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Congested 91 Freeway cleared for widening with $444-million loan

April 25, 2012 |  9:30 am

The Riverside Freeway at rush hour in Corona

Federal officials have cleared the way for a $444-million government loan to help widen the notoriously congested Riverside Freeway between the Orange County line and Interstate 15 in Riverside County.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced Tuesday the Riverside County Transportation Commission is qualified to receive assistance from a loan program established by the Transportation Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act.

Widening the Riverside Freeway was one of just five projects across the nation selected to participate in the program.

Once the project undergoes a final review by the federal government, it will receive funding, officials said.

“This is an enormous economic boost and will make it so much easier to travel to and from the entire region,” said Riverside County Supervisor John J. Benoit, the commission chairman.

The $1.3-billion project will improve eight miles of one of the busiest highways in the state and a critical link between Orange and Riverside counties. Every weekday, motorists make upward of 300,000 trips on the highway.

Officials predict the traffic will increase about 50% by 2035.

Plans call for adding a general purpose lane in each direction, rebuilding seven interchanges, improving nearby streets and extending the 91 Express Lanes --  a tollway -- from the Orange County Line to the 15.

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---Dan Weikel

Photo: The Riverside Freeway at rush hour in Corona. Credit:  Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

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