David Newton lives in Cabazon near Interstate 10. When traffic turns freeway lanes into a 20-plus mile parking lot like it did during a construction project in February 2012, he avoids it.
"We don't get on the freeway if it's that way. We can see it from the house if it's backed up," said Newton.
Other drivers aren't so lucky. That's why a two-lane bypass north of Interstate 10, on the Morongo Reservation between Cabazon and Whitewater, is in the works to help keep traffic moving when the freeway shuts down.
The project will fill the one-mile gap east of the Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa, between the dead end at Seminole Drive and Rushmore Avenue, according to Patricia Romo, assistant director for the Riverside County Transportation Department. Drivers could then take Tamarack Road to the Haughen-Lehmann entrance to I-10. The road will open an alternate route for drivers in case of an emergency.
"It would be necessary. We've seen fire trucks, sheriffs and ambulances have to ride the shoulder or lane by the wall to be able to get where they're going," said Newton. "I imagine for someone having a heart attack, it'd be a pretty bad thing."
Romo said the $800,000 construction project will begin before the end of this year and be completed by March 2015. She said $200,000 will be paid for by grants from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.
The rest will come from sales tax generated from the new stores at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. The county voted to use 25 percent of the stores sales tax to improve infrastructure surrounding the outlets.
Romo said it's an effort to plan for the future and avoid major traffic jams.