ORANGE – The extension of the successful 91 Express Lanes into Riverside County took a big step forward this week as the transportation agencies overseeing the project came to terms on how to construct and operate the toll road.
The Orange County Transportation Authority and Riverside County Transportation Commission signed a cooperative agreement to ensure that the more than 14 million drivers who use the 91 Express Lanes each year will have a seamless experience traveling between the counties. The 91 Express Lanes will operate as a single facility including one customer service center and similar tolling policy and prices.
“The Riverside Freeway is one of the busiest in the nation and the 91 Express Lanes has provided a welcome alternative for drivers, saving them an average of 30 minutes during rush hour,” said OCTA Chair Patricia Bates, also the Fifth District Supervisor. “Finding solutions to regional traffic problems requires that counties work together and this is one more example of how a successful partnership can bring relief for Southern California commuters.”
OCTA and RCTC have worked collaboratively to extend the lanes since legislation authorized the extension in 2008. The agreement between the two transportation agencies addresses design, construction and operation of the lanes and will lead the way for construction work to begin. The agreement also creates cost savings for both agencies by utilizing joint contracts for services related to maintenance and operation of the 91 Express Lanes.
“This is a great example of two agencies working together to benefit the public,” said RCTC Vice Chair Karen Spiegel. “The combination of this agreement and the federal TIGER funding that was awarded to it this week brings traffic relief on the 91 a few steps closer to everyone who depends on this corridor.”
RCTC plans to use the design-build model to extend the lanes eight miles from the Orange County line to the I-15 in Riverside. The toll facility currently stretches 10 miles from the Costa Mesa Freeway (SR-55) to the county line. Pending the approval of funding, construction is anticipated to begin in 2013 with the lanes open in 2017.
OCTA bought the 91 Express Lanes in 2003 from the private company that built them. The purchase removed a non-compete clause that prevented improvements to the adjacent freeway and to date, nearly $15 million from 91 Express Lanes revenue has gone to improve the Riverside Freeway (SR-91).
“The 91 Express Lanes is a model nationwide for providing drivers with a free-flowing traffic option and the extension of the lanes will help improve the critical link between our two counties,” said OCTA Director and Third District Supervisor Bill Campbell.
The 91 Express Lanes averages 32,000 drivers a day and in a customer satisfaction survey completed last month, 90 percent of customers said they were satisfied with their experience using the lanes.
For more information on the project, visit www.sr91projectinfo.com.