Road Widening Project begins Jan. 7

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Lake Elsinore recently launched a project to widen the last remaining four-lane stretch of Railroad Canyon Road to six lanes. The Railroad Canyon Road Widening Project will expand the roadway to three lanes of traffic in each direction between Grape Street and Canyon Hills Road, just east of the 15 Freeway. The project also includes the relocation of utility infrastructure, the creation of improved drainage systems, safety improvements and full rehabilitation of the roadway.

Once the project is completed, drivers should experience smooth sailing along a continuous six-lane thoroughfare between the 15 Freeway in Lake Elsinore and the 215 Freeway in Menifee.

Construction will start on Monday, Jan. 7, and is expected to begin first on the westbound side of Railroad Canyon Road. Construction on the westbound side is expected to wrap up in March. Construction on the eastbound side will take place between March and April.

“We’re going to try to make that a fast-track project,” said City Engineer Brad Fagrell.

Construction hours will be Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will require lane closures periodically throughout construction. One lane will remain open at all times. Intersection work will take place at night between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. whenever possible.

Commuters are urged to allow themselves additional time or to choose alternate routes to avoid significant delays during construction. The City of Lake Elsinore will post information regarding planned closures whenever possible. Commuters who wish to be added to the City of Lake Elsinore’s email notification list for project updates should email pio@lake-elsinore.org.

A busy commuter route linking western and eastern Riverside County, Railroad Canyon heads east from I-15 on a steep uphill path through eastern Lake Elsinore into the City of Canyon Lake. On the other side of Canyon Lake, at its border with Menifee, Railroad Canyon Road turns into Newport Road. From there, it’s a straight shot on Newport Road to I-215.

Most of the route’s eight miles has already been built to six lanes. The Canyon Lake section was opened to six lanes in January 2013 after an $8 million project. The westernmost piece of Newport Road also was widened a few years ago.

In addition to the Railroad Canyon Road Widening Project, the City of Lake Elsinore is making significant progress on the future improvements to the I-15/Railroad Canyon Road Interchange, which is expected to be under construction in early 2020.

The I-15/Railroad Canyon Road Interchange is a significant regional transportation corridor, serving the cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Canyon Lake and the County of Riverside. The junction experiences the heaviest traffic during school and rush hour traffic when vehicles often back up from traffic signals onto freeway lanes. On the opposite side of the freeway, Railroad Canyon Road becomes Diamond Drive, conveying vehicles to Lake Elsinore’s lake, Lake Elsinore Casino and The Diamond stadium.

Due to the continuous growth in the area, this interchange has faced increased traffic congestion and unnecessary delays for travelers for many years. The current design can no longer adequately serve the community.

Phase 1 of the I-15/Railroad Canyon Road and Franklin Interchange Project will cost approximately $36 million and will include widening Railroad Canyon Road under crossing from four to six lanes from Summerhill Drive to Casino Drive, replacing northbound ramps with hook ramps at Grape Street and adding ramp acceleration/deceleration lanes at Railroad Canyon Road off-ramps.

Phase 2 will cost approximately 65.5 million and include construction of a new full interchange at I-15/Franklin Street, adding auxiliary lanes from Franklin Street Interchange to Main Street Interchange and from Franklin Street Interchange to Railroad Canyon Road Interchange, widening Main Street and realigning/widening southbound on-ramps from one to two lanes and construction of a new frontage road on the east side of I-15.

The project will help to reduce trip times and improve traffic circulation and capacity for on and off ramps at the interchange. It will also improve the level of service for the Grape Street/Summerhill Drive and Railroad Canyon Road intersection.

The City of Lake Elsinore initiated the project in April 2000. In 2004 and 2005, interim improvements were made to the interchange to improve operation and circulation. The City of Lake Elsinore has been working with RCTC and Caltrans to expedite the project since October 2013.

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Donna Ritchie