CORONA >> Work is “moving along as planned” on the 91 Freeway through Corona on Sunday as construction crews scramble to meet the early-Monday deadlines to open new lanes built during a three-year, $1.4 billion project.
Transportation officials urged motorists to stay off the freeway Sunday or face gridlock. While there have been some backups – some of which are due to crashes, not the construction itself – for the majority of the day, traffic has been flowing freely.
Two eastbound lanes are closed at Green River Road. John Standiford, deputy executive director for the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the agency in charge of the work, said he did not expect any additional daytime closures.
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Standiford did expect more closures “late at night” but did not have specifics. He had previously said the closures would depend upon the progress made.
On Sunday morning, crews could be seen installing fencing on several bridges and preparing to stripe the toll lanes.
The Maple Street bridge was closed. On the Lincoln Avenue bridge, crews were replacing a chain-link fence with a sturdier, rigid black metal fence. Portable stop signs were controlling traffic as crews tinkered with traffic lights. K-rails still divided the road.
Early Sunday afternoon, small orange cones blocked the entrance to the new westbound toll lanes just west of the 15 Freeway. There were no crews working in the toll lanes from there until the Orange County line, where workers had dug up the pavement.
There was one problem overnight that caused all eastbound lanes to close: About 2:20 a.m., a wrong-way driver caused a head-on crash near the 91/71 interchange. Several people suffered minor to moderate injuries, but received help from a construction crew before ambulances arrived, authorities said.
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Standiford did not have any details about the crash beyond those provided by the California Highway Patrol. He said RCTC would work with the CHP as needed.
Sunday’s construction was expected to greatly affect traffic on the freeway, and potentially send heavy spillover traffic onto surface streets in Corona.
“We’re hoping people stay out of the area (Sunday),” Standiford said Saturday. He recommended the 60 Freeway as an alternate route.
He noted that the eastbound closures were primarily so crews could restripe the freeway. While westbound lanes wouldn’t be closing, he said, “there’s a lot of other construction going on and certainly we don’t want folks slowing down to look at what’s going on the other side, so if people can avoid the 91 on Sunday I think everybody will come out a winner.”
• Related story: 91 Freeway toll, carpool lanes in Corona to open for Monday commute
This weekend’s work will put the finishing touches on a massive project to add two toll lanes and one general lane in each direction to an 8-mile stretch the 91. Nearly three dozen bridges and five interchanges also were affected by the project.
The new general lanes on both sides opened last week. But intermittent lane and ramp closures during this final stage of work started Thursday and were expected to last through early Monday.
The plan is to open the new westbound express lanes by 4 a.m. Monday and the eastbound lanes at 5 a.m.
This story is developing. Check back for updates through the day.