Monday, November 4, 2013

Additional intermediate access points for the 91 Express Lanes through Corona


The Transit Coalition has been advocating for additional intermediate access points and direct access ramps for the 91 Express Lanes on top of the current access points west of the SR-55 interchange and the Orange County Line. This is to provide the rapid express bus and carpool transit infrastructure to encourage ridesharing in the high occupancy lanes. The toll lane extension proposal through Corona maintains the county line access point and a direct access ramp at the I-15 to/from the south. OCTA also has plans to link the 241 toll road with the 91 Express Lanes to/from the east. We're exploring a few more.

Corona Mid-City Intermediate Access Point:
Government officials studied the concept of providing a Mid-City access point to/from the 91 Express Lanes in Corona. This would allow Corona residents and patrons using the Corona Transit Center access to the lanes. One proposal was an at-grade ingress/egress point west of Lincoln Avenue. Excessive weaving across the general purpose lanes was cited as a reason for not including it in the extension project. Okay, fair enough. 

Concept: Bi-directional 91 Express Lanes DAR at Smith Avenue.
Smith Avenue/Corona Transit Center DAR:
A grade-separated direct access ramp was proposed at the Smith Avenue freeway overpass. This would seamlessly link Corona Transit Center carpools and transit buses with the 91 Express Lanes to/from the west. Corona's downtown district is also a few blocks east of Smith Avenue. Future rapid express buses can pick up passengers in the central city area and ferry them to dense places like the downtown Fullerton Transportation Center or the Anaheim Regional Intermodal Transportation Center in about 45 minutes with this infrastructure, bypassing any traffic congestion in the general purpose lanes.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission concluded that by not constructing the direct connector, $77 million would be saved. It would result in 10 fewer full parcel acquisitions, 10 fewer partial parcel acquisitions, and reduced right of way costs. Therefore, the ramp was excluded from the 91 Express Lanes extension project.

Officials also cited the potential of deteriorated operating conditions in the 91 Express Lanes with a DAR at Smith Avenue. As we have mentioned, that statement is disputable. If the toll lanes supported a policy where only 3+ carpoolers would be given access at ingress points whenever the lanes approach full capacity, DAR's would not deteriorate operations. Every other HOT lane system in the state including LA's Metro ExpressLanes has this policy to prevent bottlenecks at intermediate access points and DAR's.
 
Because of the lack of local connections to the express lanes from the northern side of Corona, vehicles will have to backtrack to access the 91 Express Lanes once the extension is completed. For example, RTA's Route 216 and carpools originating from the Corona Transit Center must go southeast to Ontario Avenue and weave across the I-15 freeway to access the HOT lanes via the direct connector at the I-15/SR-91 interchange. That could add in an additional 10-15 minutes of wasted travel time.

We're going to keep the Smith Avenue DAR on our long term future vision which could serve as a productive bidirectional connector for future rapid express buses and high occupancy vehicles. Both county and state officials should revisit this proposal, include it in long range plans, and find ways to get its $77 million price tag down. Robust negotiations and design revisions should also cut down on the number of full property acquisitions. Labor union pandering or inflated costs should not be obstructing this bus transit infrastructure.

SR-71 DAR:
We're also exploring a long term direct connector between the 91 Express Lanes and the 71 Freeway. The San Bernardino Associated Governments and Omnitrans have long range plans to bring sbX BRT service between Corona and Upland via SR-71 and Euclid Avenue. The future rapid express buses and commuter carpools headed to Los Angeles County have no business being stuck in traffic in the general purpose lanes. 

Old Temescal Road or Ontario Avenue DAR:
In addition, we're looking at a potential bidirectional I-15 tolled express lane direct connector in the area of Old Temescal Road or Ontario Avenue in Corona adjacent to a robust business park which will allow rapid express buses and carpools connections to the job hub and Corona Transit Center to/from the south. Commuters using nearby park & ride lots would also benefit.

Our next post explores some additional direct access ramps and bus rapid transit infrastructure in Orange County.

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