Waze Redirecting I-15 Traffic Through Small North County Town, Residents Say

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A small town off Interstate 15 says it's waging a David versus Goliath fight where the town of Rainbow is "David" and the popular GPS traffic app Waze is "Goliath."

Rainbow residents say over-development in Riverside County has manifested into a constant traffic gridlock on I-15.

The collateral damage? Their rural town has now been overrun by impatient drivers, something residents say isn't just inconvenient, but dangerous.

When traffic is backed up on I-15, Waze redirects drivers through Rainbow's main street and down rural roads to shave some time off their trip, resident Jonnie Fox claimed.

Rainbow is home to less than 2,000 people in northern San Diego County, situated just south of Temecula. The town is so small that it does not even have a stoplight.

"Old [Highway] 395 has become another freeway lane for people," Fox said. "It wasn't built for that."

Resident Michele Sheehan said she can't leave her house after 2 p.m. because of the traffic.

Sheehan lives on Waze's preferred route through Rainbow and said the detour is now so popular for Waze drivers that it is congested during both morning and evening rush hour. And when it's not rush hour, Sheehan said drivers treat these backroads like a freeway.

"There are people running the stop sign and it's in front of a school," Michele Sheehan said.

She said three cars have wound up in her lawn because of crashes from drivers blowing the intersection.

"My granddaughter that's 4 [years old], she can't play in my front yard. I won't let her because it's just so scary," she added.

The situation prompted Sheehan to make and distribute yard signs reading, "Keep Rainbow Rural" and "Get Back on I-15."

"My dad used to say, 'You can't fight City Hall,'" Fox said. "Try fighting Google. Who do you call? I think everyone feels helpless."

More than 500 people, roughly one-third of the town, signed an online petition calling on elected officials to expedite traffic reduction measures on the interstate, such as adding a carpool lane.

"The developers have built hundreds and hundreds of more homes," Fox said. "And no more freeway lanes to accommodate them."

County Supervisor Jim Denson sent NBC 7 the following statement:

"The best way to get people off of side streets and out of rural towns is by relieving congestion on our freeways. The reason these roads are being used is because our freeways are congested. this is why i'm fighting for our promised freeway projects to be completed by SANDAG."

County supervisor jim desmond

NBC 7 reached out to Google, who acquired Waze in 2013, but they have not yet responded to a request for comment.

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