One Big I-15 Express Lanes Corridor

I-15 Express Lanes: 3 county transportation entities are planning HOT lanes for this major freeway corridor. Several segments still remain unfunded.
Map: © OpenStreetMap contributors

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

The Riverside County Transportation Commission, San Bernardino Associated Governments, and the San Diego Association of Governments all have major plans to bring high occupancy toll lanes along Southern California's primary north/south Inland freeway corridor known as the I-15 freeway.

Combined, they would create one gigantic I-15 Express Lanes.

Each project segment would involve constructing new lanes which would not involve the conversion of any existing general purpose lane.

I-15 Express Lanes:
High Desert to SR-60 Segment
Graphic: SANBAG
SANBAG I-15 Express Lanes

From the north, SANBAG plans a giant 35-mile stretch of new HOT lanes from US 395 in the high desert all the way through the Cajon Pass to Cantu Galleano Ranch Road at the Riverside County Line.

Two Express Lanes would be built in each direction from Cantu Galleano Ranch Road to Duncan Canyon Road and from I-215 to Oak Hill Road. One Express Lane would be built in each direction from Duncan Canyon Road to I-215 and from Oak Hill Road to US-395. Also, an auxiliary lane in each direction will be added between SR-60 and I-10.

The I-15 Express Lanes through this segment would allow access to carpools and single occupant vehicles under certain conditions. Typically, designated carpools use Express Lanes at a reduced or no toll. Single occupant vehicles also have access to Express Lanes, by paying a toll according to SANBAG.

RCTC I-15 Express Lanes

I-15 Express Lanes:
SR-60 to South Corona Segment
Graphic: RCTC
Across the county border, RCTC is planning a 14.6 mile segment of the I-15 Express Lanes between SR-60 and Cajalco Road. That is proposed to open by 2020.

Like the 91 Express Lanes, 3 persons or more is slated to be the carpool occupancy requirement for toll-free or discounted travel and all motorists will need a FasTrak transponder. The HOT lanes were formally proposed to go all the way south to SR-74 in Lake Elsinore; however this segment as well as the segment south to the San Diego County Line remains unfunded for now.

RCTC reports that while the original Measure A commits to construct improvements along the entire stretch of the I-15 in Riverside County, these improvements will still be constructed at a later point in the 30-year timeframe of the Measure. These future improvements will include additional travel lanes and the details of this future project will be determined when the project undergoes

I-15 Tolled Express Lanes:
Riverside County Line to Escondido Segment
Graphic: SANDAG
SANDAG Long-Range I-15 Tolled Express Lanes

In San Diego County, SANDAG has in its 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan to add tolled express lanes between Escondido and Southwest Riverside County; however, this segment too has no funding source and is not proposed to be built until 2050. Many of us will be long retired by the time that happens.

Regarding the unfunded HOT lane segments, transportation planners should get these sections designed and made shovel-ready. The state government also really needs to stop displacing transportation funds to other interests. These segments need to be developed way sooner than 2050 as economic growth and development continues in both these areas. Try making your way through these sections quickly during the Friday afternoon rush hour. The miserable 91 Corona Crawl with extensive traffic back-ups has already begun to materialize in this area.

I-15 Express Lanes Rapid Route 235:
Escondido to San Diego Downtown Segment
Graphic: San Diego MTS
San Diego I-15 Express Lanes

Finally, in between Escondido and Kearny Mesa, is the existing award-winning I-15 Express Lanes with many multi-modal features and bus transit infrastructure that The Transit Coalition would like to see along the planned Inland Empire HOT Tolled Express Lanes.

The I-15 Express Lanes down south is a four lane, 20 mile express lane facility in the median of I-15 stretching from SR-78 in Escondido to SR-163 in Kearny Mesa.

It is an award-winning, high-tech HOV transportation facility which provides multiple ways to get up and down the corridor quickly. The new express lanes are free for all 2+ HOV's--transit buses, carpools, vanpools, motorcycles, and permitted clean air vehicles. They don't need to pre-register ahead of time. They can get on for free and go.

For a toll, single occupant vehicles can travel on the Express Lanes by using their FasTrak transponder and valid toll account.

In addition, the lanes offer robust public transit options. Dubbed the One Sweet Ride, Route 235 is an all-day BRT express service between Escondido and Downtown via the I-15 Express Lanes. Transit stations and Park & Ride lots are located at Escondido, Del Lago, Rancho Bernardo, Sabre Springs, and Miramar College. It currently operates every 15 minutes during rush hour and 30 minutes at other times.

The Express Lanes stops are located away from the freeway right-of-way itself and serve multi-modal transit centers and other destinations, which offsets The Transit Coalition's concern of the cold and uninviting waiting experience typically found for transit corridors with stations planted within freeway medians.

How can we get One Sweet Ride-like BRT express services for the Inland Empire HOT lane system too? I have some good news...

More Transit Upgrades Coming for the I-15...

Regarding public transit options, various transit segments from Corona all the way toward the Mexican border are slated to have all day services by 2023. That's about 8 years away, but at least the upgrades are now officially planned and many of us will still be working then. In its 10 Year Transit Network Plan, the Riverside Transit Agency plans on phasing in additional peak hour departures along key CommuterLink routes with all day service spans proposed for 2023. The interval between the express buses in the middle of the day would be 60 minutes.

I'll have a run-down of the details of the upgraded services and how these buses can be a first-rate means to get around if the respective HOT express lanes are designed accommodate them with seamless connections to/from adjacent transit hubs like the Corona Transit Center, the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station, Ontario Mills Mall transfer hub, the planned Twin Cities Transit Center in Southwest Riverside County, a future transit station in Lake Elsinore, and various major park & ride lots.

Buckle up for some good discussion. In the mean time, enjoy this video of San Diego's I-15 Express Lanes bus services and see how integrating rapid express transit into Inland HOT lanes can lead to improved multi-modal mobility: