Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Exploring 91 Express Lanes access points through Orange County

Yesterday, we explored ideas of improving the 91 Express Lanes by adding both at-grade intermediate access points and direct access ramps through Riverside County. This is to provide multi-modal infrastructure to the toll lanes for transit buses, private sector coaches, and 3+ carpools with seamless connections to transit centers, activity hubs, and park & ride lots. Basically, we want the 91 to mimic the award-winning I-15 Express Lane facility in San Diego County which supports free non-transponder carpooling with bus transit infrastructure. The only two differences is that the carpool occupancy requirement would stay at 3+ and the barrier in the median would remain fixed based on local demographics and travel patterns. In addition, we envision through Metrolink Max corridor-based Metrolink, Amtrak, and potential future BNSF Class One high speed trains operating with a combined service frequency of 30 minutes between trains with a Rail2Rail-type option. Check out our future vision for a complete map.

Today, we'll take a look specifically on how the 91 Express Lanes can be improved through Orange County.

Concept: What the western entrance of the 91 Express Lanes may look like if it supported free non-transponder 3+ carpooling.
Existing Access Points:
The 91 Express Lanes currently has two bookend access points. The western point is just west of the SR-55 interchange with a direct connector to/from the 55. The eastern point is located at the Orange/Riverside county line. From there, local county officials propose to extend the toll lanes east to the I-15 freeway. Check out yesterday's post on how the lanes can be improved in Riverside County during the long term.

SR-241 Toll Road DAR:
OCTA also has plans to link the 241 toll road with the 91 Express Lanes to/from the east. Patrons using the toll road will be able to access the HOT Lanes. A planned commuter bus from Riverside County to the Irvine Business Complex and UC-Irvine would have seamless congestion-free connections. 

Savi Ranch Transit Station DAR:
OCTA Routes 20, 26, 30, and 38 pass through the Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills areas in the east/west direction, but none currently offer direct connections into Riverside County. OCTA bus riders must backtrack west either to a connecting Metrolink station or to the Village at Orange transfer hub to connect to RTA Route 216. Such backtracking and lack of connections can make short bus transit trips between the counties last several hours.

The Transit Coalition envisions for the long term a transit hub at or near the Savi Ranch shopping center in east Yorba Linda. The bus stops and park & ride lot can be incorporated into the existing development and street layout under a public-private partnership negotiation. This is the easternmost commercial activity center in Orange County. Illustrated here, OCTA Routes 20, 26, 30, and 38 would be extended east and join together at this at this station under the hub-and-spoke routing model. Future rapid express buses headed to Riverside and Lake Elsinore via the 91 Express Lanes would connect seamlessly with these Orange County routes and vice versa.

In addition, a proposed commuter express route from Riverside County to CSU Fullerton would be able to exit the Express Lanes at Savi Ranch, eliminating the need for it to travel in the general purpose lanes should they become congested. 

Concept: 91 Express Lanes intermediate access point with a transitional weave lane.
Yorba Linda Mid-City Access:
The Coalition is also looking at a 91 Express Lanes intermediate access point near the truck scales just east of Fairmont Boulevard. This will provide another option for the CSUF-bound commuter bus and carpools to access Imperial Highway. The access point would have an auxiliary weave transitional lane to maintain quick travel speeds. Should vehicles in congested general purpose lanes wish to transition into the 91 Express Lanes at this point, the extra weave lane would allow the vehicles to accelerate before merging into the high occupancy lane, thus not obstructing its traffic flow.

Officials also previously explored a grade-separated DAR at Fairmont Boulevard. Should the Fairmont DAR move forward, the transit hub for future rapid express routes; local OCTA Routes 20, 26, 30, and 38; and the park & ride can be placed near Yorba Linda Regional Park and the BNSF rail right-of-way instead of Savi Ranch.

As we have mentioned yesterday, if the 91 Express Lanes supported a policy where only 3+ carpoolers would be given access at these ingress points whenever the lanes approach full capacity, such intermediate access points would not deteriorate its operations.

Meats Avenue Carpool Lane DAR via SR-55:
Express buses including the existing RTA Route 216 using the 91 Express Lanes and numerous private carpools which stop at the Village at Orange transit hub or nearby park & ride lots would benefit with a direct access ramp at Meats Avenue. The ramp would eliminate the need for the buses to backtrack via Katella Avenue to access the toll lanes. In addition, carpools originating at Orange would have a direct connection to the SR-55 carpool lane. The ramp should be a part of long term plans and conditioned on future economic development growth along the Tustin Avenue commercial corridor and paid for in part by developer fees. The concept would likely require expensive property acquisition and right of way expansion or would need to be built above the existing freeway corridor.

Be sure to check out our project "We want Toll Lanes done right!" Local and state officials should also work on getting the corridor's bond debt paid off so that the 91 Express Lanes can financially support free non-transponder 3+ carpooling.

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