Funding secured for I-15/Railroad Canyon interchange overhaul

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The overhaul of the Interstate 15 and Railroad Canyon Road Interchange Project is now fully funded and moving toward construction. The California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved the final piece of funding needed for construction at its meeting May 16. Regional planners conceived of the project 18 years ago.

The project will result in several major changes to the current interchange, including widening Railroad Canyon Road under the freeway, expanding the southbound entrance ramp to three lanes, adding a northbound deceleration lane and installing northbound “hook” on and off ramps connecting to Grape Street, which is parallel to I-15’s northeast side and intersects with Railroad Canyon Road.

The Railroad Canyon Road and I-15 Interchange is a significant regional transportation corridor that serves the cities of Canyon Lake, Menifee, Lake Elsinore and the County of Riverside. This interchange has faced increased traffic congestion and unnecessary delays for travelers for many years due to continuous growth in the area and can no longer adequately serve the community.

Last month, the CTC approved 2.7 billion in grants for the 64 projects statewide from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, known as the transportation infrastructure gas tax bill (Senate Bill 1). This includes $15 million toward construction of the first phase of the I-15/Railroad Canyon Road and Franklin Interchange Project.

The second phase, slated for development in approximately 2035, would create a new interchange near Franklin Street between Railroad Canyon Road and Main Street to the northwest.

The $15 million award will be supplemented by $17 million from the Western Riverside Council of Governments Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee program, completing the acquisition of the $35 million needed to construct the project.

“It’s finally happening and relief is on its way,” said RCTC Commissioner and Lake Elsinore City Councilmember Bob Magee “I’ve worked for years on the transportation commission to obtain funding for this project,” said Magee, who is now in his fourth term on the council.

In September, RCTC also approved $2.9 million of 2018 State Transportation Improvement Program funding for the construction.

“This project now has full construction funding, and we’re ready to move forward,” said City Engineer Brad Fagrell.

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.

Construction at the interchange should begin by 2020 and be completed in 2022; however, an initiative petition is currently in circulation to repeal the taxes and fees. If the initiative petition qualifies for the ballot and its approved by a majority of voters, the I-15/Railroad Canyon Road interchange project, as well as other projects funded by this source, will have insufficient funding to be completed.

The project is currently in the Plans, Specifications, and Estimate and right-of-way acquisition phase. The City of Lake Elsinore studied and considered several alternatives and has decided to proceed with Alternative 2 for this phase of the project.

Meanwhile, the City of Lake Elsinore is preparing to start the extension of Camino del Norte, which intersects with Main Street north of the I-15/Main junction. The extension will connect Main Street and Railroad Canyon Road without requiring motorists to use the freeway.

“Our plan is to have this project complete before we start this interchange improvement,” said Fagrell. “It is essential to create an alternate route to reduce impacts of the Railroad Canyon project during construction.”

The I-15/Railroad Canyon 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, the Lake Elsinore Casino and The Diamond stadium.

For more information on the I-15/Railroad Canyon project, visit lake-elsinore.org/rrcyninterchange.

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