Valley News -

By Jeff Pack
Writer 

U.S. Department of Transportation selects Temecula I-15 project for $50M grant

 

Last updated 8/2/2019 at 1:23am

City of Temecula photo

An artist's rendering of what the French Valley Parkway Interchange project will look like once all three phases of the project are completed.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Thursday, July 25, announced $855,950,000 in proposed grants through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America discretionary grant program – of which $50 million was proposed to the city of Temecula to construct a two-lane northbound collector and distributor system along Interstate 15 – known as Interstate 15/French Valley Parkway – Phase II.

"I am extremely proud of our city, its visionary council and staff for putting together this comprehensive and winning grant application package that will help solve a problem that currently impacts our city, the region and hundreds of thousands of people daily," Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams said in a city press release Thursday.

More than 25 organizations, agencies and governments submitted letters in support of the project and the application, according to the city. Organizations such as the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Pala Band of Mission Indians, U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the city said, weighed in on the issue.

News of the impending announcement was reported first by Congressman Ken Calvert Monday, July 22, in a press release.

"Today's announced award to Temecula will provide desperately needed resources for a critical congestion relief project along the Interstate 15 corridor in Temecula Valley," Calvert said. "The people who commute on the 15 and 215 experience the traffic throughout the Temecula corridor every day and are looking for solutions like this project to become a reality. I've been proud to work with Temecula officials to advocate for this project and ensure the folks at the Department of Transportation understand why it's needed."

Temecula Mayor Mike Naggar, who was instrumental in forming the I-15 Regional Task Force along with councilman Matt Rahn, offered his thanks to Calvert for his representation and effort.

"On behalf of the City of Temecula, and truly Southern California, I would like to convey my sincere appreciation to Congressman Ken Calvert representing the 42nd District (CA) for his efforts in bringing traffic infrastructure solutions to Interstate 15," Naggar said in a statement. "His unwavering support for the city's application ... will significantly help address the daily congestion along northbound I-15. Mr. Calvert has been on this journey with the city of Temecula from the beginning."

"We are very pleased that Secretary Elaine Chao and her top advisors at the U.S. Department of Transportation understand the critical need for this project," Rahn said in a statement. "I echo Mayor Naggar's appreciation to Congressman Calvert and all of our elected representatives for their support.

"This is another huge step forward in fundamentally changing the daily commute and solving the traffic crisis in our region," Rahn said.

The first of the three-phase traffic improvement project for Interstate 15 was completed in April 2014 and included a new off ramp for French Valley and widened the southbound Winchester offramp.

The second phase, which the grant funding is targeted toward, will include two lanes – one directing cars onto the northbound 215 freeway and the other moving vehicles onto I-15 with a ramp.

"The French Valley Parkway Phase II project will construct two northbound collector-distributor lanes spanning over 3 miles along Interstate 15, and partially along Junction 215, with a flyover bridge to better distribute traffic at the confluence of the I-15/215 Junction," Adams said. "These lanes will alleviate the chokepoint of congestion on Interstate 15 where weaving begins, causing daily traffic that backs up northbound travelers from that point into San Diego County; at times up to 20-plus miles long."

According to the fact sheet on the INFRA grant website, the collector-distributor system will be barrier-separated from the mainline highway and is approximately 3.3 miles long.

Adams reiterated that the lanes to be added are not toll lanes.

The city's press release said Phase II of the project is anticipated to be out to bid by the end of 2020, with construction to begin in 2021, and will take two years to complete.

Phase III of the project is estimated to cost $100 million, will entail the "constructing the balance of French Valley Parkway from Jefferson Avenue to Ynez Road, the full interchange connection to I-15, and the southbound collector/distributor system along I-15," according to Temecula's French Valley Parkway Interchange website.

According to the city, a traffic survey conducted in 2018 by Western Riverside Council of Governments determined that "66-71% of the traffic on Interstate 15 is not attributable to the city of Temecula and that the majority of vehicles on Interstate 15 through Temecula do not originate, stop or end in Temecula. Instead, drivers are traveling on Interstate 15 as the direct connection between areas south of Temecula, including San Diego County or Mexico, and areas north of Temecula including neighboring cities like Murrieta or Lake Elsinore or destinations farther including Nevada, Utah and beyond to Montana."

In a live-streamed announcement on the U.S. Department of Transportation's website and YouTube channel, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao congratulated all the proposed grant winners.

"These grants are called 'proposed' because they're not final until 60 days after Congress has been notified of the selections," Chao said. "Half the projects involve small grants ranging from $5 million to $13 million. And half went to large grants ranging from $36 million to $125 million.

U.S. Department of Transportation photo

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao talks about the proposed $855,950,000 in grants through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America discretionary grant program in a live-streamed news conference announcement Thursday, July 25, from Washington.

"The effect of the INFRA grants is magnified because they are accompanied by state, local and private sector participation in these projects. The proposed grants that are proposed today are being matched by more than $2.3 billion in non-federal funding," she said

Chao said the investment will improve major highways, bridges, ports and railroads around the country to better connect communities and to enhance safety and economic growth.

According to a press release by the U.S. Department of Transportation, INFRA advances a grant program established in the 2015 Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act and utilizes updated criteria for evaluating projects to align them with national and regional economic vitality goals.

For more information on the French Valley Parkway Interchange project, visit http://www.temeculaca.gov/277/French-Valley-Parkway-Interchange.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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