The safety median is coming…hell or high water
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The Valley Chronicle has continued to provide updates on the proposed Caltrans Safety Median Project set to begin in 2018. The controversial median has received criticism from the public and community leaders.
The Valley Chronicle reached out to Caltrans for comment after the last Hemet City Council meeting on Oct. 24. Caltrans did not respond by press time last week and this week sent the following response from David Knudsen, manager of government and legislative affairs and Joy M. Schneider, public information officer and district public records coordinator.
“Since 2013, Caltrans has diligently provided the city of Hemet with project information in order to develop an active partnership in the delivery of the SR-74 Raised Curb Median Safety Project,” said the email. “Caltrans was invited to a meeting on Oct. 25, 2017 at the Hemet Library by state senators Jeff Stone and Mike Morrell to discuss project information with business leaders and the city of Hemet. Caltrans was invited to provide a presentation showing the traffic data that warranted the project.”
According to the email, the deadline for the landscape agreement — not a contract — is Nov. 14 in order to maintain the project schedule.
Schneider confirmed via phone call that representatives from Stone’s and Morrell’s offices attended the Oct. 25 meeting.
“The purpose of the SR-74 Raised Curb Median Safety Project is safety and with the concentration of cross-median accidents in this corridor, it is a necessary project to prevent injuries and save lives” defended Knudsen and Schneider. “Caltrans has been active, and will continue to be, in engaging with the City of Hemet, the business community and its residents throughout the process to deliver a project that will improve safety and livability in the city of Hemet.”
The Valley Chronicle received a leaked email from a member of the Hemet/San Jacinto Action Group requesting that the group oppose the project because it would be detrimental to local businesses; the majority of the median would be constructed down Hemet’s main business corridor and would make it difficult to access businesses without sufficient turn pockets. Other concerns were increased response times for police, fire and ambulances. The writer of the email suggested that letters of opposition be sent to Sen. Jeff Stone.
When asked whether the project would continue regardless of any community opposition to the project, Schneider had the following response.
“Caltrans is required to make roadway improvements to protect life and property on our state highway system, including the areas on SR-74, when verifiable collision data exists. Through the significant input from the city, this safety project is scheduled to go to construction in 2018.”