The Point: Project recognized for excellence in delivery, construction, and design-build practices

The Design Build Institute of America selected RCTC’s Interstate 15 Express Lanes for its National Award of Excellence in the transportation sector this month. The project was one of three chosen as national finalists, with the 15 Express Lanes emerging as the top winner.

Extending 15 miles in the I-15 median through Corona, Norco, Jurupa Valley, and Eastvale, the project opened in April 2021 following three years of design and construction activity. The project was recognized for its excellence in delivery, innovative construction methods, and commitment to design-build best practices.

DBIA 2022 Award

Design-build refers to a process in which a single entity designs and builds a project. This approach typically leads to faster project delivery, greater teamwork and communication, and a single point of responsibility, compared to the traditional design-bid-build approach, in which one firm designs the project and another firm builds the project.

In addition to the new lanes, the project widened 11 bridges, including the large Santa Ana River Bridge, and added six sound walls. The design-builder used a number of innovative methods to deliver the project:

  • An overhead conveyor belt, which carried concrete from the roadside batch plant, over the I-15 travel lanes, to the highway median. From there, the concrete was transferred to trucks for paving operations. This saved time, reduced construction related traffic congestion by eliminating the need for trucks to cross live traffic, and enhanced safety.
  • Pre-cast girders were fabricated to build the giant Santa Ana River Bridge. Girders measuring 170’ long and 9’ tall were manufactured off-site and moved by truck at night with CHP escorts to the bridge location. Once on site, large gantry cranes carried the girders along the 1,800’ bridge span and lowered them precisely in place. This approach greatly reduced the environmental impacts to the Santa Ana River below, saved time, and reduced traffic congestion by eliminating the need for lengthy lane closures.
  • Dynamic express lane pricing was implemented, in which toll rates change up to every three minutes to reflect real-time traffic conditions, to ensure smooth traffic flow and reliable travel times.
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Funding for the project was provided by Measure A, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements in Riverside County, and federal sources. Toll revenue is being used to repay a $152 million federal transportation infrastructure loan and to operate and maintain the lanes. During design and construction, an estimated 3,300 jobs were created.

As of September 2022, the 15 Express Lanes have 12,525 customer accounts. Motorists who carpool or drive zero-emission vehicles receive discounts, which promotes ridesharing and can help improve the region’s air quality. Express buses are able to use the lanes at no added cost to riders, further encouraging ridesharing. The project is helping to create greater mobility, which enhances the quality of living for Riverside County motorists, their families, and their communities.