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Interstate 8 (Arizona)

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Title: Interstate 8 (Arizona)  
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Subject: Yuma County, Arizona, Arizona State Route 85, Arizona State Route 84, Arizona State Route 195, Transportation in Arizona
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Interstate 8 (Arizona)

For other uses, see I8 (disambiguation).

Interstate 8
Interstate 8 highlighted in red
;">Route information
Existed: 1964 – present
;">Major junctions
West end: Sunset Cliffs Boulevard / Nimitz Boulevard in San Diego, CA

Template:Jct/extra I-5 in San Diego, CA
Template:Jct/extra I-15 in San Diego, CA
Template:Jct/extra SR 86 in El Centro, CA
Template:Jct/extra SR 111 in El Centro, CA

Template:Jct/extra US 95 in Yuma, AZ
East end: Template:Jct/extra I-10 near Casa Grande, AZ
;">Highway system


Interstate 8 (I-8) is an Interstate Highway in the southwestern United States. It runs from the southern edge of Mission Bay at Sunset Cliffs Blvd, in San Diego, California, almost at the Pacific Ocean, to the junction with Interstate 10, just southeast of Casa Grande, Arizona. In California, the freeway travels through the San Diego metropolitan area as the Ocean Beach Freeway and the Mission Valley Freeway before crossing the Cuyamaca Mountains and providing access through the Imperial Valley, including the city of El Centro. Crossing the Colorado River into Arizona, I-8 continues through the city of Yuma across the Sonora Desert to Casa Grande.

The first route over the Cuyamaca Mountains was dedicated in 1912, and a plank road served as the first road across the Imperial Valley to Yuma. These were later replaced by U.S. Route 80 (US 80) across California and part of Arizona, and Arizona State Route 84 between Gila Bend and Casa Grande. The US 80 freeway was largely complete through San Diego by the time it was renumbered as I-8 in the 1964 state highway renumbering. With the construction of the Interstate Highway System, US 80 was slowly replaced by I-8 as the latter was constructed. The route was completed in 1975 through California, and by 1977 through Arizona, though the bridge over the Colorado River was not completed until 1978.

Route description

I-8 is part of the National Highway System,[1][2] a network of roadways important to the country's economy, defense, and mobility.[3] The freeway from the eastern junction with California State Route 98 (SR 98) to the eastern end is designated as part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail auto tour route, promoted by the National Park Service.[4][5][6][7]

San Diego to Arizona border

I-8 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System[8] and is eligible for the State Scenic Highway System from I-5 to the western junction of SR 98,[9] though it is not an official state scenic highway.[10] It is officially known as the Border Friendship Route from San Diego to the Arizona state line. The Interstate is also signed as the Ocean Beach Freeway west of I-5 and as the Kumeyaay Highway (after the local Native American tribe) for the entire length within San Diego County.[11] Between Old Town San Diego and El Cajon, I-8 is called the Mission Valley Freeway.[12]

The freeway begins at the intersection of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Nimitz Boulevard. For its first few miles, it parallels the San Diego River Floodway east. Near Old Town, I-8 intersects with I-5 as well as with the former SR 209. I-8 continues eastward, bisecting the area known as "Hotel Circle." As the freeway enters Mission Valley, it has junctions with SR 163, I-805, and I-15 and its continuation, SR 15. In La Mesa, the route interchanges with SR 125. I-8 continues into El Cajon, where it intersects with SR 67 before it ascends into the mountains and the Cleveland National Forest, traveling through towns such as Alpine and Pine Valley. The freeway intersects with SR 79 in the national forest before passing through the La Posta and Campo Indian reservations. In Boulevard, I-8 has an interchange with the eastern end of SR 94.[13][14]

I-8 straddles the San DiegoImperial county line for a few miles before turning east. At the Mountain Springs/In Ko Pah grade, the freeway is routed down two separate canyons, as it descends 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in 11 miles (18 km).[15] In places, the median is over 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide.[12][14] The route descends to the Imperial Valley, where it intersects with SR 98, a highway leading to Calexico. I-8 then goes through Coyote Wells before entering the city of El Centro several miles later.[12][14]

In El Centro, I-8 intersects with SR 86 and SR 111, both north–south routes which connect to I-10 in the Coachella Valley (north of the Salton Sea). SR 115 and SR 98 end at I-8. The route also has the lowest above-ground elevation of any Interstate at 52 feet (16 m) below sea level near El Centro.[16]The freeway then traverses the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area and intersects with SR 186 leading to Mexico.[12][14] I-8 runs parallel to the All-American Canal across the desert for roughly 55 miles (89 km).[17] At points in eastern Imperial County, the Mexican border is less than 0.5 miles (0.80 km) south of the Interstate. I-8 then passes through Felicity and Winterhaven before crossing the Colorado River into Yuma, Arizona.[12][14]

Yuma to Casa Grande

I-8 enters Arizona from California at the Colorado River bridge at Yuma. It initially heads south through Yuma until the interchange with US 95 where the freeway begins to make the turn to the east. West of Wellton, the highway curves towards the north to take a northeasterly course. Through this part of Arizona, I-8 passes along the northern edge of the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range and to the south of the Yuma Proving Ground. It keeps a northeastern heading until it reaches Gila Bend where the freeway intersects Arizona State Route 85 (SR 85) which leads to Phoenix. After leaving Gila Bend, I-8 takes a southeastern course as it passes through the Sonoran Desert National Monument. After exiting the national monument grounds, the highway continues on an easterly bearing to a junction with SR 84, a highway that will parallel I-8 to the north and go through Casa Grande while I-8 will pass to the south of the city. I-8 reaches its eastern terminus at an interchange with I-10 which continues on to Tucson.[18][19] SR 85 between I-10 and I-8, as well as I-8 between SR 85 and I-10 in Casa Grande, has been promoted as a bypass of the Phoenix area for long-distance travelers on I-10.[20]


The I-8 designation was accepted as a chargeable Interstate by the American Association of State Highway Officials in 1957,[21] and was designated as I-8 in 1964 by the California State Legislature; the US 80 designation was removed from the law at that time.[22][23]

San Diego area

Much of the I-8 freeway from San Diego to La Mesa was constructed between 1947 and 1950 as part of the Alvarado Canyon Freeway, a bypass of the old US 80 routing along El Cajon Boulevard and La Mesa Boulevard. Planning first began in 1932, but was delayed by the onset of World War II.[24] Priority was given to planning US 80 in 1962 by the California Chamber of Commerce.[25] In 1964, I-8 was officially designated by the California State Legislature, and the US 80 designation was removed.[22][23] By 1965, I-8 from Fairmount Avenue to El Cajon Boulevard was one of the first freeway stretches in the county to have a center barrier installed in the median.[26]

The "Ocean Beach Freeway" section west of I-5 was authorized as Route 286 in 1959.[27] This was renumbered to SR 109 in the 1964 renumbering.[23] Plans for an interchange between I-5, I-8, SR 209, and SR 109 date from 1965, although several concerns had to be taken into account, including the preservation of historical Old Town and keeping traffic through the area moving during construction. The goal was to begin construction in 1966, and complete the interchange in 1969.[28] There were concerns about a $3 billion shortfall in funding during May 1966, which caused the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Highway Committee to recommend the completion of SR 109 as a project.[29] This was projected to be the final highway project before I-5 was completed in San Diego County.[30]

Construction had begun on September 22, 1966, and the interchange was to replace the intersection of Pacific Highway and Rosecrans Street. The cost of the interchange was projected to be $10.86 million.[31] SR 109 was planned to follow Camino del Rio up to the Frontier traffic circle, where the city of San Diego would resume construction; both SR 109 and SR 209 were to be constructed in the future.[32] The eight-lane freeway was projected to relieve traffic in the Frontier Street area coming from the San Diego Sports Arena. Bidding for the construction contract for SR 109 was to begin in 1968, after the City Council endorsed the route in December 1967. Completion of both the interchange and SR 109 was planned for early 1969.[33] An interchange was planned at Midway Drive, and the western end of the freeway was to be at Sunset Cliffs and Nimitz boulevards.[34] The cost of the SR 109 project was estimated to be $2.3 million.[35]

The ramp from south I-5 to Camino del Rio opened in February 1968,[33] and a second ramp from southbound I-5 to eastbound I-8 opened in August 1968, with the remainder of the project to be completed in summer 1969.[36] The groundbreaking for the Ocean Beach Freeway took place on September 23, 1968, with the estimated completion to take place within 15 months.[35] However, rain in February 1969 delayed many construction projects across the county, including the SR 109 extension.[37] The entire project was completed in September, with the road scheduled to open in October.[38] The routing of SR 109 was officially added to I-8 in 1972.[39]

Cuyamaca Mountains

A stagecoach road existed into the 19th century that passed through the mountains east of San Diego.[40] Well before the freeway was constructed, the automobile road through the mountains east of San Diego was narrow and wound through the mountains; it was officially dedicated in 1912.[41][42] This trip was known to take up to four hours, and frequently resulted in the radiator boiling over, flat tires, or broken fan belts; recent inclement weather would result in cars becoming mired in the mud. A paved road was constructed in 1926, and was open by 1927, and remnants of this road were still present in the late twentieth century. Another road was constructed in the early 1930s, to remove curves and widen the lanes.[40] This was a two-lane road that still had many switchbacks, with one popularly known as "Dead Man's Curve".[43] Construction of I-8 took place atop much of the roadbed of the highway from the early 1930s.[40] The delay in constructing a road to San Diego caused increased development in Los Angeles and resulted in that city becoming the trade and population center of Southern California.[44]

Completion of the freeway was the second highest priority according to the Highway Development Association in May 1963, after the I-5 freeway.[45] Bidding began on the portion from Broadway in El Cajon to Harritt Road, as it was known then, around Johnstown in November 1963.[46] This section of the freeway was to parallel US 80 to the south up to Lakeview Road, and then to the north.[47] This portion of the freeway was scheduled to be complete by May 1965.[48] By January 1965, I-8 had been completed from I-5 east to an interchange with Lake Jennings Park Road,[49] just south of the latter's intersection with the southern terminus of Harritt Road.[13] The part of the freeway from west of Harritt Road to west of Alpine was up for bidding in October 1964,[50] and the Highway Commission set aside $2.1 million for this 1.6-mile-long (2.6 km) stretch in February 1965.[51] A construction contract for $1.42 million was issued in August 1965.[52] The entire 6-mile (9.7 km) stretch from Lake Jennings Road to Harbinson Canyon Road was under construction by September 1965 and was scheduled to be complete by the next year.[53]

In the Mountain Springs pass between San Diego and Imperial counties, the eastbound lanes traverse the pass on the former roadbed of US 80 near Myers Creek. The westbound lanes were placed on a different routing through Devil's Canyon that had been constructed by November 1963. A contract for paving the 9.7 miles (15.6 km) from the San Diego–Imperial county line to SR 98, including the eastbound lanes, was given to the Isbell Construction Company for $3.69 million in May 1963. This portion was completed in May 1965 "through some of the most rugged, hottest sections of San Diego and Imperial counties," according to the San Diego Union. Construction ran into difficulties following concerns regarding potential landslides. The westbound lanes were constructed first, and temporarily contained both directions of traffic while the old highway was converted into the eastbound lanes.[46][54] The Los Angeles Times described the stretch east of Mountain Springs as follows: "Through it the freeway engineers have hacked two separate roadways night even in sight of each other, but so overpowering in the sheer magnitude of the cuts through the mountains that it is almost impossible to believe human beings could have so overpowered hostile nature..."[55]

The portion from Boulevard to near the Imperial County line was included in the California Highway Commission budget for 1965–1966.[56] A 6.7-mile (10.8 km) extension from Mountain Springs west to what was then known as Road J-35 was given $3.7 million in funding by the Highway Commission in May 1965.[57] The 10-mile (16 km) section in between this one and the Mountain Springs pass section was in planning by that September, and was scheduled to begin construction shortly thereafter, with the section extending west of Boulevard to follow.[58] That section, from Crestwood to Boulevard, was to begin construction soon after the $3 million contract was given out in January 1966.[59] The coming of the freeway from both west and east of Jacumba was projected to be a significant event in the history of the town.[55] Following the freeway construction, cafes and gas stations went out of business once the freeway bypassed the town; however, many retired adults relocated into the town since the high levels of traffic were gone.[44] The labeling of the town Boulevard as Manzanita on I-8 signs raised controversy and forced the Division of Highways to obscure the name on the signs until the issue was resolved.[60]

Construction continued with the issuing of a $6.55 million contract to widen a 5.7-mile (9.2 km) section of I-8 through Alpine, from Harbinson Canyon to east of West Victoria Drive, and to begin construction in April or May 1967, to be completed in 1969. This would leave only a 30-mile (48 km) stretch of I-8 that was not at freeway standards.[61][62] As the construction continued, concerns about increased smog from the additional traffic were raised in October 1967.[63] A 3.7-mile (6.0 km) section to the east of Alpine was scheduled to have bidding opened in November of that year, and was to be finished in 1968; this would produce a continuous freeway from San Diego to the eastern terminus of this route.[64] Both of these projects were underway by May 1968.[65] An additional contract was given out for $7.8 million in August to continue the freeway east from Alpine Street to Japatul Valley Road; this would bring the freeway near Descanso Junction.[66] Roughly 5.5 million cubic yards of dirt and rock were to be generated by all three of these construction projects, since half of a mountain would have to be removed with a million pounds of dynamite. The third project was constructed near the site of an abandoned attempt to build a tunnel for the old highway after World War II, which proved to be too expensive.[67]

By mid-February 1969, one segment of the part of the freeway running through Alpine was nearing completion, and was scheduled to open on February 21; another section was to open in April. However, the grading of the mountain near Viejas Grade and the Sweetwater River had not been completed on the final portion, although dirt and rocks were transported on a conveyor belt across US 80 to become part of an embankment for the Sweetwater River bridge. The historic Ellis Grade radiator stop was to be removed, and replaced with one at Vista Point.[68] On April 19, 1969, the portion 2.5 miles (4.0 km) east of Alpine opened to traffic.[69] All of the Alpine portion of I-8 opened on May 22, 1969, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony; yet the Viejas Grade portion was now projected to be completed by 1972.[70] The bridge over the Sweetwater River was under construction by 1970,[71] and the entire segment cost $22.1 million.[72] By May, this segment was estimated to be completed in the later part of that year.[41] The leveling of the grade resulted in the second highest fill in the state at 360 feet (110 m).[73]

The final portion of I-8 in California, between Japatul Valley Road and west of Boulevard, was prioritized in the 1969–1970 state budget.[74] However, due to financial concerns, it was announced in September 1968 that the target date for completing the Interstate Highway System would be extended until 1974, from 1972. The missing portion of I-8 was expected to cost $45 million, and be constructed in three parts, with one part being started each year.[75] The portions between Japatul Valley Road and west of Laguna Junction and from La Posta Road to west of Boulevard were delayed for an entire year at the end of 1969 due to a nationwide effort to fight inflation by reducing spending.[76] A 6.6-mile (10.6 km) segment from Buckman Springs to Crestwood received funding in May 1970, and would leave only an 8-mile (13 km) stretch of the freeway uncompleted when built.[72] The drive time from San Diego to El Centro had been reduced to two hours.[41] By August 1970, the remainder of the freeway had been funded, with the portion from Japutal Valley Road to Laguna Junction costing $22 million, and the Laguna Junction to Crestwood portion costing $15 million.[77]

In May 1971, El Centro Mayor Alex Gay requested that passing lanes be added to the remaining two-lane portion of I-8 in between El Centro and San Diego due to the frequent traffic jams along that part of the road, in between Japatul Valley and Crestwood; at this time this was the only missing portion through the mountains.[78] Bidding took place on the $16.5 million La Posta Road to Crestwood Road portion and the Japtatul Valley Road to Sunrise Highway portion in November 1971.[79] As part of this series of projects, the highest concrete bridge in the state at the time was to be built at 430 feet (130 m) over Pine Valley Creek on the portion between Japatul Valley Road and Sunrise Highway. The contract came in at $22.6 million, at over $5 million over budget due to the difficulty of the bridge construction. All three of the projects to complete I-8 were projected to be complete by mid-1974.[80] However, in March 1972, it was announced that the La Posta Road portion of the construction would be delayed due to budget troubles.[81]

By the beginning of 1974, the new projected completion date for I-8 was mid-1975, with 22 miles (35 km) of two-lane highway remaining.[82] The Pine Valley Creek bridge and the segment extending from Japtul Valley Road to Pine Valley was dedicated on November 24, 1974, and was scheduled to open on November 26; this left 8 miles (13 km) of freeway to be constructed.[83] The final stretch of I-8 in California, from Sunrise Highway to La Posta Road, was completed in May 1975.[44]

Imperial Valley

The highway through Imperial Valley was originally a plank road made of pieces of wood that were tied together.[42] Following this, US 80 was constructed through the valley as the main east–west route.[84] Plans for a new freeway across the southernmost reaches of California date from before 1950.[85] In 1957, the City of El Centro expressed a desire for the new freeway to replace US 80 to be routed along the southern limits of the city. Caltrans engineer Jacob Dekema stated at the time that the four-lane freeway would not be constructed on the US 80 routing due to possible expansion of the Naval Air Facility El Centro.[86]

In October 1964, the portion of I-8 between Imperial Avenue in El Centro to SR 111 appeared in the state budget.[87] Construction was underway on the stretch from Seeley to SR 111 by June 1966, and the entire portion through the county was planned for completion by 1968.[88] This 12.2-mile (19.6 km) portion, extending west to Drew Road, was planned for completion by early 1967, at a cost of $200 million; however, the date for completion of the freeway had slipped to 1972.[85] The state ordered the construction of the portion from west of Coyote Wells to just east of Drew Road in September 1967.[89] The next year, Jacob Dekema indicated that the goal was to have I-8 completed by 1973, citing a deadline in order to have the federal government pay for up to ninety percent of the costs. The other freeways were to be delayed because of this.[90]

In early 1970, the portion of the freeway from west of Ogilby Road to east of Algodones Road was under construction, and projections were to have this portion completed by later that year. This $5.2 million project also included resurfacing the freeway that had already been built through the Colorado Desert Sandhills;[41] this part of the freeway had been constructed between 1961 and 1965.[91][92] By this time, it was estimated that the drive from San Diego to El Centro now took two hours, as opposed to the 3.5 hours required two decades earlier, and the two days required in the pioneer era.[41] This part of the freeway was opened in July 1970.[93][94] As the freeway was constructed through the valley, it caused a break in many north-south roads. These breaks were located where access to the part of the road on the other side of the freeway was cut off. Plans were put in place to construct frontage roads to improve access through the region.[95]

The 16-mile (26 km) portion of I-8 bypassing Holtville began construction in December 1969, and was nearing completion in May 1971, which resulted in a continuous freeway that connected two existing segments from Crestwood in San Diego County to just west of Winterhaven. It was estimated that the bypass would save travelers 20 minutes of travel time through the Imperial Valley. The cost of this project was $11.2 million. However, Holtville residents raised concerns about SR 115 providing the only access to the eastern part of the city,[96] notably the narrow and curved portion leading from the freeway into town. Construction on this portion began at 3:30 a.m. daily during the summer in order to avoid the desert heat. In addition to this, construction of the Highline Canal overpass involved a 120-foot (37 m) steel span that was prefabricated and made of girders that were hoisted into position by barges. The Matich Construction Company attempted to set the world record for laying the most concrete in a day, aided by the level terrain, but failed to do so after the concrete mixer malfunctioned.[97] That same year, bids for an Arizona plant inspection station near Winterhaven, next to the California agricultural inspection station, were submitted.[98]

The last 6.5-mile (10.5 km) part of the California portion, from near Algodones Road to west of the Arizona state line, was to enter the bidding phase in early 1972.[99] I-8 was scheduled to be completed in the summer of 1975 between San Diego and Yuma, although there would be a break in the freeway around Yuma;[42] this occurred by October 1975.[100] At the time the California portion was completed, it was the preferred route to Phoenix from some areas of Los Angeles, since I-10 had not been completed.[42]

The missing portion of the highway was the new bridge over the Colorado River, which was constructed at a cost of $7.4 million.[100] In June 1975, there were concerns regarding the state delaying new construction projects due to financial concerns, and the effects this would have on the bridge.[101] The bid for the project was awarded to Novo-Rados Construction in October 1975, as one of the final projects before the construction freeze.[102] The new bridge, which replaced the old US 80 bridge, was dedicated on August 18, 1978; this completed I-8 from San Diego to Casa Grande. The Arizona Department of Transportation and the City of Yuma assisted in the planning process. By the time the California portion of the freeway was complete, the average cost was $1 million per mile.[100] The bridge opened on September 20, 1978. The State of California was responsible for the bridge construction, even though the State of Arizona owned half of the bridge.[103]


Between Yuma and Gila Bend, I-8 runs alongside the routes of both the Gila Trail and the Butterfield Overland Mail Company line.[104] This portion of the route of I-8 was originally part of the proposed state system of highway in 1921.[105]  By 1926, this section became part of the cross-country highway US 80. The route was not paved at this time, but was a gravel road along the entire corridor.[106] By 1928, the portion of I-8 between Gila Bend and Casa Grande was designated as SR 84.[107] A small portion of the highway was paved near Yuma and SR 84 was under construction by the next year.[108] SR 84 was completed by 1930, but not paved and the segment of US 80 between Astec and Sentinel had been paved.[109] By 1931, the entire portion of the highway under the US 80 designation had been paved.[110] Paving of the SR 84 had commenced by 1934, with the portion of the highway in Maricopa County being paved.[111] The entire future corridor of I-8 had been paved from Yuma to Casa Grande by 1935.[112] Drivers were told to bring spare fan belts, radiator hoses, and additional drinking water for the journey traversing the desert.[113]

With the coming of the Interstate Highways, the corridor was to be upgraded to Interstate standards. By 1963, this process was in progress with portions of the highway between Mohawk and Gila Bend, and between Gila Bend and Stanfield upgraded.[114] In 1964, a U.S. House of Representatives investigation discovered that poor management and lack of efficiency were prevalent in four of the projects constructing the I-8 freeway. The Arizona Highway Department was specifically cited in the report for not taking into account protecting government interests when selecting labor for the construction projects. Several errors were discovered, and one of them cost the state of Arizona $26,278 to fix.[115]

By 1971, I-8 was nearly complete including a new alignment east of Yuma built parallel and to the south of the original US 80 alignment. A new alignment was also built to the south of the SR 84 alignment at the eastern end of the highway from southwest of Stanfield to the eastern terminus at I-10 southeast of Casa Grande. The only portions of I-8 not completed at this time were the Casa Grande bypass and the western end near Yuma.[116] As the Interstate was completed, the highways that it replaced were removed from the state highway system. In 1973, the SR 84 designation was removed from the highway from Gila Bend to the split where I-8 followed a new alignment southwest of Stanfield.[117] In 1977, the US 80 designation was removed from this stretch in favor of I-8.[118]

Auxiliary routes

Main article: Business routes of Interstate 8

There are no three-digit Interstates that are related to I-8. However, there are five business routes related to I-8 that provide additional access to the towns or cities of El Cajon, Alpine, El Centro, Yuma, and Gila Bend.[14]

Exit list

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See also



Works cited

External links

Template:Attached KML

  • Interstate 8 at California Highways
  • Interstate 8 at the Interstate Guide
  • Interstate 8 in Arizona at AA Roads
  • Old SR 209 and the Cabrillo National Monument at Floodgap Roadgap
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