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Interstate 8

Eastbound Interstate 8 passes through the Gila Mountains east of Yuma. This view is seen from the westbound lanes of Interstate 8. Photo taken 03/19/07.

Interstate 8 crosses the Colorado River into Arizona, and immediately enters Yuma. Yuma is the agricultural center of southwest Arizona, known for its warm temperatures (in the summer, Yuma routinely is the hottest city in Arizona). Yuma’s population grows by 100,000 during the winter as snowbirds flock to the warmth and sun. While the majority of Yuma is within the first three miles of I-8, the "suburb" of Yuma called The Foothills is located at exit 12. Yuma is also known for the strong Marine Corps presence, with MCAS Yuma and the Yuma Proving Ground located around the city.

Heading east, I-8 climbs the Gila mountains and enters Telegraph Pass. Original US 80 bypassed these mountains and hugged the river, while a 1928-30 realignment brought US 80 through Telegraph Pass. When I-8 was constructed through the pass, terrain dictated the present design which includes a "Wrong-Way" section – the westbound lanes cross the eastbound lanes.

On the east side of the pass, I-8 enters the Mohawk Valley. Wellton is the business center of the valley, carved by the Gila River (which I-8 will parallel to Gila Bend) and known as an agricultural area. I-8 then passes Tacna and Mohawk before leaving the Mohawk valley, passing through Mountain Pass to enter the valley.

Dateland is home of date shakes, followed by Aztec and Sentinel. Between Dateland and Sentinel, the only traveler’s service (an old Stuckeys) closed in 1984 and has long since been demolished. Gila Bend is located where the Gila River bends west (from a south flow). The small town has long been a travelers waypoint, as well as a farming community. Several motels and gas stations are in town, including the Best Western Space Age Lodge, with a flying saucer atop the building.

Interstate 8 breaks from old U.S. 80 at this point and heads east, paralleling old Arizona 84. While U.S. 80 continued northeast into Phoenix, Interstate 8 heads east to Casa Grande. The next 59 miles are lightly trafficked as most of the thru traffic takes Arizona 85 (old U.S. 80) into Phoenix. For the next 45 miles, Interstate 8 will pass through the Sonoran Desert National Monument, a new monument established in 1996 by President Clinton. No traveler services are available in the monument.

Interstate 8 has the longest section of interstate with no exits in Arizona – miles 119 to 140 have no exits. While Phoenix is 40 miles north of Interstate 8, it seems a world away when driving the freeway. The next intersection is Arizona 84, which parallels the newer interstate into Casa Grande. Arizona 84 can be used to reach Arizona 347, which travels through the Ak-Chin Indian community and Gila River Indian community to reach Interstate 10 just south of Phoenix.

Interstate 8 passes just to the south of Casa Grande, then unceremoniously ends at Interstate 10 just south of Casa Grande. Most traffic continues east on Interstate 10 towards Tucson and El Paso.

Interstate 8 replaced U.S. 80 between Yuma and Gila Bend, and Arizona 84 between Gila Bend and the present terminus of Arizona 84. There are two business loops on Interstate 8 – Yuma, beginning in California and ending at Exit 9 (former U.S. 80) and Gila Bend (former U.S. 80/Arizona 84).

Construction Timeline:

  • 1959: First sections completed between Sentinel and Piedra, and Gila Bend (east) to Arizona 84.
  • 1962: Dateland to Sentinel and Piedra to Gila Bend (west) opened.
  • 1964: Mohawk to Dateland open.
  • 1966: Miles 160-172 open.
  • 1967: Telegraph Pass (Miles 11-23) open.
  • 1968: Miles 3-11 in Yuma open.
  • 1969: Miles 23 to 35 open.
  • 1970: Mile 40 to Mohawk open. Miles 172-178 open.
  • 1971: Gila Bend bypass (Miles 115-119) open.
  • 1972: 16th street in Yuma to Arizona 280 open.
  • 1976: Giss Parkway to 16th Street in Yuma open.
  • 1979: Colorado River bridge opens in California and Arizona, completing Interstate 8.

Interstate 8 Highway Guides

Scenes Pertaining to Interstate 8
Interstate 8 is a Blue Star Memorial Highway in honor of the Armed Forces that have defended the United States of America. This plaque was placed by the Arizona Federation of Garden Clubs and Yuma County Garden Council at the Mohawk Rest Area near Milepost 55. Photo taken 03/19/07.
Traveling north on Avenue 64E in Dateland in eastern Yuma County is this view of Interstate 8 and its twin bridges over the county road. Photos taken 01/14/05.
Even out here in the desert, standard Interstate entrance signs are present. Whereas in Yuma, California-style freeway entrance shield assemblies were briefly in use, the rest of Arizona generally has not implemented freeway entrance signage. These two sign assemblies, located along Vekol Road (Exit 144), are more typical of rural Interstate freeway entrance signage. Photos taken 05/24/03.

Photo Credits:
2003-05-24, 2005-01-14, 2007-03-19 by AARoads

Connect with:
Interstate 10
U.S. Highway 95

Page Updated 03-26-2007.

 
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