expanded to an expressway.  


The 1958 Division of Highways Map shows CA 111 on Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs expanded to expressway capacity.


The 1960 Division of Highways Map shows CA 111 expanded to an expressway west of Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive almost entirely all the way to US 99/60/70.


During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering CA 111 was extended south to the Mexican Border in Mexicali on what had been US 99 on LRN 26.  The new south terminus of CA 111 at the Mexican Border can be first seen on the 1964 Division of Highways Map.


The 1964 Division of Highways Map also shows a small segment of CA 111 in Palm Desert expanded to an expressway.


The 1966 Division of Highways Map shows CA 111 expanded to an expressway between Palm Springs and Palm Desert. 


The 1967 Division of Highways Map shows CA 111 north of CA 98 expanded to an expressway to the future alignment of Interstate 8.


The 1970 Division of Highways Map shows CA 111 expanded to an expressway between Palm Desert to Coachella.


According to CAhighways in 1993 CA 111 within downotwn Palm Springs was realigned from Palm Canyon Drive to; Gene Autry Trail and Vista Chino which acted as a bypass route.  The route of CA 111 within Rancho Mirage and a portion in Cathedral City was relinquished to local control circa 1996.  In 2006 segments of CA 111 within Indio Wells were relinquished to local control.  Control of CA 111 within Indio was relinquished to local control circa 2007.  Relinquishment of CA 111 within La Quinta and Palm Desert occurred in 2008 followed by another segment in Cathedral City circa 2009.  In 2009 CA 111 was realigned off of Grapefruit Boulevard onto it's original alignment on 66th Avenue west of Mecca to reach the new CA 86 expressway.  This segment of 66th Avenue had been more recently part of CA 195 and was formally added back to CA 111 in 2014 as Post Mile RIV 18.5-19.4.

According to CAhighways CA 111 began being improved into what is known as the Brawley Bypass beginning in 2002.  The first major phases expanded CA 111 to four lanes north of I-8 towards Brawley to the new junction with CA 78; these were completed circa 2005.  The full Brawley Bypass had opened at some point in 2012 which removed it from the original alignment on Main Street and 8th Street.


Part 2; the weirdness of CA 111 in Mecca

The recent relinquishment of CA 111 in Mecca due to the CA 86 expressway project has led to an oddity in that CA 111 on Grapefruit Boulevard just north of 66th Avenue is still technically State Maintained.


After driving former US 60/70 in Box Canyon Road I followed the current route of CA 111 from 4th Street in Mecca south on Grapefruit Boulevard where I made a right hand turn onto 66th Avenue.




CA 111 northbound follows 66th Avenue to the CA 86 expressway where it makes a right hand turn.




Oddly CA 111 north is briefly co-signed on CA 86 northbound for about a half mile before disappearing completely.



Part 3; former CA 111 from Palm Desert and current CA 111 from Palm Springs to I-10

Presently CA 111 doesn't exist as a State Maintained Highway between the CA 86 expressway near Mecca west to the City Limits of Palm Springs at Post Mile RIV 47.2.


My approach to former CA 111 westbound was from former eastbound CA 74/Pines to Palms Highway in Palm Desert.  Despite being relinquished the route of former CA 111 is still signed as the through street westbound in Palm Desert.  Upon reaching former CA 111 in Palm Desert I made a left hand turn to head westbound towards Palm Springs and begin my traversal of Coachella Valley.


Former CA 111 westbound from former CA 74 is routed through Palm Desert and quickly enters Rancho Mirage near Fred Waring Drive.





Former CA 111 westbound passes through Rancho Mirage and enters Cathedral City near Frank Sinatra Drive.


















Former CA 111 westbound passes through Cathedral City before resuming being a State Highway at Post Mile RIV 47.2 as described above.  CA 111 resumes being a State Highway near Golf Club Drive in Palm Springs.












CA 111 westbound approaches downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive before being directed towards I-10 via Gene Autry Trail at Post Mile RIV T47.81.  Former CA 111 west into downtown Palm Springs via Palm Canyon Drive is now signed as CA 111 Business.  The "T" mileage of CA 111 at Gene Autry Trail denotes that it is considered a temporary alignment.  In September 2018 the California Transportation Commission authorized the relinquishment of CA 111 within in the City Limits of Palm Springs.  It seems that it is likely a matter of time before CA 111 is relinquished to the western City Limit of Palm Springs.






CA 111 westbound follows Gene Autry Trail north past Palm Springs International Airport and makes a left hand turn onto Vista Chino at Post Mile T51.541.













CA 111 westbound follows Vista Chino back to Palm Canyon Drive north of downtown Palm Springs at Post Mile RIV 53.835.









CA 111 westbound on Palm Canyon Drive intersects Tramway at Post Mile RIV 54.949 which is the primary access point for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.







A likely hang up in the relinquishment of CA 111 within Palm Springs is that the City limit extends to Snowcreek Canyon Road near I-10 at Post Mile RIV R62.509 but has a gap in Windy Cove.  Regardless CA 111 west of Tramway opens up to a proper expressway before becoming a short freeway which ends at I-10 westbound approaching San Gorgonio Pass.























Of note; from I-10 eastbound approaching CA 111 the infamous "Other Desert Cities" sign can be observed.  Note only is the "O" in "other" lowercase in error it seems to denote cities other than Indio lack importance above Indio.


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