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Inland Empire's Carmageddon is coming soon

Carmageddon’s coming for you, Inland Empire.

Transportation officials will close a six-mile stretch of the notoriously gridlocked 91 Freeway in Corona for a full weekend next month as part of a $1.4-billion construction project to widen the freeway.

All lanes in both directions of the 91 Freeway will be closed between the 71 Freeway and Interstate 15 from 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, until 4 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22, according to the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

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The weekend closure, officials said, will allow crews to conduct work on Maple Street bridge, which spans the 91 freeway. Crews also will be paving a new eastbound 91 alignment near the 15.  

Transportation officials are strongly urging motorists to avoid the area during this closure, and warning of possible delays of up to four hours. If motorists cannot avoid traveling in the area during that time, they are encouraged to use the 57 or 60 freeways or Interstate 10 as alternate routes.

If major traffic backups happen, California Highway Patrol officers will divert traffic to ease the pain, officials said.

If it rains that weekend, work will be delayed until the following weekend, the transportation commission said.

The major construction project, dubbed the 91 Project, extends from the Riverside and Orange county line in Corona to Pierce Street in Riverside. Crews will add toll and non-toll lanes and make improvements to interchanges, bridges and ramps along the freeway, officials said. New connections also be added between the 91 Freeway and the 15.  

According to the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the changes are being made to reduce delays and improve emergency response times along the nearly 50-year-old freeway. “The traffic demands now placed on it far exceed its original design from the early 1960s,” the commission said in a prepared statement.

Nearly 280,000 vehicles travel that section of the 91 Freeway daily — a number that is expected to grow by an additional 140,000 vehicles per day by 2035, the transportation commission said.

Construction began in early 2014, with new lanes expected to open by 2017. The project is being funded through a combination of federal, state and local sources, as well as toll revenue bonds, officials said.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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