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Easing Crunch on 60 Freeway

The state plans to nearly double the carpool-lane miles between Industry and Moreno Valley.

September 02, 2006|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

Genoveva Arellano knows traffic on the Pomona Freeway is about to slow down when the double white lines marking the carpool lanes suddenly disappear near Diamond Bar.

The next 11 miles -- between the 57 and 605 freeways -- are by far the toughest stretch of her sometimes two-hour trek from her home in Chino Hills to downtown Los Angeles.

"If I can't get past that in 30 minutes, I know I won't get to my meeting on time," said Arellano, 42, a public relations consultant, who twice a week loads up her Toyota Land Cruiser with colleagues to visit clients throughout Southern California.

State transit officials are trying to smooth Pomona Freeway commutes by nearly doubling the carpool-lane miles between the 605 Freeway and Moreno Valley.

By 2010, the freeway's commuters should be able to travel 48 miles in continuous high-occupancy vehicle lanes through Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The California Department of Transportation is set to begin creating the designated lanes between the Orange and 605 freeways in January. The $100-million project includes sound walls. Caltrans will use the existing freeway median for the new lanes.

Construction began earlier this year to add 7 1/2 miles of carpool lanes on the 60 Freeway between the 91 Freeway and the Valley Way exit in Riverside County. The new lanes will cost an estimated $55 million and are slated to open in late 2007.

Over the last decade, as workers have migrated farther east for affordable housing, the Pomona Freeway has become jammed at peak times.

"All of the housing is on this side and the jobs are in L.A.," said Raghuram Radhakrishnan, project manager for the Inland Empire portion of the freeway expansion.

Experts predict that the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire will continue to grow. In the San Gabriel Valley alone, the population is expected to swell 29%, to 2.3 million people, by 2030, according to transit officials.

More trucks also are using the Pomona Freeway, designated by the federal government as a "super truck route" for oversize loads to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Radhakrishnan said the carpool lanes -- designed to close a gap at the San Bernardino line -- should ease congestion.

An average of 341,000 vehicles a day drove past the Orange Freeway interchange in Diamond Bar last year, up from 287,000 a decade earlier, according to Caltrans statistics.

In Moreno Valley, 69,000 vehicles passed the Perris Boulevard exit in 2005, an increase of 24,000 vehicles a day over the last decade.

Transit studies have found that vehicles using carpool lanes save an average of one minute a mile. The new lanes also should speed up traffic in other lanes by making room for solo drivers, officials said.

Carpool lanes exist on about half of Los Angeles County's 915-mile freeway system, Caltrans officials said. An additional 200 miles are under construction, being designed or planned.

San Bernardino and Riverside counties have 134 miles of carpool lanes.

Benkin Jong, a planning manager for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said statistics show that, if designated lanes are built, commuters will rideshare.

"If you provide the incentive, we know they will use it," he said.

More than 1,200 drivers a day on average used the carpool lanes on the Pomona Freeway in Los Angeles County during the morning rush hour in 2005, according to a Caltrans report.

That's just a fraction of the more than 725,000 daily users countywide.

Arellano, the consultant, said she sometimes considers taking co-workers to meetings just so she can use the carpool lanes. She said she has driven miles out of her way to use the San Bernardino Freeway, where carpool lanes stretch all the way to downtown Los Angeles.

Extending the carpool lanes on the Pomona Freeway will shave several minutes off of her commute, she said -- but she wants more.

"I wish they would go all the way downtown," she said.

jean.guccione@latimes.com

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