'Coronageddon': 91 Fwy closure in Corona reopens to commuters

- Everything is on schedule in Corona, where the 91 Freeway reopened at 4:00am Monday morning. Authorities say weekend traffic was heavy but manageable on the surface streets in Corona.

Traffic was unusually heavy on the 57 and 60 freeways Sunday as people driving between the Inland Empire and Orange County navigated around the closed portion of the 91.

A fatal head-on crash snarled traffic on a back-country detour, and some drivers got lost in Corona, but the weekend-long closure of the Riverside (91) Freeway was on schedule Sunday for an overnight reopening.

Crews were on schedule at the three major work sites on the otherwise- empty freeway at midmorning,  said Anne Mayer, executive director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

All eastbound and westbound lanes will reopen at 4 a.m. Monday, as scheduled, according to Mayer.

"We're really pleased with the progress so far,'' she told City News Service. "Right now, I'm looking at the last remnants of the Maple Avenue overpass being hauled away.

Forty-eight "superbeams'' were in place today, to support a pair of flyover lanes for the carpool ramps that are being added.

Ninety percent of the Maple Street bridge demolition was completed by midmorning. Crews have removed and hauled away about 2,000 tons of concrete and will turn their focus towards removal of the north abutment, the final portion of the bridge.

"And they are paving new concrete down by Interstate 15, so that is underway and will be done later this afternoon,'' Mayer said.

Mayer said that the freeway closure also allowed work crews to complete other highway work, including paving the eastbound Main Street offramp, overlaying the bridge deck surface near Grand Boulevard, and repairing potholes.   

Drivers hoping to use the twisting mountain road known as Route 74, the Ortega Highway, as a detour between Riverside and Orange counties were stymied today when a serious head-on crash killed at least one persons and closed that byway at 8:39 a.m.

"We were not advertising the 74 as a detour, it does not have the capacity for a lot of traffic,'' Mayer told CNS. "But we are aware that a lot of people would be using it as an alternative.''

As for Corona, the transportation director told CNS "surface streets look pretty good, but yesterday we had some drivers who did come through Corona and didn't know which direction to head.''

City crews put up additional detour signs overnight to clear that up, she said.

But most motorists were giving the 91 the cold shoulder this weekend, and were using the 10 and 60 freeways as east-west alternatives, and the Orange (57) Freeway to connect to Orange County. Mayer said.

"It worked well yesterday because so many people stayed away,'' she said. "Today, we need motorists to do the same. We do not want motorists to be complacent and think, 'Oh, traffic wasn't bad yesterday, so let's head towards Corona.' This is exactly what we don't want to happen.''

Traffic was heaviest on state Route 57 Saturday, and those headed to Anaheim's Honda Center for Sunday's 4 p.m. game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Calgary Flames were told to allow for extra time to get to the game.

The planned 55-hour closure got underway at 9 p.m. Friday between Interstate 15 and the Corona (71) Expressway. Both sides of the 91 will remain closed until 4 a.m. Monday.

The $1.3 billion 91 expansion project got underway in early 2014. It will widen the east-west corridor between the Orange-Riverside county line and the 15 Freeway, with new carpool and traffic lanes, new ramps, a wider shoulder and new interchanges.

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