Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Temecula Interchange Projects: Get On It!

Proposed: Temecula Parkway Ultimate Interchange with Park & Ride.
Long Range Concept: Dual 2+ Carpool/HOT Express Lanes along I-15, direct access ramp, transit station, high speed rail corridor, and gateway into Ecological Reserve.


Long traffic queues and congestion along the southbound I-15 at the Winchester Road and Temecula Parkway offramps have long been a common sighting for locals. These areas are infamously known for forced-flow conditions with stopped cars spilling onto the freeway during rush hours, the majority of the day, and most weekends. They have also been the site of numerous fender-benders including a serious accident involving a Riverside Transit Agency bus a few years ago. The situation is grave since we now have a fatal accident at hand.

Last week, a Murrieta motorist died when his pick-up truck collided with a big rig that was slowing down as it approached a long traffic queue at the Winchester Road offramp from southbound Interstate 15. According to the CHP, preliminary evidence showed that the big rig truck was travelling south in the far right freeway lane when the pick-up truck that was travelling behind it slammed into its trailer, killing the driver. Our condolences go to the family and friends of the motorist.

This offramp does have an auxiliary lane and warning signs do alert drivers to watch for stopped vehicles in lanes, but such traffic can go from full speed to a halt in a matter of mere seconds. The situation can catch alert motorists off guard. One reason of this chaos is that some motorists foolishly cut in the middle of the long queue which seriously exacerbates the forced-flow conditions of the exit lane and the far right general purpose lane.

A local interchange project will help take care of this problem, but with a fatality at hand, the governments need expedite it. Phase I of the French Valley Parkway interchange project which will provide a second offramp from the southbound side of the freeway is expected to be finished early this year. Government officials hope to have the Phase II designs done by mid 2015 and ground broken by the end of 2015. We hope the public sector can coordinate, get Phase I done by the end of the month and expedite Phase II so that construction bidding and groundbreaking can start this year because the safety issues at stake are grave. The same goes for a separate interchange project for the Temecula Parkway bottleneck.

Like the Winchester offramp, long traffic queues spill onto fast moving freeway lanes creating hazardous road conditions. Even worse is the fact that Temecula Parkway lacks a dedicated exit lane. Likewise, some motorists often cut in the line of stopped cars, creating a serious safety hazard along a 70 mph freeway corridor. Local officials have been trying to get the southern project moving by piecing together the public funds. A disturbing fact from all this is that the local governments are facing inflated project price tags with costs much higher than the market rate. Part of the Temecula Parkway interchange project includes a $2.36 million park & ride lot for 157 cars on undeveloped, already graded land. According to construction stats from the University of North Texas and data from Anthony P. Chrest's book Parking Structures: Planning, Design, Construction, Maintenance, and Repair, surface lot parking spaces generally cost anywhere from $2,000-$6,000 per space to construct. The per-space construction cost of the Temecula Park & Ride adds up to over $15,000 per space which is about the market rate for a space in a parking structure according to both sources. With that kind of money, we hope to see a grand multi-modal transportation hub with bus infrastructure within the parking lot when it's complete.

Back to the Temecula Parkway offramp. Like Phase II of French Valley Parkway, officials hope to break ground early next year. Later down the road, we hope to see some multi-modal transit infrastructure developed for the corridor on top of the interchange capacity expansions. However with grave safety issues at stake including the recent fatality, there should be no excuses to get these interchange projects paid for, placed out for bid, and construction started this year with long term planning to incorporate transit infrastructure into them in the future. Get on it!

2 comments:

  1. Transit stations work best when they're actually near something, rather than just isolated spots where one can change buses. Unless you think that that parkland is going to be a big trip generator, maybe the transit station should be moved to the east side of the freeway? It'd save money on that direct-access ramp, too.

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    1. The transit station concept is still debatable and not a hard proposal. The idea includes a long range intermediate regional rail stop and also factors in major proposed development on the western side, which is why it is away from the proposed Park & Ride to the east. Another idea would be to run the rails on the east side of the freeway and through a PPP with the landowners, upgrade the nearby shopping center and gas station into a destination with parking underground. If the rail line was out of the question, placing the hub at the Temecula Park & Ride east of the highway would be the prime spot as you've mentioned.

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