On September 5, 2017, the Temecula City Council appointed Matt Rahn, Mayor Pro-Tem, and Mike Naggar, Council Member and RCTC Commissioner, to the Interstate 15 Lane Expansion Task Force to initiate a conversation with local jurisdictions, and subsequently include regional transportation partners, to address the daily I-15 freeway traffic congestion between the I‑15/215 Junction and the San Diego County line.
Last week, on Thursday, November 30, 2017, Mayor Pro-Tem Rahn and Council Member Naggar invited the Cities of Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Menifee and the Pechanga Tribe to Temecula City Hall. Every jurisdiction shared the same, strong sentiment that traffic on I-15 through Temecula Valley is a major economic and quality of life concern for the region, and beyond. They expressed it is not a Temecula-only issue as residents, visitors, businesses and commuters from all cities in Southwest Riverside County are traveling to and from San Diego County and are significantly delayed by the bottleneck of traffic through Temecula Valley on I-15. Nationwide, the interstate connects Southern California to Canada passing through the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Montana and is the major corridor for freight and commerce throughout Western United States.
“Despite being ranked one of the worst congested freeway segments in the United States, this section of I‑15 has not risen to the top of any state or federal plan,” stated Temecula Mayor Pro-Tem Matt Rahn who also noted that Interstate 15 is not the jurisdiction or responsibility of the City of Temecula, or any city. “It is frustrating that our cities may have to wait 10-20 years through state and federal processes to merely lay down asphalt along a center median of dirt that’s readily available for lanes along this stretch of I-15, so we are going to need to break through some barriers to ensure the collective voice of our citizenry is heard,” added Rahn.
Emphasis was placed on supporting a grassroots effort in response to a groundswell of regional discontent for I-15 traffic, and the importance of working in concert with Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), Caltrans, SCAG, and other partners together with Federal, State and County officials, to expedite expanding Interstate 15 with more lanes through Temecula Valley. Recognizing that funding is the primary barrier, the cities felt strongly that working as one cohesive platform representing a five-city coalition sends a powerful message. They agreed to travel together to Washington D.C. given a unique President who has promised to improve the nation’s infrastructure with a new administration overseeing the U.S. Department of Transportation. The vast majority of this region of California is Republican.
Council Member Mike Naggar concurred that a trip to Washington D.C. in 2018 as a unified voice is worthwhile, "President Trump is different than any other administration and I think he might actually listen to us." Naggar also agreed that it’s a multi-pronged approach, “We need to work with RCTC and SCAG to ensure the project is on the Regional Transportation Plan. We need to attract higher paying jobs and also build more affordable housing for our tourism/hospitality industry, which will help with the commute. Meanwhile, we have a failing traffic issue affecting hundreds of thousands of drivers every day with a simple and immediate solution to pave the median along Interstate 15; we just need state and federal funding to do it,” Naggar added.
The same group will meet again in January 2018 to structure a formal Task Force moving forward.