Lake Elsinore residents' long-held dream of seeing more lanes on state Route 91 is closer to becoming a reality now that infrastructure money from the federal government seems imminent.
Lake Elsinore Councilman Bob Magee announced this week that the Riverside County Transportation Commission has received an invitation to apply for a loan under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
Magee said that U. S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the announcement at the federal level.
Magee, who is running for the state Assembly, sits on the RCTC, one of 31 members that include county supervisors.
Other RCTC members credit Magee for working hard to bring home the bacon.
"Working with Bob we formed a bipartisan group that was crucial to our success. The ability to reach across the aisle made this possible and millions of Southern Californians will benefit by these improvements," Corona City Councilwoman Karen Spiegel said.
The loan for which the RCTC plans to apply is worth $454 million and the money is intended to go toward the six-lane expansion of a 14-mile stretch of SR91.
Construction will expand the 91 east of the Interstate 15 interchange.
On the west end it will be expanded to the Orange County line.
At the interchanges and ramps, the highway will be as wide as 23 lanes someday, making traveling the road so seamless that Magee said, “you won’t know that you’re traveling into a different county."
Of course, the Riverside County side will be installing fast-track tolls as well, he conceded.
"The 91 freeway is the most impacted and congested of all in the Inland Empire," Magee told Patch.
The ribbon of highway is also funnelled through an area constricted by mountains, the Santa Ana River and railroad tracks, so before construction can begin, more property must be purchased and the grading and filling must be completed, the councilman said.
The construction is set to begin in 2013 and is expected to be completed in 2017, according to Magee.
The took five years, he said.
"It took longer to count the bunnies than it will to build the project," told Patch.
The fight to get the money meant making nice with those on both sides and the middle of the political spectrum, Magee said.
"We sought out democratic support," and garnered some "some real hard-line conservative dollars."
The $454 million will be added to another $20 million or so that the government is loaning to the county for the project, Magee said.
Originally the county was hoping for money from the Transportation Reauthorization Bill but that measure was stalled in the House of Representatives because there is a strong push for mass transit, Magee said.
Magee is running for the new 67th Assembly District, which is largely represented by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, kept from running again by term limits.