Was there some Government Waste with the French Valley Parkway project?

French Valley Parkway Interchange layout: Construction crews finished Phase I which included an offramp from southbound I-15 to Jefferson Avenue. Phase II will be undergoing its design phase which will include barrier-separated collector lanes. Future long-range plans calls for high occupancy vehicle express lane infrastructure in the median area which is shown in purple.
As southwest area officials go through piles of red tape to get Phase I of the French Valley Parkway Interchange opened, we took note that the finished infrastructure of this first phase is perhaps one of the most questionable construction projects we've seen. With precious state transportation dollars continuously being re-purposed elsewhere combined with inflated infrastructure costs, one would think that the City of Temecula and the California Department of Transportation would do what they can to not spend more than what is necessary while at the same point, expedite this project to clear a very serious safety bottleneck.

But no. Some parts of the design of Phase I shows that the spending spree of transportation dollars continues to go unchecked no thanks to unnecessary bureaucracy and lack of oversight. From a field study, we found three items of interest--Two very questionable, one good. And we've included quite a few pictures and diagrams to make them clear: 

Half-Graded French Valley Parkway Segment:

When Phase I was being designed and built, we expected the road segment that connects the I-15 to Jefferson Avenue would be fully graded to support the full build-out master plan of French Valley Parkway so that costs would be streamlined.

That did not happen.

Only the northern half of the segment was graded and built. The southern half was left untouched, leaving literally a half-built roadway over half-graded land sliced where French Valley Parkway's center divider is proposed to be. Because the southern half of the road was never graded, the northern side had to be supported by a temporary retaining wall. However, that wall was built as if it were to be permanent infrastructure--made of out concrete with a top metal railing found on many bridges.

If Phase I included the full grading of the interchange, this temporary retaining wall would not have been necessary.
To add the icing on the cake, this wall also includes an artistic rock pattern. When Phase II commences with the construction of the south side of the road, this wall and its rock pattern design will have to be demolished, so we hope you enjoy it for the few years it will be up.

This kind of planning is certainly questionable to say the least and we hope government officials have a good reason why this phase first phase was built the way it was. And we're not buying any bureaucracy as an excuse. 

Jersey Barriers

It has long been a common practice to use portable Jersey barriers when its use will be temporary. Follow this link for an example of this for a multi-phase interchange project out in Arizona.

Phase I did not follow this lead. A concrete barrier segment was placed at a turning point in between the southbound off-ramp at French Valley Parkway and the westbound segment of the roadway going toward Jefferson Avenue. It was to help guide and warn vehicles of the sharp right turn at this point. This turning point will become an intersection at Phase II.

The temporary Phase I barrier in the circled area may have fared better fiscally if portable Jersey barriers were used instead of a fixed one.
However, this barrier was constructed like a permanent freeway median, not with portable ones normally used for temporary purposes. Again, when Phase II commences, this barrier will have to be demolished, whereas portable barriers can be re-purposed elsewhere.

We admit that the cost of this barrier is not significant compared with the rest of Phase I costs. But even if it was worth a few thousand dollars, that's still taxpayer transportation money. Again, we hope government officials have a good explanation for this.

High Occupancy Vehicle/Transit Infrastructure & Safety

To be fair, not all is bad with this project in terms of planning. Phase II of the French Valley Parkway interchange project will be compatible with future long-range plans to build a set of dual carpool express lanes in each direction according to the project's environmental report. The EIR also includes space set aside for a future long-range direct fly-over access ramp between the carpool lanes and the I-215. Therefore, high occupancy vehicle infrastructure will not be threatened per this report. Also, the upgraded Winchester Road offramp opened late in January which helped clear away some of the dangerous driving conditions through this area. However, public officials must take this as a lesson.

"Incomplete" or multi-phase freeway interchanges to be completed within the near future should be designed and built in ways where the future phases and projects can simply be added later with minimal destruction of the built infrastructure. That would include grading the entire interchange area ahead of time and using portable concrete barriers to close off incomplete segments. Phase I of the French Valley Parkway interchange should have followed this model and should serve as a reminder for both state and City of Temecula officials as they plan for other multi-phase transportation projects like the Western Bypass corridor, upgraded express bus services, the Twin Cities Transit Center, and high occupancy vehicle lane infrastructure.