Proposal to build bypass to I-10 through Cabazon moving forward

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Trying to avoid catastrophic backups on the 10 Freeway, Riverside County officials are looking to build a freeway bypass through Banning and Cabazon. (KABC)

Anyone who's driven from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, or farther east, has probably used Interstate 10 to drive through Cabazon.

It's a drive most people know for the high-rise casino on the Morongo Indian reservation, the two steel-and-concrete dinosaurs, and all the windmills at the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm.

Unfortunately, it's also known for traffic.

On Friday evenings, the eastbound direction is often a nightmare. On Sunday afternoons, the same can be said about the westbound direction.

"Congestion," said Glynda Ellis of Banning. "Backed up; confusion; people don't know which way to go."

But sometimes it's even worse - with backups of bumper-to-bumper traffic for 30 miles.

"It was a catastrophe," said Kevin Fowler of Banning, who says he remembers one time when the freeway was closed while the CHP investigated a pursuit that ended in a crash involving multiple vehicles. "People needed to go to the bathroom, and they were pulling over on the side of the freeway. It was big bottleneck."

Another time, a Caltrans project ran late. The 10 was reduced to one lane for several hours.

"That's why I sat on it for 10 hours one night," said a frustrated Susan Cobb from Banning. "I got home at 11 p.m. from work (when I left) at 4:30 p.m. from Indio."

But the Riverside County Department of Transportation is looking to end nightmare scenarios like these, by building a frontage-road south of the freeway.

The alternate route would start at the intersection of Hathaway Street and Westward Avenue in Banning, ending at Apache Trail and Bonita Avenue in Cabazon.

The alternative route would span 3.3 miles.

A meeting to discuss the project was held Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Banning High School.

"We've seen a shutdown of the freeway several times in recent years," said project engineer Darren Adrian. "That's what's put a lot of energy into having an emergency bypass."

The project would also allow for either an overpass or underpass, which would allow drivers to avoid having to wait at the railroad tracks. Adrian says that will be an incredible benefit.

"There are almost 40 trains a day that come through there. That's a train every half an hour."

The project could cost approximately $70 million. It would be paid for with state, local and federal resources. Construction could begin in 2020.

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