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Inland Interstate-10 'lifeline' bypass project approved for Banning Pass

October 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A plan to get around major traffic jams in the San Gorgonio Pass gets the stamp of approval from county supervisors. It's a bypass system designed to ease crippling traffic jams when the 10 Freeway has to be shut down during emergencies. The $40-million project includes other changes as well.

If you were stuck in this traffic jam on Interstate 10 earlier this year, it's probably impossible to forget it. Traffic backed up 25 miles because of construction.

Since the 10 Freeway is the only way through the San Gorgonio Pass, whenever it closes, drivers are literally left going nowhere.

That's why the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to begin work on an emergency bypass. They call it a "lifeline."

"This is just not a transportation convenience issue, this really a health and safety issue, because we know the temperatures in the Coachella Valley get well above 100 and you've got people sitting idle with their cars on with a finite amount of gas, a finite amount of water, and this very dangerous trap on the I-10 Freeway," said Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, 3rd District.

It's an agreement between the county, surrounding cities, the Morongo Tribe and Caltrans.

Not only will they begin work on a number of secondary roads, but they'll also build a number of gates in the center median, to allow traffic to use the other side of the freeway in emergency situations.

"It's very difficult when you have an area where people absolutely cannot get through because of a freeway blockage, and this I-10 lifeline plan is going to allow some places where people can get through if we have this type of incident happen again," said California Highway Patrol Captain Gregory Peck.

Some of the first improvements that will be made are the gates along the median, you could start to see those put in within about a year, but the new two-lane road that will parallel the freeway to the south of I-10. That might not be ready for six years.


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