■ Mary Ann Morris / Editor
It was another victory for the Riverside County Transportation Commission, when on June 30 Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters denied the writ that challenged the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on the Mid County Parkway.
The parkway is a proposed 16-mile transportation corridor that should relieve traffic congestion for east-west travel in western Riverside County between San Jacinto and Perris and will help address future transportation needs through 2040.
Why is the Mid County Parkway Needed?
All of the major transportation routes in the region are already experiencing significant congestion. While projects for each major roadway are being designed now to ease congestion and ensure future mobility, traffic in the area of the proposed Mid County Parkway is projected to double in some segments and increase as much as three times in others.
Another east-west transportation link, such as the Mid County Parkway, is essential to reduce congestion and maintain and enhance the quality of life in western Riverside County. The Mid County Parkway will provide logical connections with north-south corridors including SR-79 and I-215. It will also serve multimodal bus and rail facilities planned as a part of the Perris Valley Line, Metrolink service that connects Perris to Riverside.
“The CEQA victory, coming on the heels of our NEPA victory in federal court, is a testament to the expertise and professionalism of our MCP project team. RCTC commitment to excellence and serving the public responsibly is once again evident,” said Ann Mayer, executive director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), in a memo.
“This document withstood challenge in both state and federal courts which is significant,” stated Mayer. “Many members of the project team have worked for years to make this project a reality.”
Project opponents state the project would displace almost 100 homes and 26 businesses in Perris, which would affect almost 400 residents and almost 200 employees. Those in favor of the parkway say it’s necessary to accommodate a growing population throughout the county, particularly the San Jacinto Valley.
How will the San Jacinto Valley benefit?
San Jacinto Councilman Andrew Kotyuk, who represents the city of San Jacinto on the RCTC board, said the parkway will create many benefits for residents and businesses in the San Jacinto Valley.
“It’s the first half of the San Jacinto Valley Interchange that will boost property values and unlock us as a trade corridor, provide Southern California interconnectivity, and bring the other Southern California counties and their dollars to us,” said Kotyuk. “Dominoes are falling that will turn our valley around.”
Those dominoes refer to the modernization of the Mt. San Jacinto College campus, the new Soboba resort and casino, which broke ground in March, the Hemet Valley Medical Center cardiac facility, and now the Mid County Parkway.
“These core projects are the backbone to an emerging market,” added Kotyuk. “It’s a Renaissance headed our way. It will bring jobs, quality residents, and outside dollars into our economy.”
The risk, Kotyuk said, was to retain the valley’s rural identity. “We have worked to prepare to preserve our roots and unique qualities when the growth wave comes, and we will. This project will single handedly help our depressed socioeconomics.”
San Jacinto Mayor Scott Miller is excited to see years of planning come to fruition for the valley.
“The Mid County Parkway is a project that the San Jacinto Valley has needed for a long time, and with the new Soboba casino and hotel coming in 2018, the timing is perfect to move the parkway forward,” said Miller. “The project will benefit the communities of Perris, San Jacinto and Hemet, just to name a few. Businesses will no longer see our valley as the county’s cul-de-sac, which means better local jobs and better incomes for our families. Well done to the Riverside County Transportation Commission for working hard in the courts to see this great project move forward.”
According to Waters’ ruling, the petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies to their challenges, and were unable to establish that the FEIR failed to: disclose significant impacts to land use and community cohesion; prove flaws in the FEIR’s air quality analysis; and adopt all feasible greenhouse gas emission mitigation measures.
Plaintiffs in this case included: Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Riverside’s Hills, Friends of Northern San Jacinto Valley, Sierra Club and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. The ruling may be appealed.
Kotyuk stated that many advocates of the San Jacinto Valley were instrumental in the project, including RCTC, Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley and former Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit, who passed away Dec. 26 at the age of 64 from pancreatic cancer.