Road Conditions

Road Conditions Updates

Road conditions between Mexicali and San Felipe are excellent

Road conditions between Mexicali and San Felipe are excellent. Travel time is typically 2 hours from the outskirts of the capital to the Port.

Meanwhile, south of San Felipe, work is proceeding well on the final 20 miles connecting Highway 5 to the Transpeninsular highway at Chapala. Grading of the intersection of these two roads is underway and bridges are being constructed around Coco’s Corner

Grading of the intersection of Highway 5 and Highway 1 (courtesy of Jim Hatton)

Grading of the intersection of Highway 5 and Highway 1 (courtesy of Jim Hatton)

We expect this work to be completed by early next year and Highway 5 will become the preferred route between La Paz and the U.S. Border region for the trucking industry – avoiding the congestion of the San Quintin/Ensenada region. Ultimately, a bypass around San Felipe for heavy goods vehicles will be needed !

Road Conditions from Ensenada to San Felipe

5 November 2016

The drive from Ensenada to the junction with Highway 5 (Mexicali-San Felipe) is a scenic trip. Allow 3 hours 15 minutes to get to San Felipe. The road is in very good condition for such an isolated highway. You will encounter potholes galore going east from San Mattias through the mountain pass and on your descent into the desert.

The climb out of Ensenada is slow and twisty to Ojos Negros and you will be stuck behind heavy trucks for around 30 km. Relax and go with the flow of traffic. Overtaking on this stretch of road is foolish. After the military checkpoint at Ojos Negros it is all plain sailing to San Felipe.

Mexicali- San Felipe Highway maintenance

The highway is in good condition but roadworks are in progress from the Rio Hardy area on and off to the Ensenada road. New asphalt is being laid down by machines carpeting about one third of the total width of the roadway in each pass. There are frequent flagmen to control traffic.

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Drive with caution as there is the usual black, sticky, tar-plus-aggregate which will spray up into your wheel wells and onto the body if you go too fast. Leave the Mercedes at home for this trip.

Update 6 November 2016.

San Felipe to Chapala

A recent visitor to San Felipe made the journey down through Puertecitos and Gonzaga to Chapala (the transpeninsular highway) and on to La Paz in a Honda Odyssey minivan. All is fine up to km 165 with the paving that has been done so far to the south of Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. There is then a 35 km stretch through Coco’s Corner and on to Chapala that is unpaved and took 3 hours. The part south of Coco’s is very bad and an average speed of 5 km/hr was mandatory. The minivan bottomed out in places. The road is definitely not meant for use by vehicles such as this minivan although they made it without breakdown or flat tires. The vehicle now has clinking sounds from the suspension on pavement that is not perfectly smooth.

Roadwork is in progress in places -few and far between, however. Budget cuts by the Federal Government will likely mean that the completion of this stretch of highway will be further delayed.

 

Road Conditions February 2015

The Mexicali-San Felipe highway is in very good condition. There are new roadworks some 30 km south of Mexicali for the construction of the new overpass/interchange at “El Faro” which will make the transition to Mexico Route 4 through the Colorado delta much safer. This major construction is causing only minor delays on the north-south traffic at this time.

El Faro construction looking North. Mexico route 4 is off to the right

El Faro construction looking North. Mexico route 4 is off to the right

Visitors traveling via Tijuana and Ensenada will be relieved that the Scenic Toll Road between these two cities is again open for business after almost one year of fixing earthquake and subsidence problems. A long term solution to the road instability is being sought with the construction of a new connector to the old road near Bajamar.

The Ensenada- San Felipe highway is undergoing maintenance to fill potholes and to widen the right-of-way in places. A lot of heavy goods vehicles use this route and they tear up the repairs almost as soon as they are completed. Nevertheless, the highway is fine for tourist use. Just watch for flooding in some of the low spots if there has been heavy rain in the mountains.

The road south from San Felipe to Puertecitos and Bahia San Luis Gonzaga is open and in good condition. The connection to the Transpeninsular highway south of Coco’s Corner is being worked upon with all deliberate speed. Some 20 miles of rock and washboard are all that stand between a smooth passage south from San Felipe to the rest of the peninsular. 

 

Sadly, the condition of the roads in San Felipe continues to be very poor. Very little gets done to improve the appearance and the structural integrity of the streets. It seems that only when it gets to be close to the Easter holidays does Mexicali send down a few loads of asphalt to fill the worst potholes before the crowds arrive and the eyes of the news media again fall on the town. As a result of the opening of the airport to commercial flights from San Diego, the road into town is now seen by a new set of international travelers who observe the trip past some of San Felipe’s luxury beachfront developments and our fabulous Marina Resort with different eyes. As one person commented, the road condition was scary – a third world experience.

 

Road from Airport to town. The Baja Diamante condominiums is the building in the center distance

Road from Airport to town. The Baja Diamante condominiums can be seen in the center distance

Highway conditions- San Felipe and points south – October

My latest report from an experienced “off-roader” on the Gonzaga – Coco’s Corner – Chapala road yesterday indicates that a 2wd Tacoma can make the trip without much trouble. There was no gasoline available at Gonzaga.
Highway construction trucks are everywhere and the road is very silty. Dust will get in everything, check your air filters. You will likely have to lower your tire pressure after the construction zone to get a better grip. Coco’s is OK.
Virtually all major roads in the northern part of the State of Baja California are open and in good condition. The Puertecitos-San Felipe-Mexicali road is fine. The Ensenada-San Felipe road is OK – watch for potholes.
The one concern is the Tijuana-Ensenada scenic toll road which continues to be closed south of La Mision. Repair on the landslide area of the highway south of Salsipuedes continues but it appears that further instabilities have been observed. The long-term viability of this stretch of road for all but the lightest of traffic is in question.
As of now, the road is still scheduled to re-open to traffic in December but the State is also looking at starting construction next year of a 24 km, 4-lane, $2 billion peso bypass from Bajamar running inland and parallel to the route of the old road to Ensenada.
The Tijuana-Ensenada tollway is a critical part of the state and federal infrastructure, not just for the tourist trade but for all major commercial shipments between the California border and the rest of the peninsular. Reportedly some 10,000 goods vehicles per day are having to use the slow and circuitous old road to Ensenada and points south.
Planning is also accelerating on the Mexicali – Transpeninsular highway corridor to provide an alternative route for commerce with Southern Baja. I think we will see a significant increase in pace of construction of the Bahia San Luis Gonzaga- Chapala highway in the coming year.
The implication is that heavy goods traffic will start flowing through San Felipe in 2016 and we really need a bypass of the town, along the old Puertecitos road. For the future, it is critical to plan alternative routes away from the coast which will be at risk to rising sea levels and storms like Odile. 
The State is now emphasizing that for Bahia de Los Angeles, the local air strip must be upgraded and prepared for immediate use in situations like the emergency with Hurricane Odile in September. With the heavy and expensive damage to the BdeLA highway and its continued vulnerability to future storms, air access for tourism and commerce has become high priority.

San Luis Gonzaga – Cocos Corner – Laguna Chapala road damage – 19 September

The road from San Felipe to San Luis Gonzaga is in passable condition. However, the unpaved road south of Gonzaga, through Coco’s Corner to the junction with the Transpeninsular Highway at Chapala has been washed away in many places by tropical storm Odile. It is currently listed as unpassable for all vehicles. 

The authorities from Ensenada County are inspecting the damage and will be attempting to get earth-moving equipment into position to re-fill the washed out areas over the next few weeks.

 

San Felipe – Mexicali Road Conditions, September

During August, heavy rainstorms hit the desert region north of the Ensenada Road and the desert is turning green with new growth. As you drive between Mexicali and San Felipe, you will see areas where rivers of water still remain by the side of the road and many of the boundary markers have collapsed because of erosion. The road, however, is in excellent condition. Maintenance has been completed on the Laguna Salada section and new asphalt coatings applied in several areas. 

The time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving tends to be a period of light traffic by passenger vehicles with flows in either direction being only around 30 vehicles/hour in either direction on weekdays. The flow increases to around 100 vehicles/hour on weekends but driving is easy and safe under these conditions.

The long abandoned “hospitality center” at the junction with the Ensenada Road is essentially complete and it will be a welcome stop for visitors seeking comfort stations when it eventually opens later this year (or next?). Old timers will remember the beautiful courtyard in the center of the building where one could enjoy a cold beer before resuming the trip to San Felipe.

ens road hospitality center 0814

The condition of the “facilities” available at La Ventana, the only other rest stop on the highway, have deteriorated significantly over the past year and many travelers have preferred to take their chances in the roadside bushes.

 

Update 11 September 2014

New cracks have appeared in the road surface of the Ensenada Scenic toll road and the re-opening of the highway to the public, mentioned below, has been delayed until December to make a better evaluation of the safety of the construction.

 

For those visitors who enjoy coming south from San Diego via Ensenada, the news is that the scenic toll road will re-open “around 15 September”. Work has been underway to stabilize the highway at km 95 since the beginning of the year when there was a geologic slip of the road base into the sea as a result of heavy rains and seismic activity. Over the summer, disquieting cracks have been noticed in adjacent areas and reported by Ensenada.net (example shown below) but there is extreme pressure to get the road back in service as soon as possible because of the huge impact it has caused in loss of tourist business to Ensenada and points south.

enstollroadcracks

 

 

 

 

Current Mexicali-San Felipe Road Conditions

After the long process of construction on the road to San Felipe, the work is finally complete! The road itself has been finished since April, with no detours and smooth sailing all the way down.

Throughout May, a few finishing touches were put on, with a couple of slight bumps fixed and stripes repainted, but there were no detours, and now the road is complete, and a joy to drive.

Final touches to the paint on the edge lines.

Final touches to the paint on the edge lines of the highway.

Travel time between Mexicali and San Felipe seems faster than ever, now that there are no detours, and the highway is so nice and smooth. It’s the perfect time to test out the road in fact, and head on down for a little rest and relaxation by the beach! Plus, enjoy some of the picturesque Baja scenery along the road on your way down – it’s not mentioned as often as it should be, but the road to San Felipe is beautiful in a unique way. From farmers’ fields outside Mexicali, to the bright reeds and calm storks along the Rio Hardy, to dramatic mountains, to desert filled with hardy plants, to the barren salt flats, to sand dunes, the scenery on the way down is great if you take it in!

We’ll keep you updated on any changes in the road conditions, but for now, everything is complete, and the drive is great! See you in San Felipe soon!

Smooth sailing all the way down - see you here!

Smooth sailing all the way down – see you here!

May 2014 Highway Conditions

The road between Mexicali and San Felipe is in excellent shape. No roadworks are in progress and the highway is now mostly striped with center and edge markings.  Travel time from the outskirts of Mexicali (Costco warehouse) to the Arches in San Felipe is a comfortable two hours.

This is the season of sandstorms and it is important to keep an eye on the road 1-2 miles ahead when crossing the great Laguna Salada (km 60-90). Dust storms can arise quickly, particularly on hot afternoons,  and visibility may drop to a few feet. Be ready to roll up your windows and also to switch your ventilation system to “recirculate” while you pass through the storm.

Remember to fill up with gasoline before embarking on this stretch of your journey as there are no service stations on the road. Primitive (very primitive) rest rooms are available at La Ventana, at km 105. Bring your own paper! It can be distasteful to have to pick through the waste basket to find a piece of tissue suitable for reuse. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you and use it liberally.

The old restaurant/tourist information stop at the junction with the Ensenada road is being renovated after many years of non-operation. It could be open later this year if all goes well. If the electricity situation can be resolved, it is likely that an OXXO or 7/11 will take over the franchise there.

In the city of Mexicali, roadworks continue as the metropolis further enhances its glittering image. At present there are sewer reconstruction works going on just south of the border crossing on Lopez Mateos. Some delays may be encountered but the work should be finished soon.

In San Felipe, many of the potholes on the main roads were patched for Easter but the heavy traffic is already taking its toll on the repairs. The recent high winds have caused sand from the dunes along the coastal highway south of town to spread everywhere. If you hit one of the sandy areas at any speed, you will drift all over the road.

Gasoline prices for regular unleaded fuel in Baja are around $4/gallon US equivalent.