A Better 91 Freeway
    • A Better 91 Freeway main image

The SR-91 freeway serves travel between Riverside County and Orange County and is one of the most congested freeways in Southern California. Everyday, thousands of Riverside and Orange County residents experience commute times of up to 3 hours to get to work and return home. Currently, SR-91 carries more than 300,000 vehicles per day and is expected to increase to more than 425,000 vehicles a day by the year 2025.

RCTC and the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) are working together to address congestion on the 91. Through the extension of Measure A, Riverside County’s half-cent transportation sales tax, approximately $430 million is available to improve SR-91 in Riverside County. With the passage of Renewed Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent transportation sales tax, approximately $1.5 billion is available to improve SR-91 in Orange County.

In Orange County

Most recently, OCTA, Caltrans and RCTC finished the $65 million SR-91 Eastbound Lane Addition Project on schedule and under budget. The project, which added a new, nearly six-mile lane to a pivotal stretch of SR-91 between SR-241 and SR-71, has been a great success, but making improvements to the 91 are far from over. OCTA and its partners are now quickly moving forward with two new projects.

In July 2011, Caltrans and OCTA kicked-off the SR-91 Westbound and Eastbound Lane Widening Project, which will add a new lane in each direction between SR-55 and SR-241 and enable easier access to Yorba Linda on the north and Anaheim Hills on the south.

The new lanes will increase capacity and relieve congestion along this 6-mile stretch of freeway that connects commuters with Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills and Riverside County. These improvements will also help commuters making their way to and from Riverside County.  

On the west end of SR-91, OCTA is slated to start construction on the SR-91 Westbound Lane Addition Project in late 2012. Already in the design phase, the project will add a new four-mile lane to a very congested portion of SR-91 as it nears the Orange County/Los Angeles County line. This project will not only help improve mobility for commuters but for commercial vehicles too.

In addition to the new lane, a total of four (4) on/off ramps will be realigned and widened, including Lakeview Avenue, Imperial Highway and Weir Canyon. The realigned and widened on/off-ramps will improve driving operations, making it safer and smoother for motorists.

The project includes:

  • A new 5th general purpose lane in both the westbound and eastbound direction
  • Reconstruction of bridges on both sides of the freeway to accommodate the new lanes
  • Construction of sound walls along certain locations to freeway noise

The second project is a new westbound general-purpose lane between SR-57 and I-5. The new lane will increase capacity, improve driving operations and relieve traffic congestion along this key stretch of the westbound SR-91. The project is currently in the final design and right-of-way (ROW) phase.  The project's design is approximately 95% and staff continue to focus on the project's ROW needs.

Currently, the project is expected to break ground in late 2012. Once underway, construction on the project is expected to last approximately two (2) years, ending in November 2014.

In Riverside County

RCTC project to improve the 91 Freeway is called the SR-91 Corridor Improvement Project. RCTC’s SR-91 Corridor Improvement Project will:

  • Extend existing tolled express lanes on SR-91 between the Orange/Riverside County line and I-15.
  • Add one general purpose lane between SR-71 and I-15.
  • Add one general purpose lane from 15/91 interchange to Pierce Street
  • Improve 5 local interchanges
  • Rebuild the 15/91 interchange.

This $1.4 billion project is in the final stages of environmental approval and is expected to begin in 2013.

Planning for the Future

RCTC and OCTA annually update a 91 Implementation Plan. The 91 Implementation Plan details a series of projects that promise to provide a faster, more reliable commute between Riverside and Orange counties.

The proposed transportation improvements have the potential to reduce travel time on SR-91 during the next decade, cutting commute times by more than an hour by 2015 for commuters traveling eastbound between the Costa Mesa Freeway (SR-55) in Orange County and the Corona Freeway (I-15) in Riverside County. Currently, eastbound travel times between the SR-55 and the I-15 average nearly 100 minutes in the afternoon peak hour. By 2011, travel times are expected to decrease by approximately 20 minutes, and could decrease by an additional 60 minutes by 2015. The package of transportation projects is expected to cost more than $9 billion to build.

Working Together for a Long Term Solution

For commuters and everyone else who drives on the SR-91 — January 3, 2003 marked a historic moment. That is when OCTA took public ownership of the 91 Express Lanes from a private firm that had owned and operated them since its inception in 1985. This private ownership had included a restriction on widening the 91 and other improvements that could be seen as competing with the toll lanes.

With OCTA’s purchase of the lanes, public officials from Orange and Riverside counties were able to make decisions on how the toll road is managed. An advisory committee was formed with OCTA and RCTC officials to oversee the SR-91 Freeway corridor and make recommendations for improving transportation between the two counties.

Improvements began immediately. In addition, RCTC and OCTA in partnership with the Foothill Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) have completed a  study looking at a wide variety of improvements to relieve congestion and improve the drive between Riverside and Orange counties.

The goal of building a new highway corridor between the two counties was one of three major recommendations that were advanced by the study. Additional recommendations include improvements to State Route 91, a new parallel corridor built within the State Route 91 right-of-way and better use of the existing transportation system that would include additional Metrolink and express bus service.

Many of these recommendations are already being implemented; however the development of a new highway between Riverside and Orange Counties faces a number of challenges due to its location. Most alignments for a new corridor involve the Santa Ana Mountains, Cleveland National Forest, and an earthquake fault which means that any facility will require significant tunneling. Click here for more information on the Irvine Corona Expressway study.

In June 2006, RCTC, OCTA and TCA joined together again and formed the Riverside Orange Corridor Authority (ROCA) to develop and manage geotechnical studies regarding a proposed transportation and utility corridor linking Riverside and Orange Counties.

Based on the studies conducted to date, it has been determined that a tunnel system is technically feasible. While there are no fatal flaws identified that would prevent the project from being designed, constructed and operated, there are however, significant challenges.

The most critical challenges determined to date are the following:

  • Protection of Groundwater Resources
  • Large Tunnel Diameter Construction Technology
  • Tunnel Ventilation
  • Tunnel Configuration and Tunnel Grade Considerations
  • Schedule Implementation
  • Construction and Operating Costs