Board Opposes Idea to Install Freeway Toll Lanes in Riverside

Riverside County supervisors Tuesday formally declared their opposition to a proposal to install express toll lanes on the Riverside (91) Freeway between Corona and the 60/91/215 interchange, based mainly on lack of justification for the lanes.

“If we were adding capacity, I would feel different,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said of the Riverside County Transportation Commission concept. “This is not adding capacity (to carry a greater number of vehicles). So we’re upset with this item, and now we go on record to oppose it.”

The 4-0 vote by the Board of Supervisors, with Supervisor Chuck Washington absent, conveys the county’s official position to the independent RCTC’s action on July 10 to initiate a study of the feasibility of placing toll lanes on both the east- and westbound sides of the 91 between Interstate 15 and the 60/91/215.

The new toll lanes, stretching 14 miles, would span the entire east- west length of the city of Riverside, whose council members last month declared opposition to the proposal in a 6-1 vote.

RCTC officials have stated publicly that the concept is in the nascent development stage and may never move forward, though the feasibility study will continue. Staff have cited the need for congestion relief on the 91 as a driving factor.

Early estimates put the cost of constructing the toll lanes at $1 billion.

Spiegel and Jeffries signaled their opposition to the RCTC in July and decided to jointly bring the matter before the full board for review.

Spiegel was a strong proponent of the installation of express toll lanes through the city of Corona, which has had them since the spring of 2017.

She and Jeffries noted in their submission to the board calling for opposition to the RCTC concept that existing carpool lanes on the east- and westbound sides of the 91 would be converted to minimum three-occupancy carry, instead of two per vehicle, which would require carpoolers with only two to a car to pay fees. That could push more commuters into standard lanes, adding to congestion, instead of lessening it, they said.

An additional lane would be constructed on both sides of the freeway solely for tolled express travel, regardless of the number of individuals in the vehicle.

Even if RCTC decides to back away from the proposal, Caltrans, which is conducting a study of its own, may opt to pursue it.

The California Transportation Commission would be the final authority on whether to approve it either way.

Corona resident John Donaldson said he did not see the point to a project that would require “members of the public to pay to drive between the two biggest cities in this county — Corona and Riverside.”

“This would discourage people from going between the two,” he told the board. “What’s going to stop RCTC from doing this more and more? They need to look at how average citizens are impacted before these toll lanes are built throughout the county.”

If the project goes ahead, construction would likely get underway sometime in the next decade, RCTC officials said.

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