EL CENTRO — In less than four hours, the half-a-century old Imperial Avenue interchange on Interstate 8 was reduced to a pile of rubble of cement and rebars by early Friday morning, July 24, in El Centro.
“The interchange was constructed in 1967 as a business thoroughfare to El Centro,” said Luis Plancarte, Chairman of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, at a time when the City had a population of 16,830 denizens based on estimates by the US Decennial Census.
The City’s population has more than doubled to 44,079 based on estimates by the United States Census Bureau.
“Today, our cities have grown, and commerce has grown,” Plancarte said. “We need to reflect our community’s growth and needs of today. The bridge interchange was created for the community size of that day.”
“The 12.5-hour shift project allowed for quicker service and public convenience,” said Daniel Hernandez, Caltrans senior resident engineer. Instead of a two-day demolition project, it was compressed to less than a day.
Construction crews closed freeway lanes on I-8 between 4th Street/State Route 86 (SR 86) east of El Centro and Forrester Road on the west. Closure was from 6:30 p.m. Thursday until the following Friday early morning. Traffic on both westbound and eastbound I-8 resumed at 7 a.m.
Several days prior to the demolition project, Caltrans sent a press release to the news media and social media outlets about the construction and detour information.
Detour signs were posted at adjacent interchanges. Motorists on eastbound I-8 were detoured to Forrester Road north to Evan Hewes Highway east, to southbound 4th Street.
Motorists on westbound I-8 were detoured to northbound 4th Street, to Evan Hewes Highway west, then to Forrester Road south to I-8.
According to Hernandez, six excavators with breaker attachments were used to demolish the bridge interchange — beginning on the east side of the bridge.
The sound of rapid staccato of steel against the cement echoed through the evening. Dust was sprayed with water to decrease floating dust particles. Flood lights lit the area. Yellow lights blinked on vehicles. Engineers and Caltrans officials were on site to monitor the progress.
“The I-8/Imperial Avenue Interchange Project will remove the existing bridge and eastbound on- and off-ramps, then reconstruct the structure and the on- and off-ramps in both directions. Construction will include a new entrance loop ramp from southbound Imperial Avenue to eastbound I-8 and create access to the City of El Centro’s upcoming extension of southbound Imperial Avenue to city areas south of I-8,” according to a press release from Caltrans.
“The $44 million project is funded through the State Regional Improvement Program and the Federal High Priority Projects Program.”
“Traffic in the project area is primarily associated with the growth in international trade and travel between the United States and Mexico as well as travel onto and from Imperial Avenue north of I-8. The Imperial Avenue interchange experiences congestion in the morning and afternoon hours. Approximately 16,000-27,000 vehicles per day use this section on I-8. By 2025, traffic on this portion of I-8 is projected to almost double,” according to Caltrans.