Work to begin to add eastbound lane on 91 Freeway

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If you drive on the 91 Freeway between Orange County and the Inland Empire, you’ll notice work crews soon. Officials today broke ground to add an eastbound lane to the freeway, around Green River, near the county line. It's an area that's infamous for being clogged.

"If I’m in Orange County with something going on, to get home on a weekday, it can take me an hour. That’s not even going but from maybe Yorba Linda to Corona," says Corona Mayor Pro Tem Karen Spiegel, who knows the area well.

Transportation officials say the new eastbound lane between the 241 and the 71 will knock off 15 minutes from that commute.

"Three hundred thousand cars a day, twice a day, make their way up and down this freeway," says Peter Buffa, chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority, one of several agencies working together on the project.

Buffa says that number’s expected to grow to 425,000 within the next couple of decades.

The lane expansion project will cost nearly $60 million. $47.9 million comes from federal stimulus money. In fact, it’s the largest infrastructure project with federal stimulus money in Orange County.

The lane addition is part of larger plan to widen the 91 Freeway from Orange County to Interstate 15 in the Inland Empire.

"After this, we’re going to be widening down below us here, back toward Orange County," says Buffa. "There’ll be further widening north of us. The express lanes that run down the middle of the 91, they will now be extended into Riverside County. So over the next three, four, five years, the way the 91 Freeway looks and acts will change quite a bit."

Transportation officials say the construction may be a bit of a headache for commuters for the next year or so.

"It is a burden and it's annoying to commuters because you've got lanes cordoned off and there's construction going on," says Buffa, "but it is well, well worth it when the project is done."

The nearly six-mile-long 91 Freeway lane expansion is due to be finished by late next year. The project is expected to create about 900 jobs.

The Orange County Transportation Authority plans to use social media to keep the public updated about the progress of the lane expansion. A spokesman for the agency says they also plan to use Twitter to answer questions from the public and take complaints.

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