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Our views on Mid County Parkway & SR-79 Realignment Projects

RCTC's Major Highway Projects

The Transit Coalition has noted two major highway infrastructure projects for Riverside County proposed by the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC): The Mid-County Parkway and SR-79 Realignment. Both can be categorized as high speed limited access freeways. There are several relevant factors that we need to address. The Mid-County Parkway was once proposed as an east-west parkway in Riverside County, connecting the I-15 in Dos Lagos to SR-79 in San Jacinto. It was to be an expressway-to-freeway upgrade of the Ramona Expressway and Cajalco Road corridors. The parkway project was scaled down in 2009 to span between San Jacinto and the I-215 Freeway. The SR-79 Realignment project would seamlessly link SR-79 through the Hemet Valley as one continous highway. It would also seamlessly connect to the Mid County Parkway north of San Jacinto.

The goal of both of these projects is to improve east/west mobility between Hemet, Corona, and Orange County. However, some organizations including the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club, Inland Waterkeepers, the Residents Association of Greater Lake Mathews (RAGLM), the California Native Plant Society, and Inland Waste Management are very concerned about these proposals. Key issues on top of building the road must be addressed in order for the Mid County Parkway and SR-79 to fulfill their purposes for the long term, or the highways will just open the door to exacerbated urban sprawl, worsened traffic congestion along the 91 and I-215 Freeways, and bottlenecks on the bookends of these routes. We don't want traffic comming to a halt in Corona, Temecula, or Beaumont.

Local land use controls: New freeways have historically led to high growth demands. If such growth goes unchecked, the long term consequences can be dire. Proper land use controls include protecting the existing agricultural economies, designating areas as specific use plans to curb urban sprawl, and attracting businesses into the Inland Empire to balance the job-to-housing ratio. In addition, policies should allow for more housing options in Orange County. Without addressing these issues into the planning process, building the parkway will only reduce congestion in one area (the Hemet Valley area), yet the traffic will just flood toward other corridors (I-15 and SR-91 Corona, SR-215 in Perris). Unchecked growth would also further exacerbate traffic congestion.

Multi-modal transit alternatives: Both RCTC and OCTA should pursue multi-modal solutions to prevent the Mid County Parkway and SR-79 from simply repeating history of freeway building and urban sprawl. Other possibilities include developing a rapid transit and park & ride infrastructure along the 91 Express Lanes with the HOT lanes designated for free non transponder travel for 3+ high occupancy vehicles and improving mass transit options including late night RTA bus service, frequent Metrolink trains, and rapid express bus service along the HOT lanes. A 2009 poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California also bodes well for better transit. 71% of respondents within the Inland Empire (77% statewide) support better mass transit. Only 18% of respondents supported building more freeways. RCTC took action in July, 2009 in response to comments received from the public on the Draft EIR/EIS for the proposed highway. The current focus of the RCTC project now lies between Perris and San Jacinto. The County of Riverside is preparing improvements to the existing two lane Cajalco Road between Perris and Dos Lagos.

Conceptual Maps:
  • View a Conceptual Land Use Map of the entire Mid County Parkway Corridor between Dos Lagos and San Jacinto.

  • View a Detailed Conceptual Land Use Map of the Mid County Parkway and SR-79 interchange in San Jacinto in conjunction with the San Jacinto Gateway Master Plan development.

  • View a Detailed Conceptual Land Use Map of SR-79 through Winchester and how proper planning can protect this rural community from being the next Car-center-ville.

Note that these maps are conceptual and are subject to change following feasibility studies and growth patterns.

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