As we head toward the end of November, we are nearing the completion of the 17-week closures of State 60 (alternating between Eastbound and Westbound sides) due to the replacement of deteriorated pavement over an 18-mile stretch.
If you actively drive the Inland Empire freeway system, more than likely you’ve encountered the challenges of working around the “60 Swarm” as it has been coined by Caltrans.
The 60 Swarm affects the weekend traffic on the 60 freeway between Riverside and Ontario – a highly traveled freeway system with many businesses along this route.
“The swarm is the compilation of multiple projects taking place over the same time over the next two-and-a-half, to three years, along State Route 60,” said CalTrans spokesperson Terri Kasinga.
The impact of the freeway closures on local businesses has been considerable. For restaurants in the commercial areas particularly, as they rely on favored customers who sometimes drive 15 to 20 miles in for dinner on a Saturday night or for a lunch on a Sunday afternoon.
Best Thai Restaurant at 1735 Spruce Street in Riverside is a prime example of a business that has been greatly impacted by the freeway closures. Their location is in the heart of a commercial business area in Riverside, as they are right off the State 60 exit at Spruce. Many of their regular weekend customers commute in from Redlands or Ontario to have dinner with their families, as they feel Best Thai’s cuisine is worth the drive. However, these weekend closures have impacted patron routes making them think twice about finding detours on side streets with which they are unfamiliar.
“It’s been very challenging over the past three and a half months since the weekend freeway closures began,” said Pitt Boonleuth, owner of Best Thai. “It’s very difficult to know how to prepare and properly staff for the weekends, especially when we are seeing more than 25 percent fewer customers on Saturdays and Sundays due to the 60 freeway closures.”
The closures each weekend have alternated between eastbound and westbound sides of State 60.
Caltrans has suggested that drivers take the 91 or 10 freeways when driving east or west, but that doesn’t help the restaurants in the commercial areas right off the 60.
These closures begin at 10 p.m. on Friday nights and continue for 55 hours until 9:00 a.m. Monday morning.
On the other side of town from Best Thai, in Jurupa Valley, the Crown Ace Hardware store at 7351 Mission Boulevard, has had a completely different experience relative to the freeway weekend closures.
“Actually, with people taking the side streets due to the freeway closure, we’ve seen more new walk-in business since the weekend closures began,” said Edith Paredes, store manager of the hardware store. “Mission Boulevard is highly traveled which has really worked out in our favor.”
The 60 Swarm is planning to wrap up work on this particular stretch of the freeway by Thanksgiving. With the holidays coming up, it goes without saying that both patrons and business owners are looking forward to getting back on the road again.
You can learn more about the 60 Swarm Pavement Rehabilitation Project at www.60swarm.com.
“It’s definitely been a hassle trying to figure out the best routes to take to get home to my job [at Staples] in L.A. from UCR (University of California, Riverside) on the weekends,” said UCR student Jorge Marin.