Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
Now, we have yet another reported dispute between entities over a local interchange project along the I-15 freeway in south Temecula that would address a serious safety hazard on the road. This dispute mainly centers around trivial red tape politics.
Red Tape Politics: Temecula Ultimate Interchange Dispute
Utility companies and Caltrans are having a tough time agreeing how the utility lines are to be relocated to accommodate the construction of the Temecula Parkway Ultimate Interchange junction. The legal language in the agreement is in question according to Caltrans. In addition, the relocations needed to be compatible with the county's Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. Plus, the federal government is funding portions of this project which subjects it to all kinds of regulatory rules. To further complicate matters, the negotiated agreements have to be compatible with all of the rules from the feds.
The I-15 South Safety Hazard near Temecula Parkway
I would normally not make a big fuss about this and to be fair, there needs to be efficient oversight from both the state and feds to ensure infrastructure is developed safely and correctly. But the fact remains that the current traffic demands far exceed the capacity of the current design of the existing junction, especially southbound traffic. That causes long lines of stopped cars desiring to exit at Temecula Parkway from the north to spill over onto 70 MPH traffic lanes as the two-lane offramp lacks auxiliary lanes.
Unlike a congested freeway interchange, traffic signals regulate the incoming flow at this interchange and the vast majority of vehicles are turning left at the light, which means the queue line is often at a dead stop when the light is red, not slow-and-go. Plus, motorists turning right have a "No Turn on Red" sign which means the entire line moves slowly only once per light cycle, then it stops again. That's why this traffic backup is a hazard and its history of numerous collisions and fender-benders in the area prove it.
|Safety Hazard: Suddenly stopped traffic in a 70 MPH traffic lane along the I-15 south near Temecula Parkway.|
The spillover periods are unpredictable. They often occur during both the morning and evening rush hours, can surprise motorists midday, jam up on many weekends by noon, and can even back up late in the evening during a special event. Not to mention that there are some motorists who need to exit but foolishly use the next freeway lane over in an attempt to bypass the long queue only to slow down and cut into the front of the line at the last minute. Last time I checked, the #3 lane on the I-15 south is not the "Temecula Parkway Express Lane." This safety hazard has become so bad that I've seen the CHP in the area issuing tickets to the line cutters for unsafe lane changing.
Safety First: Do whatever it takes to clear the hazard.
Like the Metrolink San Bernardino Line dispute, this situation points to the need for leadership and urgency to move this project forward without the excuses, especially because it involves highway safety. Local officials need to petition the power structure in the state and federal government all the way up to the executive branches to waive the trivial red-tape items and expedite the oversight over the utility relocations so it won't pollute the neighboring ecosystem. Our public servants should be doing whatever it takes to clear the freeway of the long line of cars at a dead stop within a 70 MPH traffic lane by moving this project forward.
Whenever lives and safety are at stake due to hazard problems, all unnecessary trivial red tape that delays implementing efficient workable solutions has to be taken out, period. For example, as a recipient of federal funds, the "Buy America" policy on materials for this project should be waived. How many more accidents and fender-benders do we need before this dispute is resolved?
I'm going to continue to keep a close watch on the interchange's progress. At the very least, warning signs reading "WATCH FOR STOPPED VEHICLES AHEAD" need to be posted without delay. The public should not accept any more excuses regarding the project's timeline. Road safety is no accident and these trivial obstructions have got to be dealt with.