Temecula Parkway Interchange project updates

Mayor Maryann Edwards calls the interchange project information meeting to order, speaking about the background of the interchange project which began an estimated 16 years ago. Stephanie Lai photo
Mayor Maryann Edwards calls the interchange project information meeting to order, speaking about the background of the interchange project which began an estimated 16 years ago. Stephanie Lai photo

The city of Temecula announced it broke ground on the Temecula Parkway Interchange Expansion project, now in its second month, during an interchange project information meeting, July 24.

Construction demolished the Arco-AM/PM gas station and convenience store on the southwest corner of Temecula Parkway and Old Town Front Street, June 13. The planned southbound loop off-ramp would not cut through the Arco, but would rather block one of two driveways; ultimately, the city and the business reached an agreement for the gas station and convenience store to be bought out. Construction is in the process of clearing trees and brush and constructing a retaining wall on the northbound on-ramp as well as restriping northbound lanes on Interstate 15. The relocation of utilities and sewer lines is slated to begin soon.

The preparation and construction of retaining walls began Thursday, July 27, for an anticipated three to four days from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. All roads will remain open, and the California Highway Patrol will be monitoring traffic flows.

Thus far, the city has worked on communicating with stakeholders such as emergency responders, police departments, California Highway Patrol, school transportation and administration, local transit, traffic management, elected officials and local businesses.

Dennis Green of Falcon Engineering presents updates on the interchange and leads the meeting through public comments. Stephanie Lai photo
Dennis Green of Falcon Engineering presents updates on the interchange and leads the meeting through public comments. Stephanie Lai photo

The project has scheduled closures that will not occur during high volume traffic hours and no full freeway closures or weekend work hours are expected. At this time, all ramp and highway closures will occur between the hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Falcon Engineering and public relations official Dennis Green said. The city has prepared detour signs and routes for the expected closures but have yet to release the dates of the specified closures. The public will be able to get advanced notice of future detours through the city of Temecula website, project Twitter and Waze. Detour signs will redirect traffic when the northbound off- and on-ramps, southbound off- and on-ramps and state Route 79 close.

Updated July 21, the project schedule plans for complete relocation of Southern California Electric power lines by October, relocation of water lines in the fall, the completion of northbound ramps by February 2018, completion of sewer lines by April 2018, opening of the new southbound on-ramp by May 2018, completion of the bridge of southbound off-ramp by July 2018, completion of the new southbound loop off-ramp by September 2018 and completion of Temecula Parkway expansion by December 2018.

Roadway excavation for construction of a retaining wall and potholing in preparation for utility relocation necessitated closure of I-15 northbound on-ramp and I-15 northbound lanes 3 and 4 from July 31 to Aug. 3. I-15 southbound on-ramp and SR-79 outer eastbound lane from Murrieta Creek to Bedford Court was closed July 31.

Estimated to be completed in 18 months, the project costs approximately $50.7 million according to Senior Management Analyst Betsy Lowrey in the 2017 semiannual newsletter. Funding is provided by the Pechanga Tribe, the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, the federal Surface Transportation Program and Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee. Costs for construction account for $23.6 million of the total project costs and were given to the contractor, Ortiz Enterprises, April 25. The remaining $27.1 million goes toward buying land and paying consultants among other services, according to Project Manager Avlin Odviar.

Visual renderings of the interchange project paint a clearer picture of the interchange project. Stephanie Lai photo
Visual renderings of the interchange project paint a clearer picture of the interchange project. Stephanie Lai photo

Public commentators expressed their concerns of several aspects of the project including the new northbound I-15 on-ramp at SR-79. Current renderings show a refuge island and two crosswalks, ultimately eliminating one free right-turn lane. Public commentators questioned how this addition would alleviate traffic, and Odviar addressed the alteration as compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act and pedestrian accessibility.

“The current configuration is a dual right-hand turn lane, but that doesn’t work well with pedestrians,” Odviar said. “You can imagine in a wheelchair that crossing is nearly impossible.”

In addressing traffic relief for the northbound on-ramp, Odviar clarified, “We understand the need for traffic relief going onto the freeway, so in short, the inside lane is a dedicated free right except if there are pedestrians and the right lane left of the island can essentially make the same turn.”

The “no right turn on red” ruling will remain the same for the northbound off-ramp as the city adds in additional lanes.

The project features are intended to improve vehicular traffic circulation and access, however public commentator Gary Marshman said, “There is a lot of money spent for very little change. I’m still going to sit on the road for the same amount of time, and you haven’t changed any of the traffic flow going onto the freeways.”

The city anticipates relief of freeway traffic by lengthening the off-ramp, reconfiguring ramps and increasing lanes.

Regardless, the project is on schedule but continues to face challenges of maintaining access, construction staging, relocating underground utilities and complying with environmental standards such as noise level and with local tribes.

For more information, visit www.1579south.info or call the hotline number at (866) 679-4900.

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