It’s the most dangerous stretch of freeway in California, where an average of 186 collisions occurred over the past three years, and the plan to fix it has already run out of cash.
Referred to as the 57/60 Confluence, the two-mile stretch of freeway is surrounded by rocky foothills and set at a slight incline. Popular among both Valley commuters and truck drivers leaving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the limited space forces the two freeways to merge from 17 lanes across into just 14. Oddly marked signage makes shifting to the correct lane confusing. The combination of poor design, constant traffic, and high freight use create perfect conditions for unnecessary traffic accidents.
Over the past three years the stretch of concrete has ranked in the top 10 accident spots on California freeways. In 2014, there were more than 200 collisions in that one spot. As of November of 2016, there were 182. The freeway is also ranked ninth on the American Transportation Research Institute’s list of top ten highway bottlenecks for the entire nation.
Raymond Najera passes the freeway interchange every day on his way to class at Mt. San Antonio College, and has seen the backup in action.
“You just see all these cars start trying to merge over,” said Najera. “You’d think it would look a lot less scary in heavy traffic, but the trucks merging on can’t always see the cars trying to get off.”
Raquel Aguirre, a resident of West Covina who often takes the 57 to get down to Disneyland in Anaheim, is familiar with how dangerous the Confluence can be.
"It gets pretty nutty at night, too,"" said Aguirre. "Like when everyone’s going super fast, and then all the sudden the freeway narrows."
Safety issues have only increased as the economy has improved, pulling in more trucks hauling freight from the ports. Truck volume is projected to rise 10 to 15 percent in 2017, according to the Journal of Commerce. And with more cars on the road in general, it’s imperative that the multiple dangers of this highway hot spot be addressed. Safety issues have only increased as the economy has improved, pulling in more trucks hauling freight from the ports. Truck volume is projected to rise 10 to 15 percent in 2017, according to the Journal of Commerce. And with more cars on the road in general, it’s imperative that the multiple dangers of this highway hot spot be addressed as soon as possible.
This has long been on the radar of local representatives and in 2015 work began on something called the Confluence Project, a multi-stage set of construction and design changes intended to improve safety. But it has already run out of money and is $219 million short of its total $256 million price tag.
The project is broken into three different phases, all with the goal of improving safety and commute times. The first phase will add a westbound onramp from Grand Avenue, while the second phase will build a westbound off-ramp and auxiliary lane to Grand Avenue. The third phase, the most intensive of the project, will focus on improving the freeway mainline.
Phase I broke ground last January, funded by a $10 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation. Support from local cities as well as Metro, the regional transportation authority, bring total funding for the project up to $37 million, enough to start and complete phase one. The initial grant, provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER program, was a one-time award, and so federal funding is unlikely to play a bigger role going forward.
Local representatives have teamed up to address the issue, with U.S. Reps. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), and Grace Napolitano (D-El Monte) working to provide a safer commute for the 356,000 vehicles that use the confluence every day.
In a recent letter to the Department of Transportation, Royce called the confluence both a safety hazard and burden for those getting goods to market. The letter, sent in April, is part of an attempt to convince federal officials to grant the area an additional $35 million through the Department of Transportation’s FASTLANE program.
The odds for that, however, are slim. Federal resources are already stretched thin, and programs like TIGER are extremely competitive, according to Transportation Department spokeswoman Nancy Singer, with only 5 percent of the applications for funding being addressed in the latest round.
And the 57/60 Confluence isn’t the only danger zone in the Los Angeles County area. Other areas of concern include where the 605 freeway meets the 5 freeway near Santa Fe Springs, where 174 collisions occurred last year. The area where the 91 freeway meets Green River Road out past Anaheim, had 155 collisions.