What can be done to ease southwest Riverside County traffic on the 15 Freeway? – Press Enterprise

There was a time when traffic flowed freely on the 15 Freeway.

There also was a time when we used the Pony Express to send long-distance messages.

And while it wasn’t 160 years ago that the 15 Freeway was without congestion, it may seem so when you’re crawling along slower than a tired pony.

Temecula Councilman Mike Naggar is leading a rescue posse to do something before the traffic gets worse.

The City Council is proposing that southwest Riverside County cities band together to coordinate and corral state and federal transportation funding to improve the critical corridor.

It brings to mind proposals from long ago to limit growth in Temecula and Murrieta – the two biggest area cities – and makes me wonder whether that would have made a difference in the mess we’re in now.

Shortly after Temecula incorporated, there was talk among residents already frustrated with local traffic and other growing pains that the new city restrict growth. It never went beyond talk.

Murrieta residents actually brought a measure to the ballot in 1997 that would have capped the city’s growth at 75,000, but it failed. Today Murrieta has more than 110,000 residents.

Murrieta School Board member Kris Thomasian was previously the spokeswoman for the citizens’ committee for the growth control measure. She moved here in 1991 from L.A. in part to escape the gridlock there.

“We did for a while,” she said. “It seems to have followed us.”

It can take her a good half hour to go from south Temecula to northern Murrieta on the 15 now at rush hour, she said.  When she moved here about 25 years ago, cars moved gridlock-free 24/7.

Despite all the local growth since then – I moved here in 1988 when southwest Riverside County was probably 50,000 people, and today we’re well over 300,000 – Thomasian doesn’t think the Murrieta growth would have done much to ease the 15 gridlock.

“Local folks aren’t the only ones on the freeway,” she said.

It’s become a vital…

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