By Jeff Pack

City, partners dedicate Temecula Parkway Interchange Expansion project


Last updated 12/1/2018 at 7:24am

Shane Gibson

Pechanga Tribal Council Member RJ Munoa holds a framed aerial photo of the Temecula Parkway Interchange that the city of Temecula gifted to the tribe during a dedication ceremony, Nov. 27.

The City of Temecula celebrated nearing completion on the Temecula Parkway Interchange Expansion with a dedication ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Since breaking ground, the $50.7 million project has made significant progress with Interstate 15 on and off ramps nearly finished, giving a clear view of what the project will look like for commuters upon completion.

"The best thing about this project is it's a huge improvement for the quality of life for not just our residents but everybody in the region," said City of Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn after the ceremony. "It will help people get to their families and friends sooner, help people get to work more efficiently."

When completed, the project will have created realigned southbound I-15 ramps and the widening of northbound ramps; a new bridge over Temecula parkway with a loop off-ramp with a free right turn onto Temecula Parkway; Temecula Parkway will be widened with three through lanes and two left turn lanes for Interstate 15 access in both directions; add additional lanes at intersections; eliminate intersections at southbound ramps; create triple right turn lanes for northbound off-ramp to eastbound Temecula Parkway; update ADA curb ramps, create refuge islands and improve pedestrian access.

Rahn welcomed the crowd and dignitaries in attendance and passing the microphone to remarks from speakers such as Pechanga Tribal Council member Catalina Chacon, Caltrans Interim Director Janice Benton, Riverside County Transportation Commission Deputy Executive Director John Standiford and Western Riverside Council of Governments Transportation Director Chris Gray.

Proclamations were made by Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington, Assembly member Marie Waldron and State Senator Jeff Stone's office.

When asked following the ceremony what the landmark event means to the Pechanga tribe, Chacon said it was "great for the community."

"The partnership we have with the City of Temecula is fantastic, you know we're able to collaborate on something this huge for our community, it's amazing," she said. "It's nice because it was hard to get on and off these ramps and it was hard for anyone who lives in the City of Temecula and for me as well. I love it now. There's still a long way to go, but it's moving now, so it's great."

Rahn cited another added benefit to having less traffic congestion at the interchange.

"The one thing that wasn't talked about was the improvement in our air quality," he said. "The fewer vehicles that are sitting there idling, waiting to get to their destination, the less pollution in our air, we should be able to see an improvement in our air quality and public health."

City of Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams saw the event as significant for the city.

"This is a historic date, this project has been in our capital improvement plans, sadly, for 19 years," he said. "It only took 18 months to build it. So that tells you there was over a decade or more in the planning process and the approval process with both the feds and the state. Those are regulatory hoops that a local jurisdiction must jump through when you're improving a state highway - and cobbling together $50 million."

Adams said the city is proud to be a leader in the region and is proud of the work done by all involved to secure funding, lobby and execute on the project.

"It's great to be here, it's a great day because we've improved the quality of life," he said. "We're going to check this box and move on to the next state highway project."

Adams said he thinks the city will shift focus to some shorter-term improvement projects to be announced in the near term that involve CalTrans and the I-15 Task Force.

"Also, with the staving off the repeal of the gas tax in November, French Valley Phase II remains fully funded," he said. "That's about an $80 million improvement north of Winchester Road. We hope to be in a position where we are awarding a contract for that in probably two years."

Phase II of the French Valley Parkway/Winchester Road improvement project includes two new distributor lanes from Winchester Road to northbound Interstate 15 and Interstate 215.

The new lanes will take drivers from Winchester past the traffic backup that forms in the afternoons, caused by conflicting traffic trying to merge to the right across I-15 to get to I-215 and left to get from Winchester to I-15.

The plan calls for one lane to cross I-215 and get to I-15 from Winchester via a flyover bridge, while the other lane will carry drivers from Winchester to I-215.

"We're plowing ahead with design, engineering, finishing all of that, all the approvals that we need, and hopefully in 24 months, get that under construction," Adams said. "Meanwhile, we will be lobbying for the balance of the funds for Phase III in French Valley. We see that as the next big thing to go after."

Phase III proposes a new interchange and bridge over I-15 at French Valley Parkway, as well as additional exit lanes from southbound I-215. The project is expected to cost more than $100 million.

Adams said there is a pending grant that could be submitted federally in the spring that would make headway on that project.

Will Fritz contributed to this report.

Jeff Pack can be reached at [email protected]


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