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$200M Expansion Moves Forward for I-15

At the August meeting of the Board of Directors for the Economic Development Coalition, information regarding Interstate 15 and the progress being made to ease traffic was presented by speaker, Pat Thomas, Public Works Director/City Engineer for the City of Temecula.

Thomas spoke to a packed room at the Economic Development Coalition Board meeting during its regularly scheduled meeting and described what Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the French Valley Interchange will look like among other things.

His topic was, “Traffic and the I-15 Corridor.” Thomas was representing the “Move I-15 Through Temecula Valley” regional taskforce, a taskforce comprised of representatives from the five regional cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula, and Wildomar; from Pala, Pechanga, and county and governmental entities, such as CalTrans and Camp Pendleton. “Our focus,” said Thomas, “is on unity and collaboration among all parties, and to work towards decision making and implementation to ease the problem of traffic on the I-15 Corridor.” He was invited to speak to the EDC board to educate Board members as to what is at stake, said EDC Director, Doug McAllister. “It’s important that government hears from the private sector to help them make good decisions.”

A report on the progress of the Temecula Parkway Interchange at I-15 noted that construction should be completed by the end of this year. The $200 million French Valley Interchange will likely begin as early as 2020, the caveat being that funding for this phase comes in part from the new gas tax implemented by the state legislature in 2017. If the ballot measure known as Proposition 6 on the November 2018 ballot is passed by a majority of voters, the gas tax will be repealed and the bulk of funding for the French Valley Interchange dissipates.

Of note was Thomas’ report that from data mining, officials now see that most of the traffic that bogs down in and around Temecula’s portion of the I-15 is actually traffic that is heading to or coming from cities north of Temecula.

Because of cell phones and GPS capabilities, data mining companies can tell where travelers are coming from, where they are going and how often each car makes that trip for the entire length of Interstate 15.

The plans for the French Valley Interchange include adding two lanes to northbound 15, beginning at the Winchester road north onramp and a “fly-over” connector from that point to northbound 15 that will keep traffic from becoming tangled with traffic trying to head north to Interstate 215. Phase 3 will be the overpass over the freeway that will complete the French Valley on-and-off ramps and add additional lanes to the 15 in both directions.

Sticking points described by Thomas included the fact that CalTrans admitted that they do not construct “capacity enhancing projects” such as adding lanes to ease traffic. They explained that the regional partners are tasked with doing those kinds of developments. CalTrans will, however, add auxiliary lanes between exits, such as truck climbing lanes. These are dubbed, “operational improvements.”

Also, the city of Temecula did make a bid for Federal funding through a long and complicated proposal process where it was competing with cities across the States for a piece of the pie from a $200 Billion Federal allocation. Going up against behemoths such as Chicago and Los Angeles, Temecula held its own for two go-rounds before being eliminated. Thomas is not discouraged, however, and said the city will try again next year and the next, if necessary.
Other city projects related to improving the traffic on Interstate 15 include:

  • Western Bypass
  • Diaz Road Widening
  • Overland Drive Extension and Bridge
  • Butterfield Stage Road, Phase 3
  • Ynez Road Widening
  • Fiber Optic Communication/Traffic Signal Coordination System Upgrade

The EDC is a membership organization comprised of area businesses and corporations. “The Economic Development Coalition is a place for business leaders who want to be involved in the Region’s positive growth and influence the direction in which we are going. Through the dedicated efforts of our members, our organization addresses our Regions unique challenges, and fosters the growth and success of our local economy,” said McAllister.

For more information, please contact Doug McAllister at the EDC offices, 951-694-9800, or Pat Thomas at the City of Temecula, 951-506-6153.