Pechanga, area cities uniting to tackle region’s traffic woes

Leaders plan to press Sacramento and Washington D.C. for funding to build new lanes and find solutions for notorious “choke point” on Interstate 15.

The numbers are staggering.

The Temecula Valley’s main artery for tourists, commerce and commuting — the stretch of Interstate 15 that runs from Murrieta to the San Diego County border — is overtaxed, operating at levels that are unacceptable for both area residents and engineers. And it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

In 2016, the average annual daily traffic count for the segment that runs from the border to Pechanga Parkway was 145,000 motorists. In 2035, the number could hit 252,000 — more than 100,000 additional cars on the road and nowhere to put them

“We can’t have this gridlock on this freeway,” said Temecula Councilman Mike Naggar on Nov. 30, addressing an assemblage of leaders that included Pechanga officials, mayors of the region’s cities and public works department heads.

The big fear, he said, was that constant congestion on the I-15 could add precious minutes to already-long commutes for people who work in San Diego County and harm the area’s tourism economy.

“We’re worried it’s only as good as people’s ability to get here,” he said.

Naggar, working with Mayor Pro Tem Matt Rahn and city staff, put together the meeting to harness the unified power of the Pechanga and area cities, who all stand to benefit from reduced traffic flows on the “choke point” segment of the I-15 in Temecula.

If the region’s leaders speak with a unified, “loud” voice they may be heard in Sacramento and Washington D.C., Naggar said, adding that they may need to follow that up with trips to the power centers to lobby for relief in person.

The main problem right now is the pecking order for transportation dollars that could be used to add lanes and connect the corridor with the HOV systems in San Diego County and Orange County, which has the Temecula corridor on the “tail end” of upgrade plans, said Pat Thomas, Temecula’s public works director.

Unless the list is updated — or leaders develop a novel workaround — the area won’t be able to handle the increase in traffic projected for the next 20 years and the scheduled improvements, by the time they are built, may be insufficient.

“I think that’s the big takeaway,” said Wildomar Assistant Manager Dan York, a former Temecula city engineer.

Neil Winter, mayor of Menifee, said more than 80 percent of his residents commute outside of the city for work, with the majority of that number headed to neighboring counties.

If there were more six-figure jobs here, he argued, those residents wouldn’t have to drive an hour or more to work and the region’s freeways would work as intended.

“That’s what stops the traffic flow,” he said.

  1. Too many on ramps and off ramps along that congested stretch. The previous land developers just wanted to build homes without paying for roads adequate to handle the automobile traffic from these homes. As a result, the county supervisors approved the Southwest Area Community Plan with the worst traffic plan in it.

    Supervisor Walt Abrams closed eyes to this debacle to come. In effect, he rubber stamped the projects of land developers.

    Later, the Press-Enterprise found papers showing the questionable involvement of this politician in ruinous decisions. He declined to run for re-election and retired to Hawaii.

    We now play catch-up and damage control from the self-serving conduct of this corrupt politician.

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  2. Just a thought: if we are already strugling with traffic(and we are), why are more large housing projects being planned. Why must we cut into the west side hills? Seeing dirt, trees and vegetation is a good thing for the soul.

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  3. […] Ahead of the vote, the commission heard from two residents: Wayne Hall, who spoke in favor of the project, and another, Michael Wiemer, who said the project may be great but it will further exacerbate the city’s already woeful traffic situation. […]

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  4. Lane expansion will provide a temporary relief for this problem.. but studies have shown time after time, that lane expansion only encourages more traffic growth.

    https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2015/11/californias-dot-admits-that-more-roads-mean-more-traffic/415245/
    https://www.npr.org/2011/07/09/137708751/more-roads-may-pave-way-to-more-traffic
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/newtech/researchreports/reports/2015/10-12-2015-NCST_Brief_InducedTravel_CS6_v3.pdf

    Highway expansion should be done in a way that manages the flows – eg: congestion priced HOT lanes, lane separations for thru & local traffic, extended auxiliary lanes, and etcetera. It can be done, and should considering the rapid growth of the Temecula Valley.

    Another complementary option local leaders should consider is rail transit. Rail offers residents a reasonable alternative to reach job rich destinations such as San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles. Imagine whizzing past morning traffic on I-15, reaching San Diego in 40 minutes? The impact of regional rail connections are immense, and satisfy contemporary tastes of walkability and the option of car-lite travel.

    All of these options would require serious regional co-operation. Something like a Southwest Riverside-North San Diego transit body. Is the political will there? Is the growing region ready for creative solutions to solving growing traffic woes?

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    1. I’d really like to see something like the Sonoma-Marin Area Rapid Transit (SMART) train http://sonomamarintrain.org/ running between Temecula and Escondido. Even though most of the track would fall within San Diego County, it would go a long way to addressing the transit needs for North County, and Southwestern Riverside.

      One of the biggest problems that San Diego faces is the lack of affordable housing. The Lilac Hills development was voted down in part because there was no transit plan for the community, and it would have meant adding thousands of cars to the already congested freeways.

      We need to be be able to open up North County, and connect people in Riverside county to jobs in San Diego, and a train would go a long way towards addressing those needs. Anyone who’s sat for hours in traffic would appreciate being able to get to and from work at a predictable time, and be able to use the train’s WiFi system to get the day started by answering email, working on presentations, etc. Imagine getting back 2-3 hours of productive time.

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  5. […] officials, and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, are trying to address this infrastructure gap by lobbying the federal government and regional transportation agencies for money to complete projects that have already been started, such as the French Valley interchange, and […]

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