The following is a news release from John Standiford, deputy executive director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission. Patch requested comment from Lake Elsinore Mayor Bob Magee, who serves on the RCTC. His remarks are in bold and are not part of the original press release.
Within only a few short months, construction begins on a $1.3 billion project to widen State Route 91 through Corona. Today, the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) awarded a $632.6 million design-build contract to Atkinson/Walsh, a Joint Venture.
The State Route 91 Corridor Improvement Project, also known as “The 91 Project” will build a new general purpose lane in each direction, extend two 91 Express Lanes in each direction just past the I-15, rebuild seven interchanges, make local street and access improvements in the City of Corona, add more express bus service and construct a number of auxiliary lanes at key locations to ease access on and off the freeway. The project will also provide improvements on the I-15 between the SR 91 and Ontario Avenue and will include a direct connector to the Express Lanes for drivers traveling north on the I-15.
All told, the overall project will add at least two lanes of additional capacity in each direction to the freeway at its most congested points through the City of Corona. As part of its actions, the Commission also approved a detailed financing plan for the project.
“Improving the 91 ensures better mobility for Corona and Riverside County residents, employers, businesses, public transit users and tourists,” said Corona City Councilmember Karen Spiegel who also serves as RCTC Chair. “During peak hours, some drivers will be able to save as much as 90 minutes per day on their round-trip commute.
“We are currently seeing an unprecedented level of transportation construction in Riverside County and it’s creating thousands of jobs and economic opportunity,” Spiegel said.
Lake Elsinore Mayor Bob Magee also serves on the RCTC. He praised voters and government for moving the project forward.
"This is a major accomplishment in the history of RCTC. This took the voters to approve Measure "A," two pieces of special state legislation, a federal loan, the ability to sell bonds, an exhaustive Environmental Impact Report, a huge amount of mitigation funds to purchase habitat for the MSHCP/RCA, we had to acquire additional right-of-way and we needed the support and approval of our partners at OCTA.
"This has been a journey that has taken many years and a group of dedicated professionals and elected officails to get us to this point," Magee said.
A study conducted by Beacon Economics indicates the net economic and time savings benefit of the project will exceed $3.2 billion and create as many as 16,000 jobs. The time to open traffic lanes will be considerably shortened through the use of design-build contracting, an approach that combines final engineering and construction which was approved specifically for this project via state legislation. Final engineering begins immediately and construction is expected to begin by early 2014 with an eye to open to traffic in 2017.
The project will be paid for through a combination of voter-approved Measure A sales tax funding and toll revenue bonds that finance the toll component of the project. RCTC was one of only a handful of agencies to receive an award from TIFIA – which stands for Transportation Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act – and provides credit assistance for large-scale transportation projects. The TIFIA award enables RCTC to obtain a subsidized loan for a third of the project cost. .
“I am so grateful for this investment in Riverside County,” said RCTC Vice Chairman Marion Ashley, a Riverside County Supervisor. “We often refer to this as ‘Fast Forward’ because it will make it so much easier to travel to and from the entire region.”