A freeway widening project is challenging commuters and business owners in the Inland Empire. Bobby Eslami says traffic officials are urging commuters not to travel through a portion of the 91 Freeway, which means his car wash is in for a tough 18 months. Craig Fiegener reports from Riverside for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2012.
A bridge demolition project in Riverside is causing headaches for commuters and business owners, but planners hope it's worth the trouble. Sound familiar?
It’s the IE’s own Carmageddon: the 14th Street bridge in Riverside is being demolished, while traffic flows underneath it on the 91 Freeway. For those visiting, or who live there, this is one area of downtown Riverside to avoid.
"I live like two blocks from here and it has added ten minutes to my morning commute," Kyle Burr said. "And I work ten minutes from my house."
Most of the demolition is happening at night when there are fewer cars on the 91, and with growth in Riverside from all over Southern California, modern on- and off-ramps are long overdue.
Still, that’s not making it easy for business owners who have been told they're in for 18 rough months.
"They're encouraging people not to come to this area," said gas station owner Bobby Eslami. "So they can't wash their cars, pump gas."
Eslami says his business has already dropped by half.
When the work is complete, the freeway underneath will have an extra carpool lane and people who live here, along with those who visit, will have an easier drive. But this week everyone is being asked to avoid the 91.
Crews will be working non-stop overnight and that's when the freeway will be hit with closures – and falling debris.
"Working at night, the guys will be out of the heat, but it's still a difficult project," said project manager Wes Smith.
On Wednesday, there will be even less of the bridge left, and eventually none of it at all. That's when Caltrans will take over and start building new overpasses.