By Johnny Flores,
Thermal, Calif. – After years of planning, months of building and a rough cost of $8 million, the new interchange on Highway 86 and Airport Boulevard is officially open to drivers in the Eastern Coachella Valley.
This new interchange adds three 12-foot-wide lanes, left-turn pockets at the on-ramps, two 8-foot-wide shoulders, traffic signal-controlled on-ramps and off-ramps, and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk.
“This interchange increases public safety on Highway 86 and will keep commerce flowing,” said Eduardo Garcia, the mayor of the neighboring city of Coachella. “The benefits will be seen in the long run.”
The interchange was been officially open since May 11, a few days after a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by a several area officials. Present at this ceremony were Caltrans District 8 acting director Syed Raza, State Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella), Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians chairman Raymond Torres, Thermal Community Council member Sergio Duran, and Coachella Valley Association of Governments director Tom Kirk.
Notoriously known as the “Killer Highway,” Highway 86 has been the site of many fatalities. In one of the more recent accidents, in April 2011, a woman driving a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse died after crashing into a concrete barrier while going south on Highway 86.
“Hopefully there won’t be any more accidents,” said Isaac Rosales, a resident of Coachella. “Drivers can now finally travel on the 86 without fear.”
The project is one in a series of projects that Caltrans Riverside has planned for the Eastern Coachella Valley.
“Transportation is crucial and it is important that we improve transportation in the east valley, especially Thermal where it is needed,” added Garcia.