The city of Temecula broke ground on the Temecula Parkway interchange project in a June 6 ceremony.
“This is a very happy day,” Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards said at the ceremony. “We have been waiting 17 years for this opening.”
Construction is set to take approximately 18 months, with completion targeted for December 2018, said Temecula engineer and project manager Avlin Odviar in a news conference the day before.
There will be some intermittent overnight closures, but the city plans to notify the public of these at least two weeks in advance and will post detour signs.
The city will be partnering with Waze to alert drivers of closures.
The most significant change is the removal of the current southbound exit and entrance. When construction is complete, drivers on southbound Interstate 15 will exit using a new flyover bridge that will terminate at Temecula Parkway facing north. Drivers will be able to proceed straight onto Old Town Front Street or turn onto Temecula Parkway.
“It will be a lot cleaner,” Odviar said.
A new auxiliary lane, like the ones already at the Winchester Road and Rancho California Road interchanges, will keep traffic backups off the freeway.
Another important change, drivers turning from westbound Temecula Parkway onto northbound 15 will only have one turn lane, rather than the dual turn lane currently present at the intersection.
Odviar said he has heard some general criticism that the single lane freeway entrance turn lane will lead to increased traffic congestion, but he does not foresee this creating a slowdown.
“The problem with this not unloading is not because we have too many cars in here,” he said. “It’s because of the backup on the freeway. The changes we had to make here, going to a single (lane), were primarily due to pedestrian access.”
The northbound exit will also be reworked slightly. Drivers making a right turn onto Temecula Parkway from that side will be able to utilize one of three right-turn lanes, though turning right on red will still be prohibited at the intersection.
As part of the project, the city will be forced to move sewer and water lines at a cost of nearly $4 million. The lines will be slightly upgraded to more corrosion-resistant materials at an additional cost, but the city will be reimbursed for the difference, officials said.
The Arco station currently on the southwest corner of Temecula Parkway and Old Town Front Street, set to be demolished as part of the project, was formally taken over by the city May 25. It was purchased in 2013, but the city rented out the location to its previous operator.
“It’s not coming back,” Odviar said. “It will be flat when we’re done.”
After construction of the interchange is complete, the city will be left with a small, unused “remnant” of the Arco site. Presently, the city has no concrete plans for the site.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” said Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams. There are talks, he said, of utilizing the location as a connection to trailheads or to the Altair development planned for the hills to the west.
“It could be a lot of things,” he said.