Truckers driving on State Route 60 in Riverside County, Calif., between Gilman Springs Road and Jack Rabbit Trail may be getting their own lane.
In cooperation with the California Department of Transportation, the Riverside County Transportation Commission is proposing an eastbound truck-climbing lane and westbound truck-descending lane on a 4.5-mile stretch of SR-60. Inside and outside standard shoulders in both directions are also part of the $138 million project, according to official Caltrans documents.
According to Joy Schneider, spokesperson for Caltrans, District 8, the suggested truck lanes were brought to the table as a safety project.
“Currently you have two types of traffic. You have the faster moving cars and the slower moving trucks, both negotiating the same lanes, so it causes some congestion,” Schneider told Land Line. “This will separate those two types of traffic and improve the safety of that portion of State Route 60, and it will also benefit with shorter travel times.”
According to project documents, the affected section of SR-60 has heavy commuter traffic due to high employment in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Large industrial and commercial centers in Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire, including Ontario International Airport, draws in heavy truck traffic. Caltrans predicts a significant increase in both freight and commuter traffic.
Port traffic from the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles runs through SR-60 in conjunction with several interstates, contributing to trucks accounting for 16 percent of the annual average daily traffic on SR-60. Increases in online purchases and new industrial and warehouse facilities in the Inland Empire are likely to increase commercial vehicle traffic in the area.
Mountainous terrain, inside narrow shoulders, and a concrete median barrier have caused problems for passenger vehicles passing slower moving trucks. With trucks already regulated to drive slower than other motorists, an uphill climb reduces truck speed even more, up to a 14 mph difference. On downgrade slopes, truck speed is also reduced for safety purposes.
Caltrans crash data for the targeted westbound section of SR-60 reveal a rate more than twice that of total statewide crash rates. Eastbound SR-60 also reported a higher rate of crashes. Most crashes were either a rear-end collision or a hit object. Eastbound lanes experienced more sideswipes, consistent with more vehicles trying to pass trucks on a steep incline.
Less than 20 percent of crashes in either direction of SR-60 involved a tractor-trailer. However, more than 20 percent of reported crashes involved a pickup/panel truck. Primary factors in the majority of crashes were either speeding or an improper turn.
Caltrans claims in the proposal that slowing vehicles were the cause of the large percentage of rear-end collisions. Narrow shoulders were blamed for the crashes from hit objects. Volume of trucks, speeding, and difficulty overtaking vehicles resulted in the majority of all crashes, according to Caltrans documents.
A 0.5-cent sales tax will fund a portion of the costs, with state and federal funds also contributing. According to Schneider, Caltrans hopes to begin the project in mid-2017 and complete the lanes by early 2020.
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