Anyone who travels between the 241 Toll Road and 91 Freeway knows the challenges that drivers face in this area. Nearly 40,000 cars travel through the northbound Windy Ridge Toll Point every weekday between 3 and 7 p.m.
As those trips descend to the 91 Freeway, they merge with one of the most congested stretches of freeways in the nation.
The significant back up is caused by a lack of capacity or space on the 91 Freeway to accept the commuters merging from the 241 Toll Road. And with the current construction on the 91 Freeway by our transportation partners, the Riverside County Transportation Commission, it’s no surprise that congestion is exacerbated. Long story short, the high demand created by jobs in Orange County and affordable housing in the Inland Empire results in too much traffic for the number of lanes available.
There are four lanes on the northbound 241 Toll Road as drivers approach the 91 Freeway — two on the left merge onto the westbound 91 Freeway and two on the right merge onto the eastbound 91 Freeway. With the majority of commuters traveling from Orange County to Corona, Riverside and other parts of the Inland Empire, traffic backs up on the 241 Toll Road in the two right lanes, while traffic continues to flow heading west to Anaheim and Yorba Linda. Adding to the bumper-to-bumper frustration are the so-called queue jumpers — drivers who try to bypass the congestion by driving in the left two lanes only to cut-in at the last minute.
These queue-jumpers create more congestion and are a safety hazard. Stopping in free-flow lanes and making an unsafe lane change is illegal. California Highway Patrol (CHP) can cite up to four different vehicle codes when pulling over a driver for unsafe lane changes. If you do this, you can be ticketed, but more importantly, you could cause a major accident.
We see and hear the frustrations our 241 Toll Road drivers share on social media and understand your plight. The Toll Roads of Orange County are working on two efforts to address both these issues:
- Short term — To assist CHP with driver safety enforcement, crews recently installed new regulatory signs, raised reflectors and painted a double-double white line for the stretch between the east and west 91 Freeway merge lanes and added markings on the pavement to direct drivers to the correct lanes for their transition to the 91 Freeway. Drivers will see an increase of CHP officers enforcing those who impede traffic or unsafely change lanes. Discourteous drivers, not adhering to the rules, risk getting a citation with a minimum penalty amount of $238. And as our good friend Honk at the OC Register says, “Cutting in at the last moment is rude.”
2. Long-term — We are working with Caltrans to propose building a direct, median-to-median, tolled connector directly linking the 241 Toll Road to the 91 Express Lanes. This would add an additional option for drivers headed further east into Riverside or down the 15 Freeway to connect directly into the 91 Express Lanes, bypassing any congestion on the existing connector. As part of the environmental phase, a public review period and public hearing was held in fall 2016 to solicit feedback on this proposed project. The final environmental document is expected to be completed in 2018, to learn more, please visit thetollroads.com/241-91connector. Construction of the direct connector may involve hard separation (such as channelizers or a wall barrier) of westbound and eastbound lanes.
So, the next time you drive the northbound 241 Toll Road through the Windy Ridge Toll Point, please remember to be a courteous driver. Stay in the right-hand lanes before you pass the Windy Ridge Toll Point if you are traveling to Riverside County. If you’re heading eastbound on the 91 Freeway, stay out of left lanes when heading down the hill to allow westbound traffic to safely get to their destination. Most of us are rushing out of work to get home and to family functions, but we want to ensure everyone makes it to their destination safe and sound. If you get caught in the westbound lanes, we recommend that you continue west, exit at Weir Canyon and return to the 91 Freeway to head east — that is the safest and most courteous thing to do — and it would make Mom proud!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this long overdue caution. I travel Northbound to the 91 West and those frustrations and safety concerns are all too real. Too bad we have to hit people in their pocket books to get them to wake up. However, it’s better than killing someone.