Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Southern California Traffic: I-10 Closure - AZ to CA ALTERNATES

This week, a huge link of the Interstate Highway system has been washed away, the I-10 in Southern California's low desert.  The "Tex Wash" eastbound bridge, about 4 miles west of Desert Center, collapsed.

UPDATED Friday 7/24, 1:35AM PDT

Caltrans officially has the stretch closed through August but is rumored to be "opening the westbound side to 2-way traffic" at noon today.  Stretches of the I-10 several miles adjacent to the closure will have speed limits reduced to 45 MPH, as all 3 lanes of traffic will have to funnel into only ONE for each direction of traffic.

I-10 CLOSED between AZ and CA - How do I get around the closure? ALTERNATES
    • This does not necessarily mean the Interstate will be functioning at its full capacity.  The bridge that collapsed served Eastbound traffic.  When officials say they will have "two-way" traffic open, the best they will be able to do now will be to alternate traffic among the existing lanes on the functional bridge.  This means that at least twice as many vehicles will be travelling through the same space, PLUS it takes time to merge all that traffic into those lanes.  This, in my estimation will cause a MINIMUM one hour delay, and depending on time of day and the volume of traffic, could be up to several hours.
    • The actual boundaries of the closure (and the only information Caltrans really provides in its list) are from Chiriaco Summit to the Junction of CA-177 in Riverside County.[due to a washout].
  • Make sure you check the CHP Incident page for updates (Make sure you click on "Indio" on upper left dragdown) for the latest information on the closure directly from CHP, as well as reports of any accidents/incidents in the area that may affect the alternate routes. 
  • I still highly recommend avoiding the site of the closure, as traffic will still be delayed at least one hour through the closure zone.  ALTERNATES listed here:
There are several ways to circumvent this closure, but none of them are really alternates in the sense that you normally consider a "frontage" road of a main highway a good alternate to the "heavy thoroughfair." Basically, you have to choose between going 100 miles out of your way, or trekking through 2-lane state highways in the middle of the summer desert.

ALSO keep in mind that it depends where you want to go.. .Phoenix to Los Angeles is a far different trip than Flagstaff to San Diego, or Orange County to Laughlin.  You really have to familiarize yourself with the maps and determine the best way for you to go.

Aside from the hour or so of planning and no matter what Google Maps says, you'll want to plan AT LEAST 2 hours longer than whatever your normal trip is.  Every road will have increased volume because there will be 20,000 vehicles a day that need to filter onto them.

All alternates are listed FROM Phoenix (Arizona) to California.  Read from bottom up (and reverse the directions) if you are leaving from California. 
  • The shortest distance route between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Phoenix is 
  • NORMALLY 374 miles long and takes just under 6 hours with no traffic (between 10pm and 5am)*
  • NOW (current available open route) is 408 miles long and takes 6 hours, 40 minutes with "no traffic," according to Google Maps:
    • From Phoenix - take I-10 West (102 miles)
    • Exit Vicksurg, take AZ-72 West (41 miles)
    • Take US-95 North (12 miles)
    • take CA-62 West (57 miles, stay right then continue 93 miles)
    • Merge with I-10 West (continue for 97 miles)
    • These are state highways, where the speed limit is usually 55 and sometimes 65 MPH.  Some areas only have one lane in one direction.  They are usually well maintained, but the slower speeds and slower volume will create more possibility of accidents and delays.
    • Caltrans lists 2 planned closures on CA-62, which may exacerbate traffic.
    • A modified version of this alternate is I-10 West, CA-177 North, CA-62 West, which adds about 13 miles to the trip and will probably be more delayed, as this is the most popular alternate being offered my media outlets.
  • Lesser-offered alternate:  440 miles, 7.5-8 hours, south side of Salton Sea:
    • From Phoenix - take I-10 West
    • In Blythe, take CA-78 South to CA-86 North
    • This will probably be the lesser-traveled of the alternates.  Officials are most likely not offering it as a viable alternative because these roads pass through smaller towns and may not be able to handle heavy volumes of traffic.
  • AZ-60 (through Wickenburg) to I-40 west, I-15 South to I-10 (Through Flagstaff and Barstow)- approx. 8.5-9 hours, but most likely the least-traveled alternate because it is so far out of the way.
  • I-8 to CA-111 North to CA-86 North (7.5-8.5 hours) - susceptible to accidents on two-lane state highways - Also there is a Border Patrol Checkpoint on I-8 which will slow things down.
  • I-8 to I-15 or I-5 north (El Centro through San Diego County) (7.5-8.5 hours)
*While overnight hours have the lowest volume of traffic, they also are the usual times for construction and maintenance work, and are usually the times of high speeds and severe accidents.

Keep in mind that all time estimates assume travel from Downtown Phoenix to Downtown Los Angeles.  Leaving from outlying areas (Mesa, Peoria), and going to outlying areas (Orange County, San Fernando Valley) will augment the drive time, particularly during rush hours.

Please comment with questions or additional input that would be helpful to navigate around the Southern California I-10 Closure between AZ and CA


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