Commuters and truckers weary of negotiating the steep, narrow, accident-prone section of the 60 Freeway through Riverside County’s Badlands can look forward to some much-needed improvements: new truck lanes to separate cars from semitrailers.

In the works for years, $138 million project received a financial boost when the California Transportation Commission allocated $71.5 million in state money for the truck lanes.

John Standiford of the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the regional agency spearheading the project, says additional funding was made possible by SB1, the landmark state legislation that provides $54 billion over the next decade for transportation projects throughout California.

The project is funded by a mixture of local, state, and federal funds — but it was the $71.5 million state allocation that closed the project’s funding gap and enabled final approval for the project to break ground. Construction will launch next summer and completion is anticipated by early 2022.

Primarily aimed at improving safety, the new lanes will also improve traffic flow. Choked with vehicles of all shapes and sizes, the road is currently only two lanes in each direction, with narrow shoulders and hairpin curves. Trucks struggle to climb steep hills and traffic bogs down behind them. It was estimated in 2013 that about 46,000 vehicles were traveling through the Badlands every day and that by 2040, the average daily vehicle count was expected to more than double to 107,100. According to the county commission, accident rates are more than double the statewide average on the westbound side and above average on eastbound 60.

The Highway 60 truck lanes project will construct a truck-climbing lane on the eastbound 60 and a truck descending lane on the westbound 60. Construction crews will also widen the narrow shoulders to standard 10-feet and 12-feet widths, while reducing steepness and moderating the sharpest curves.

“It’s going to smooth that road out and make it much, much safer,” Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley said. “It’s going to save countless lives. I can’t tell you how delighted I am about that.”

“Overall it’ll help mobility,” Standiford said. “If we can reduce the amount of accidents on that corridor, that would take care of a lot of the delays that currently happen.”

“Southern California Partnership for Jobs supports infrastructure investment. We advocated for the passage of SB 1, a new transportation funding source that is becoming ever more critical for California. We oppose any efforts to repeal SB 1 that would rob our communities of vital road safety and transportation improvement funds. We urge Californians to vote No on Prop 6 this November.” — John Hakel, Executive Director.

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Source: Various