California 111 South - Interstate 8 to Calexico

California 111 south
Immediately after the Interstate 8 cloverleaf interchange east of El Centro in the Imperial Valley, this mileage sign provides the distance to Calexico (five miles) and Mexicali (seven miles). This is one of the rare instances when a Mexican city is listed on a mileage sign; the distance to Mexicali is roughly the same as the distance to the International Border via California 111. Photo taken 01/27/06.
The next intersection along southbound California 111 is the junction with California 86 and Historic U.S. 99. These two routes turn west along Heber Road to Heber, where they meet Imperial County S-31 (Dogwood Road). From there, California 86 and Historic U.S. 99 turn north toward El Centro, Imperial, and Brawley. U.S. 99 was at one time the major north-south highway through the Imperial Valley; today, much of the California 86 corridor that has replaced U.S. 99 between Heber and Brawley is built up and serves mostly local traffic. North of Brawley, the route of California 86 and U.S. 99 follow the expressway to Indio. Photo taken 01/27/06.
Southbound California 111 reaches its junction with California 86. This intersection marks the end of the parallel routes between Indio and here: California 111 stayed east of the Salton Sea and east of El Centro, while California 86 traveled west of the Salton Sea south to Brawley, Imperial, and El Centro. Between Brawley and here, California 86 is decidedly the more local route, while California 111 is the more through route. Between Brawley and Indio, California 86 is the more express route. At this junction, Historic U.S. 99 turns south to follow California 111 generally south to Calexico. Photo taken 01/27/06.
Continue south along California 111 and Historic U.S. 99 for another four miles to Calexico. About three of these miles are on expressway (median separation, two lanes in each direction, limited intersections), while the last mile is a congested commercial strip. Photo taken 01/27/06.
This reassurance shield is located on southbound California 111 after the California 86/Historic U.S. 99 intersection. Photo taken 01/27/06.
California 111 passes under the major east-west power transmission line between the California 86 and California 98 junctions. This 500 kV line bisects the Imperial Valley, carrying electricity from Arizona and points east toward San Diego on the coast. Near Mount Signal (west of Calexico), this power line inter-ties with incoming transmission lines from Mexico. Photo taken 01/27/06.
The California 111 expressway continues south as it approaches this mileage sign. While Calexico is the immediate destination (and the southern terminus of both California 111 and Historic U.S. 99), the mileage sign also provides the distance to San Felipe, Baja California. San Felipe is a fishing village that has grown into a tourist destination along the shores of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). After crossing the International Border, follow the signs for Mexico Federal Route 5 south to San Felipe. Photo taken 01/27/06.

Now entering the Calexico metropolitan area, this was the first traffic signal encountered along southbound California 111. However, a new traffic signal was being installed in Winter 2006 about a mile north of here, so the suburban area is continuing to grow further north along the expressway. This traffic signal serves Cole Road, which travels east to California 98 and west to Imperial County S-31 (Dogwood Road). Photo taken 01/27/06.
While California 111 and Historic U.S. 99 pass through downtown Calexico to end at the International Border with Mexico at the Port of Entry, only passenger vehicles may use this crossing. Trucks and commercial vehicles must use the newer port of entry (Calexico East Border Crossing) found along California 7 southbound. To connect to California 7, follow California 98 east. Photo taken 01/27/06.
The All American Canal passes under California 111 at this bridge. Built between 1934 and 1940 to carry water from the Colorado River (via a diversion at the Imperial Dam) to the arid fields of the Imperial Valley, the All American Canal ends west of Calexico, where it connects with the Western Main Canal. To the east, the canal travels generally east toward the Colorado River. All told, the canal is about 80 miles long. By staying within the United States, the All American Canal avoids Mexico and replaces the Inter-California Canal that preceded it. Photo taken 01/27/06.
As noted earlier, the Calexico East Border Crossing is accessed via California 98 (Birch Street) east to California 7 south. All commercial vehicles must use the Calexico East Border Crossing. Photo taken 01/27/06.
California 98 is a major east-west highway that connects to Interstate 8 on either end. Beginning at the bottom of the In-Ko-Pah Gorge grade, California 98 travels east past Mount Signal to serve Calexico, the burgeoning border city located north of Mexicali. This state highway largely avoids downtown Calexico by following Birch Street, and it serves more as a bypass of the city. Continuing east, California 98 connects with California 7, passes through Bonds Corner, and meets with Interstate 8 again at Midway Well, just west of the Algodones Sand Dunes. Photo taken 01/27/06.
The two main lanes of California 111 continue south toward downtown Calexico and the International Border Crossing into Mexicali. All semblance of an expressway ends here at the California 98 intersection; south of here, California 111 reverts to an urban boulevard with plentiful services (gas stations, Mexican automobile insurance, restaurants, motels, strip malls, and casas de cambio or currency exchanges). Photo taken 01/27/06.
Use California 98 (Birch Street) west to San Diego and east to Yuma. Both destinations involve connections with Interstate 8 at either end of the Imperial Valley. Continue straight ahead along south California 111 into Calexico and toward the passenger vehicle crossing into Mexicali. Through trucks should turn off California 111 at this intersection. Photo taken 01/27/06.
After the California 98 intersection, California 111 follows Imperial Avenue and dramatically changes character from the expressway segment. Due to the upcoming border crossing and multiple services available, congestion is frequently a concern along this section of California 111. Many motorist services are available along this road, including the aforementioned casas de cambio and Mexican automobile insurance vendors. Both of these can be seen in this photo. Photo taken 01/27/06.
Between California 98 (Birch Street) and 7th Street, each of the east-west city streets in Calexico seem to be named after U.S. Presidents, with one exception: Sheridan Street. From north to south, these streets are named Roosevelt Street, Sheridan Street, McKinley Street, Lincoln Street, and Grant Street. Here, southbound California 111 (Imperial Avenue) intersects with Grant Street. Photo taken 01/27/06.
The next traffic signal is only one block south of Grant Street: It is the intersection between California 111 (Imperial Avenue) and 7th Street. There are only seven more blocks to the International Border with Mexico. Be sure to obtain Mexican Automobile Insurance prior to crossing the International Border. Photo taken 01/27/06.
Several more commercial facilities line California 111 as the state highway follows Imperial Avenue south toward the International Border. Here, Imperial Avenue reaches 5th Street. Only five blocks left until we reach the border. For those opting to remain in the United States, there are limited opportunities to turn off California 111 before the International Border Crossing. Watch the signs closely. Photo taken 01/27/06.
After Fifth Street, there are no left turns toward downtown Calexico until the Second Street traffic signal. This is the last "exit" before Mexico. While there is a final "Last U-Turn" available from the left lane just prior to the border crossing, it is recommended that traffic not wishing to enter Mexico turn at the final U.S. traffic signal (2nd Street). Turn left on 2nd Street to enter downtown Calexico. Photo taken 01/27/06.
This border warning sign advises recreational vehicles, campers, and pick-up trucks to use the right lane. Passenger cars may use either lane. Inspections by Mexican authorities may be requested of any vehicle crossing into Mexico. Near this sign is the intersection with 3rd Street, which today offers no left turn toward downtown Calexico. This breaks off the historically significant routing of U.S. 99, which used to turn east on 3rd Street for three blocks, then turn south on Heffernan Avenue. To follow Historic U.S. 99 south, turn left (east) on 2nd Street instead; there are signs for Historic U.S. 99 along 2nd Street. Photo taken 01/27/06.
Southbound California 111 reaches 2nd Street. The upcoming border crossing was constructed in the 1970s to replace the original U.S. 99 border crossing at Heffernan Avenue, which is located three blocks east of Imperial Avenue. Look to the southeastern corner of this intersection; you will see a mid-1990s vintage Historic U.S. 99 shield and a prominent end U.S. 99 shield. While this intersection is not truly the end of U.S. 99, the signage is an invitation for highway explorers to turn east on 2nd Street. Second Street is a one-way street that travels east through downtown Calexico. It is signed as Historic U.S. 99 between Imperial Avenue and Heffernan Avenue. Photo taken 01/27/06.
The highway divides after Second Street, and the left lane offers the final return to the United States. The remaining lanes continue south into Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Photo taken 01/27/06.

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Page Updated April 22, 2006.

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