The long-awaited completion of the Riverside Freeway (SR-91) Westbound and Eastbound Lane Addition Project was marked at an event in Anaheim last Thursday.
OCTA CEO Will Kempton joined OCTA Director and Anaheim Mayor Pro-Tem Gail Eastman in welcoming guests and the city of Anaheim to the completion event that not only marks a milestone in Orange County, but also symbolizes the agency’s ability to continue improving the SR-91 for future generations.
More than 10 years ago, OCTA bought the 91 Express Lanes from a private company that had a franchise agreement that included a “noncompete” clause. This clause had prevented OCTA and other local agencies from improving the freeway without compensating the private franchise owner for lost toll revenue. However, as congestion on the SR-91 increased, so did pressure to widen the freeway.
After buying the 91 Express Lanes, OCTA literally cut the clause in half.
Chainsaw in hand, OCTA representatives and elected officials sawed through a “noncompete clause” banner, marking the beginning of improvements on the SR-91 in 2003.
OCTA once again put the chainsaw to work last Thursday, this time “cutting down traffic congestion” as the agency officially opened the new six-mile westbound and eastbound lane between the Costa Mesa Freeway (SR- 55) and Eastern Toll Road (SR- 241).
“The fact is that we can now build a series of projects that will cut down on traffic congestion because we took a chainsaw to the non-compete clause in 2003,” OCTA Director Todd Spitzer said.
This project is the second in a series of freeway improvements to increase capacity and improve operations on the SR-91, a vital freeway connection between the counties of Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange.
“The 91, along with the rest of our transportation network, are the roads that lead to a stronger economy, a higher quality of life and a better and brighter future,” Assemblymember Don Wagner said. “This project is an example of how state and local agencies can work together to provide needed infrastructure improvements that not only help the daily users of the corridor, but also provide needed economic stimulus.”
This economic stimulus also came in the form of creating hundreds of jobs for Orange County workers, providing a source of pride and steady income for the men and women who worked every day to build a better 91, said L.A. / O.C. Labor Council Representative Jim Adams.
In addition to the new general purpose lanes, the project also will deliver a second eastbound exit lane at the high volume Lakeview, Imperial Highway and Yorba Linda / Weir Canyon off-ramps.
Over the last three years, OCTA and Caltrans have added 18 lane miles and made numerous operational improvements to the SR-91 in Orange County.
Kempton also commended Caltrans and local cities and agencies for working together to make the major freeway improvement possible, a collective effort that resulted in the $74-million project. Caltrans Director Malcom Dougherty also congratulated the team and emphasized how the freeway widening project provides critical congestion relief now to last for future generations.
In keeping with the voter-approved Measure M plan, OCTA and Caltrans will break ground on the next in the series of freeway improvements, the SR-91 Westbound Lane Project. This project will add a four-mile lane between the Orange Freeway (SR-57) and San Diego Freeway (I-5) later this year.
The Riverside County Transportation Commission also will move forward with improvements on the SR-91, east of Orange County.
These freeway improvement projects are part of the SR-91 Implementation plan, a multi-year and multi-modal plan developed to improve mobility on the SR-91.