Federal, county leaders grilling Caltrans over monster weekend traffic jam on Interstate 10

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Riverside County leaders want to know how a simple road repair led to a monster traffic jam on Interstate 10 earlier this month. At its peak the nightmare back-up stretched 21 miles from Banning to the outskirts of Palm Springs.

Caltrans blames the weekend mess on a communication breakdown between a road crew replacing slabs of blacktop, and a contractor who was supposed to be supplying the concrete. The Palm Springs Desert Sun obtained an email in which Caltrans district chief Ray Wolfe called the 21-mile traffic jam a fiasco. Wolfe also blamed himself and said he takes full responsibility.

Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack is stepping into the fray. The Palm Springs Republican is calling on federal transportation officials to help craft an Interstate 10 management plan. In a letter to federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood, Bono requested electronic message boards to warn motorists of upcoming traffic tie-ups.

Riverside County supervisors may demand more than that. They plan to grill Caltrans’ Ray Wolfe at their regular meeting on Feb. 28.