Ken Calvert helps secure $50 million grant for Interstate 15 congestion relief

Temecula wins $50 million grant to ease northbound 15 Freeway gridlock

The federal dollars will help pay for lanes to address the bottleneck where that freeway and the 215 Freeway meet

By Jeff Horseman

The U.S. Department of Transportation grant, announced by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, will help Temecula finish the second phase of the French Valley Parkway Project, an ambitious, multi-pronged plan to improve traffic flow along the 15, which runs through the heart of Temecula.

In February, Calvert, who with Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, represents Temecula on Capitol Hill, submitted a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao supporting Temecula’s grant application. Calvert said he spoke with Chao by phone to emphasize the project’s importance.

“Today’s announced award to Temecula will provide desperately needed resources for a critical congestion relief project along the Interstate 15 corridor in Temecula Valley,” Calvert said in a news release. “The people who commute on the 15 and 215 experience the traffic throughout the Temecula corridor every day and are looking for solutions like this project to become a reality.”

In the same release, Temecula Mayor Mike Naggar praised city officials as well as Calvert, saying the congressman’s “unwavering support” for the grant “will significantly help address the daily congestion along northbound I-15.”

That traffic constantly bottlenecks, especially in the afternoon, because vehicles entering the 15 from Winchester Road merge left onto the freeway as drivers already on the 15 seek to merge right to take the 215.

The second phase of the French Valley project seeks to get rid of that weaving action by adding two lanes – one to ferry vehicles onto northbound 215, the other to deposit vehicles onto the 15 through a flyover ramp. A concrete wall would separate the new lanes from the main 15 lanes.

The project’s first phase – a new French Valley Parkway off-ramp on southbound 15 and a widened southbound Winchester off-ramp – was completed in April 2014. A third phase of the French Valley project, which would build a French Valley Parkway bridge over the 15 and add two southbound lanes on the 15, is expected to cost another $100 million.

With $80 million in state funding, “that’s all the money (we’ll need for the phase two), God willing the price doesn’t go up,” Naggar said by phone.

“We’re pretty much shelf-ready. That was one of the reasons why, I think, we scored so high (in the grant application).”

Construction should begin within a year and “we’re sprinting to do it so we don’t get hit with higher costs,” the mayor added.

Residents and commuters should expect construction on the 15 over the next five years as phase two gets underway and lanes are added to both sides of the freeway, Naggar said.

“Without the grant and without the city putting up matching funds with Caltrans, the chances of us getting this done would be pushed out 20 years,” he said. “The fact that we got it down to five is simply miraculous.”