To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, January 7, 2013

$53.7 million will go to widening 15/215 freeway interchange in Devore


Melissa Pinion-Whitt and Ryan Carter, Staff Writers

 Posted:   12/07/2012 08:34:38 AM PST
Updated:   12/08/2012 12:08:03 AM PST
 Motorists Friday on the 215/15 interchange in Devore.
  DEVORE - Cajon Pass travelers came one step closer to relief from the 15/215 freeway bottleneck Friday as the state allocated $53.7 million for the Devore interchange and 15 Freeway widening project, and opened up other funding streams for projects throughout Southern California.

The Cajon Pass was one of 44 projects from the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles to the High Desert that received $306 million from the California Transportation Commission.
And it's part of San Bernardino County transportation officials' efforts to prepare the Cajon corridor for future growth - and passenger and cargo traffic north and to the rest of the nation.

"It says a lot for the Devore project, in terms of importance," said Jane Dreher, spokeswoman for San Bernardino Associated Governments, the county's transportation planning agency.

The state commission's allocation frees up money that SanBAG planned to use on the $240 million project. Those funds will be used to conduct maintenance elsewhere in the state, Dreher said.

But even though the allocation isn't presenting new funds to the project, SanBAG said it shows that the state considers the Devore interchange project is something badly needed.

The project will reconfigure the area where the 15 and 215 freeways split, add north and southbound lanes and truck bypass lanes, among other improvements, and ultimately cut delay times for commuters by about 1,200 hours, officials said.

"It will make it smoother in all directions," Dreher said.

As it is now, that stretch is plagued with dangerous "weaving" problems, where smaller cars have to weave through big-truck traffic to get to their lanes, and the big trucks have to weave across three lanes to get to their legally obligated lane, officials said Friday.

"It will improve safety through that interchange, because trucks will end up with their own lanes," Caltrans Devore project manager Jesus Paez said Friday.

But longer term, a widened interchange - with new southbound and northbound lanes between Kenwood Avenue and Glen Helen Parkway - will bring economic benefits, Paez said.

"The big thing is the interchange will help improve the flow of goods and goods movement - all the goods that go to the east," Paez said, referring to the interchange as the major connector to the rest of the country of trucks hauling goods from West Coast ports and Inland Empire distribution hubs.

The Devore interchange project was already in the pipeline, so the announcement on Friday was not a huge surprise to officials. But they are preparing now for the prospect of new jobs and a 3 1/2-year construction period set to start in the fall of 2013.

Paez said the contractor on the project has leased out two floors of a building in San Bernardino, and while it was unclear how many jobs the construction would create, Paez noted that over its three-year span, workers on the project will patronize area gas stations and restaurants, among other business benefits, which could help the region - a region that suffers from high unemployment.

By the fall, commuters will see construction beginning, Paez said, but first there will be community stakeholder meetings as the final design plans for the project emerge. Those meetings should begin in a month or so, he said.

The Devore interchange project is part of a larger vision for the 15 Freeway, both at the city and regional levels, with expectations that traffic in the region will increase.

In Fontana, officials recently broke ground on a projected two-year project to widen the Duncan Canyon Interchange, now a two-lane overcrossing constructed in 1976.

The existing overpass will be widened and result in a six-lane interchange and will include on- and off-ramps connecting to the 15 and pave the way for what officials say will be 1,580 acres of development, with commercial and office centers built adjacent to the interchange that they say will create more than 16,000 jobs.

County transportation officials are also studying how to manage future growth of the 15 between the Riverside county line and Oak Hills in the High Desert, said SanBAG spokesman Tim Watkins.

The projects and studies are connected, Watkins said, in the sense that they are being done with an eye toward growth and demand in the region.

"What we've seen statistically, even in the midst of economic decline, is that we're still seeing levels of growth," he said. "It has slowed some, but we've still seen growth."

And the potential for more remains strong, he added.

Some of the state money allocated Friday came from savings on projects funded through Proposition 1B, an initiative passed by voters in 2006.

Many projects were underbid by contractors due to the economy.

And about $192 million comes from "assorted" transportation accounts funded by state and federal money.

Caltrans also received money from the state commission to repair the D Street overhead sign structure in Victorville. That allocation was $176,000.

But the allocation stream didn't stop there.

Among other large allocations approved by the commission were:

$52.9 million for construction of a 24-mile extension of the Metrolink commuter rail system east to Moreno Valley and south to Perris Valley.

$783,000 for upgrades on the 10 Freeway at Wiley Wells State Roadside Area in Riverside County.

$12.7 million for cargo transportation improvements at the Port of Los Angeles that would reduce greenhouse gases.