Friday, April 25, 2014

Now Open: French Valley Parkway Phase I

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It's finally open! Phase I of the French Valley Parkway Interchange project which is spearheaded by the City of Temecula and underwent months of state government red tape is now fully open to traffic. Phase I included two milestones: The widening of the existing Winchester Road off-ramp from the Southbound I-15 freeway and the development of a new off-ramp at the planned French Valley Parkway which now connects southbound I-15 to Jefferson Avenue at the Temecula/Murrieta Border. The former was completed and opened to traffic on time earlier in the winter. The latter had minor issues with non-compliant signs and striping following construction, but getting those fixed took months due to government bureaucracy. With the red tape finally out of the way, the off-ramp is now open.

Motorists should be prepared to be a bit confused of the layout simply because the interchange project has a second phase to go through and that the segment connecting the actual ramp with Jefferson Avenue will become the six lane French Valley Parkway. When one gets off of the freeway, the design layout will look very unusual, hence motorists will notice a sharp right curve and a sidewalk adjacent to the off-ramp. Rest assured that the sidewalk is not waste and once Phase II is complete, the design will make better sense.

Reduced: Watch For Stopped Vehicles Ahead

Before this project was completed, this region had some very serious safety hazards for the southbound side of the I-15 freeway caused by a long line of stopped cars spilling into freeway lanes. We anticipate and predict that the dangerous queue line of stopped cars at Winchester Road will be reduced with the traffic flow redistribution and capacity improvements from Phase I. Much of that traffic normally occurs during both the morning and afternoon rush hours. We'll be able to get some better facts as motorists get used to the new off-ramp. The Winchester exit also historically backs up significantly during peak shopping periods due to massive volumes of patrons headed to the Promenade Mall area; sometimes the line backs up as far back as the I-215. We'll be able to get some more facts during the peak shopping seasons starting with Mother's Day next month. Hopefully this grave safety issue has been addressed.

Still, motorists should continue to be careful through this area. Because French Valley Parkway is located very close to the I-15 and I-215 interchange, extensive weaving will be necessary to access the new off-ramp. Phase II will address this situation with collector ramps; southbound motorists needing to exit French Valley Parkway or Winchester Road will do so before they hit the I-15 and I-215 interchange once Phase II is done. Therefore, Phase II should begin as soon as possible.

Addressing the Northbound I-15 Temecula Traffic Problem

In addition, French Valley Parkway Phase II will completely wipe out a huge infamous bottleneck for the northbound side of the freeway that occurs during the afternoon rush hour.

Massive amounts of traffic merge onto the four-lane northbound I-15 freeway at Winchester Road with no auxiliary weave lanes. The northbound on-ramps also lack ramp meters which normally control and manage the incoming traffic flow. This creates the notorious bottleneck during the afternoon peak hour which causes traffic to back up as far as the San Diego County Line and even deeper into San Diego County on some Friday afternoons.

When Phase II is complete, ramp meters will manage the incoming traffic flow and the traffic getting on the northbound I-15 at Winchester Road and French Valley Parkway will ride along in a set of collector lanes until they just pass the I-15 and I-215 split. Once there, direct access ramps will feed the motorists onto these freeways. Thus the bottleneck causing the back up will be completely gone. Productivity aboard RTA CommuterLink buses through the area will see some improvements with better on-time performance.

This means Phase II should start as soon as possible and we've called for officials to streamline the process so that we don't have a repeat of the same mistakes from Phase I. Temecula Senior Engineer Avlin Odviar told the Press Enterprise that Caltrans will take the lead of constructing Phase II which means "one less party in the process". Since Caltrans is leading construction, we should be able to at least get around the red tape mess should incorrect signs or striping materialize from the construction contractor. That means any government waste associated with such delays will be gone as well.

I-15 Freeway HOV/Transit Infrastructure

These highway projects certainly will not be the last for the I-15 freeway. As the Southwest Region continues to grow, officials seriously need to plan for high occupancy vehicle and mass transit infrastructure. We've posted an outline of what should happen.

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