Santa Ana Canyon
Santa Ana Canyon (or the Santa Ana Narrows) is the water gap where the Santa Ana River passes between the Santa Ana Mountains and the Chino Hills, near the intersection of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. It receives particularly strong Santa Ana winds in comparison to surrounding areas, hence the name.
Originally, U.S. Route 91 ran through the canyon; however, it has long since been re-signed or upgraded along the entirety of its former right-of-way in the state. California State Route 91 - known as "the 91" - is its primary successor.
The Santa Ana River bicycle path runs through the canyon. This recreational path was constructed on the bank of the river and abuts the length of Yorba Regional Park in Anaheim. The bike trail, as it is referred to by locals, roughly parallels the 91 in certain areas, extending all the way to PCH on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Across SR-1, Santa Ana River County Beach awaits, which shares a border with Huntington State Beach.
La Palma Avenue is a much longer arterial road than Santa Ana Canyon Road, stretching from West Carson to Yorba Linda uninterrupted. It actually begins in Redondo Beach, but it does not go through to West Carson. La Palma also terminates just east of the 241.
The Foothill Toll Road itself ends at the 91 as well. As a result of the confluence of these three routes at the 91 in Santa Ana Canyon, there is often a bottleneck of eastbound traffic during evening rush hour that begins there and continues across the county line and into Corona.
However, there are numerous projects in the planning stages that are aimed at alleviating traffic through the canyon and into Corona and Riverside. Among them are lane additions and interchange improvements, some of which will not be completed until 2015, and others 2030. One proposal is to entirely bypass the canyon by drilling through the Santa Ana Mountains to connect the Eastern Transportation Corridor directly to the 15.
91 Express Lanes
As seen on their official site, the 91 express lanes pass through the Santa Ana Canyon. Their goal was to relieve some of the traffic that SR-91 carries daily; however, they end at the county line, without continuing into Corona or Riverside. As such, their effectiveness is somewhat limited. Below is their brief history.
The 91 Express Lanes is a four-lane, 10-mile toll road built in the median of California's Riverside Freeway (State Route 91) between the Orange/Riverside County line and the Costa Mesa Freeway (State Route 55). The state-of-the-art facility boasts several firsts — the first privately financed toll road in the U.S. in more than 50 years, the world's first fully automated toll facility, and the first application of value pricing in America.
91 Express Lanes customers pay tolls from pre-paid accounts, using a FasTrak transponder — a pocket-sized radio transmission device mounted to the inside of their vehicle's windshield. This breakthrough electronic toll collection technology eliminates the need to stop and pay tolls at traditional tollbooths, thus ensuring the free flow of traffic on the 91 Express Lanes.
The 91 Express Lanes was born from the need for congestion relief on the 91 Freeway when no public funds were available to solve this critical transportation problem. The concept was unique — the private sector would take the risk and the State would get congestion relief at no cost to taxpayers.
Since the 91 Express Lanes carried its first vehicle on December 27, 1995, this world-class transportation facility has logged more than 64 million vehicle trips, saving customers over 32 million hours of commuting time. These time savings have produced measurable benefits including some $480 million in added economic productivity and quality-of-life benefits for commuters, their families and businesses.
On a wider scale, the 91 Express Lanes has contributed to major advances in the toll industry worldwide. The facility has been featured in the national and international media. Since the project opened in 1995, transportation officials from 21 U.S. states and 23 countries have visited the 91 Express Lanes to study its advanced systems and operations. As a result, much of what the 91 Express Lanes has achieved in technology, toll operations and customer service has been exported around the world.
Freeway Complex Fire
The Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008 raged through Santa Ana Canyon. It ultimately destroyed hundreds of homes in the area and forced multiple road and school closures. In addition, thousands of residents in the canyon were under mandatory evacuation orders at one point or another and could not reenter their neighborhoods. This was the largest wildfire in Santa Ana Canyon since 1969, when not as many people lived there, making the Freeway Complex Fire much more dangerous.