Drivers express frustration over Orange County toll road transition

Rob McMillan Image
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
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Thousands of drivers use the 241 toll road to commute to and from south Orange County every day.

Thousands of drivers use the 241 toll road to commute to and from south Orange County every day. It's often a miserable commute in the afternoon, with so many cars backed up waiting to transition to the eastbound 91 Freeway.

"It's just frustrating," said commuter Caryn Chavez, who uses the toll road almost every weekday. "Drivers are getting frustrated. The stress levels are higher and you can see that on the drive."

The northbound 241 toll road has four lanes, two of which are used for drivers heading in the eastbound direction on the 91 freeway. Those lanes often back up with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

But not everyone waits their turn.

Hundreds of drivers use the more wide-open lanes on the westbound side, and then cut back to the eastbound lanes at the last minute. Not only does that increase the level of frustration for drivers already waiting on the eastbound side, but causes safety concerns for westbound drivers like Chavez.

"I see people cutting in line every day in a dangerous way," said Chavez. "I see them stopping traffic, like they're the only person on the road."

The Transportation Corridor Agencies, or TCA, is in charge of operating the toll roads. Officials have added increased signage, and added double white lines in an attempt to deter drivers from cutting. But even an increased number of law enforcement officers issuing citations doesn't seem to be deterring drivers from illegally cutting across the double white lines.

"There's really nothing to prevent these people from cutting in," said Chavez.

But TCA is considering both short-term and long-term fixes to this problem.

One option includes installing pylons, also called delineators or channelizers, between the eastbound and westbound transition lanes. A feasibility study is currently underway, but TCA would not give a time frame on the project.

"We need to look at the layout of the channelizers," said Juliet Su, a project manager for TCA. "(It would determine) how those channelizers work with the existing traffic lanes that are out there."

But Su said the decision on whether to install channelizers is ultimately up to Caltrans.

Caltrans provided Eyewitness News with the following statement:

"Caltrans, in partnership with TCA is in discussions about the potential use of delineators at the SR-241/SR-91 East Connector. These discussions are centered around various items including who will maintain them, what benefit they will add, and if they are safe to place at this location.

"Some safety and operational considerations that go into reviewing an area for delineators include ensuring that the delineators are set up in a way that those who are maintaining them can do so safely, the impacts that delineators can have on weaving (merging) vehicles, the study of current traffic patterns, and what types of traffic management actions will be needed to maintain the delineators."

A longterm fix is also in the works. Construction could begin in 2021 on a dedicated connector that would allow drivers to merge from the 241 toll road directly into the eastbound 91 Freeway FasTrak lanes.

If construction begins as scheduled, those lanes could be ready in 2023.