Assemblyman Chad Mayes and Gov. Jerry Brown assist in Hemet’s fight against the raised curb median
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The Hemet City Council voted on a resolution last week to halt the SR 74/Florida Avenue Median Safety Project and send a formal request to Caltrans to relinquish the segment of Florida Avenue (SR-74) within the City of Hemet’s municipal boundaries to the city, according to the staff report. Caltrans is giving the city six months to do an evaluation if they received the resolution and letter.
The move is the result of a meeting between Assemblyman Chad Mayes (R-42) and Gov. Jerry Brown.
The city has been pushing back on Caltrans for months to halt the safety project citing that it would inhibit public safety response times and the hurt local businesses.
City Manager Allen Parker recommended to council at the Jan. 9 meeting that the city adopt the resolution provided in the staff report to approve two actions—request that Caltrans halt the SR 74/Florida Avenue median safety project and make formal request to Caltrans to relinquish control to city of the segment that falls within city limits.
Parker stated during the meeting that the head of Caltrans would be willing to put construction on hold and await the city’s ability to take over the segment of Florida Avenue giving the city six months to do an evaluation if Caltrans received a letter and resolution from the city of Hemet.
The adopted resolution was sent to Caltrans accompanied by a letter written by Mayor Michael Perciful requesting Caltrans halt the project and begin discussions to relinquish the segment of SR 74/Florida Avenue to the city of Hemet.
Perciful named Councilwoman Linda Krupa and Mayor Pro Tem Karlee Meyer to the ad-hoc committee. Perciful’s letter stated that Parker and Interim City Engineer Sudi Shoja will contact Caltrans and initiate the negotiations on behalf of the city.
The Valley Chronicle asked Parker if he knew how much it will cost to take over the city segment of SR 74/Florida Avenue.
“The only number that’s been thrown out is the $11 million Caltrans has budgeted for the project—this amount might be given to the city,” stated Parker in an email. “From the staff’s standpoint, however, the fiscal impact of the city owning the avenue needs to take into consideration pavement management; i.e., repairs, reconstruction; alternatives to the median to address safety concerns; projected increases in traffic due to development both within and outside the city which we believe will necessitate an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) focused on traffic; liability, particularly lawsuits resulting from accidents; etc. Once we get a better handle on cost, we’ll need to determine from where the money will come. Then, we’ll need to negotiate an agreement with Caltrans subject to the approval of the California State Traffic Commission.”
“Far from a done deal,” concluded Parker.
The Chronicle reached out to Caltrans for response to the same question posed to Parker.
“All relinquishments of state roadways are done through legislation,” says Caltrans. “When legislation is introduced, a cost analysis is done to show just how much it will cost for a City or County to take control of a roadway. The most recent example of this is from the 2015 relinquishment of portions of SR 74 to the City of Lake Elsinore and the County of Riverside.
“The cost analysis for this relinquishment showed that the average cost range goes from $0 to $1,000,000 per center mile,” continued the statement. “A number of factors including roadway condition, projected maintenance costs and any planned capital projects drives the cost.
“The actual cost of a particular relinquishment is negotiated directly with the local agency, but must be based on a cost-benefit analysis using a 10-year analysis period. Prior to this analysis, the baseline cost is assumed to be $0. All proposed costs beyond the baseline are subject to review and approval by the Department’s Relinquishment Advisory Committee to ensure statewide consistency in application of the established evaluation criteria.
“Additionally, before any relinquishment is agreed upon, there must be a plan in place by the local agency to bring the roadway up to Caltrans standards,” concluded the statement by Caltrans.
Prior communication between the city and Caltrans
For Caltrans, maintaining safety is the priority. The Chronicle previously reported that it had reached out to Caltrans for comment after a Hemet City Council meeting on Oct. 24. Caltrans did not respond by press time but later 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.”
Prior to the Nov. 14 council meeting, the city spoke with a representative from Assemblyman Chad Mayes’ (R-42) office expressing displeasure with Caltrans’ insistence in moving the project forward. The representative asked the city to supply certain information regarding the project, and a meeting between Mayes and Gov. Jerry Brown was requested by Mayes’ office.
Prominent members of the community, including Former Mayor Lori Van Arsdale and Physicians for Healthy Hospitals (PHH) Chief Hospital Executive Officer Dan McLaughlin, along with PHH board president Sreenivasa Nakka, M.D., showed up at the Nov. 14 council meeting to lend their support in opposition to the proposed safety median.
Following that meeting, the city was successful in halting the project for the time being and was given six months to do an evaluation.