Case Study No. 21
Cathedral City, CAÂ
Prepared by Jerry Jack, City of Cathedral City.
A high rate of pedestrian and vehicle conflicts were occurring along a section of Highway 111 through downtown Cathedral City, CA.
Highway 111 is the major state highway linking the desert cities of the Coachella Valley from Palms Springs to Indio and beyond to the Imperial Valley. Many of the cities in the desert have developed around this highway, including Cathedral City, which lies to the east of Palm Springs. Most of Highway 111 has been configured with two travel lanes in each direction, and in accordance with California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) plans, most cities along the 111 corridor have plans that show it eventually widened to three lanes in each direction.
The City of Cathedral wanted to redevelop its downtown area, through which Highway 111 passes. As part of this redevelopment, the City wanted to narrow Highway 111, also known as East Palm Canyon Drive through the city, and provide for a more pedestrian-friendly street through the downtown area. This section of Highway 111 had also had one of the highest rates of pedestrian conflicts and accidents in the corridor.
Looking west toward the San Jacinto Mountains after the installation of landscaped medians and enhanced parkways.
Looking east showing the use of protected/separated right turn and bus lanes.
In order to plan for a design that would make Highway 111 safer and more pedestrian friendly, the city needed to coordinate with Caltrans to determine who owned the road. The process for starting the design of the downtown area began in 1991 when the City crafted a broad vision for the new pedestrian-friendly environment, which included measures to slow traffic along the highway. This vision included plans to keep Highway 111 at two lanes in each direction and narrow the roadway to increase pedestrian accessibility across the traffic lanes and shorten crossing distances. With its plans to eventually widen the highway to three lanes in each direction, Caltrans vetoed the City’s plans.
Faced with a firm rejection of their plans by Caltrans, Cathedral City successfully sought to have the section of Highway 111 that ran through Cathedral City relinquished to the City. With East Palm Canyon Drive (no longer Highway 111 after the relinquishment) owned by the municipality, the City was able to go forward with its vision of a pedestrian-friendly redesign of its downtown area. Throughout the process, the city worked with a resident/business design committee and a consultant.
The final step in the process of moving forward with the City’s plans for its downtown area included securing funding from the Riverside County Transportation Commission for the redesign of East Palm Canyon Drive (formerly Highway 111). The entire project cost approximately $3.2 million (of which storm drain and right-of-way acquisition were a large share). This was funded through the City’s RDA, city bonds, and regional transportation funds.
The new design for the roadway included a landscaped center median, two travel lanes in each direction 3.7 and 4.0 m (12 and 13 ft) wide, a side landscaped median separating a new parking aisle with angled parking, and the elimination of numerous angular driveways and streets, which had previously compromised the smooth traffic operation of the street. New bus shelters were provided and new traffic signals with pedestrian crossings were installed to better connect the businesses on the south side of the roadway with the north side, which would eventually include a new shopping complex, movie theater, and community park. The speed limit on East Palm Canyon Drive was reduced from 72 km/h (45 mi/h) to 56 km/h (35 mi/h) in order to emphasize the traffic calmed nature of the new redesigned roadway and promote the pedestrian-friendliness of the new downtown area.
While many commuters who regularly traveled through the downtown area were not pleased with the roadway’s new design and traffic calmed characteristics, pedestrians and city officials were very pleased with the end result. A study of pedestrian crashes was conducted after the redesign of the roadway was completed. From 1993-95, there were nine pedestrian accidents, and since the new roadway opened in 1998, no crashes have been reported. In terms of pedestrian safety, the redesign of the street has been an overwhelming success. The redesign has improved the aesthetic character of the downtown area, and it has also served as the first step toward remaking the downtown area into a pedestrian-friendly, culturally vibrant commercial and civic district.
Jerry V. Jack
Traffic & Development Manager
City of Cathedral City
68-770 Avenida Lalo Guerrero
Cathedral City, CA 92234
Phone: (760) 770-0329
Fax: (760) 202-2524