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West Riverside County Roads Get Boost

The transportation panel OKs $71 million for design and planning work on improvements aimed at easing traffic in fast-growing areas.

September 09, 2004|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

The Riverside County Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved $71 million in spending on local roads over the next five years, the first major chunk of money from a per-house fee developers must pay to build in western Riverside County.

Officials hailed the funding as a milestone in the county's effort to ensure that infrastructure improvements keep pace with housing development. All of the road improvements covered by the plan are in fast-growing areas.

The money, which is earmarked for gridlock caused by growth, will fund planning and design work for 23 projects that improve circulation across the western end of the county, including $25 million for the widening of Cajalco Road and turning Ramona Parkway into a major east-west thoroughfare. Money would also go toward the realigning of California 79.

"This is one step toward meeting and accommodating the growth that is occurring here," said Hideo Sugita, deputy executive director of the transportation commission.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 14, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Riverside County roads -- An article in Thursday's California section about funding for new roads in Riverside County misidentified a thoroughfare as the Ramona Parkway. It is called the Ramona Expressway.

Riverside County's population, which was nearly 1.7 million in 2000, is expected to grow by more than 1 million residents by 2020. The commission's vote came the day after a report that found Inland Empire commuters who travel during rush hour have seen a more than 500% increase in the time spent in traffic from 1982 to 2002.

To deal with the booming population and crowded roads, county and city leaders enacted the Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee, which, starting last year, requires developers to pay $6,650 per house. The fee is expected to raise $2.6 billion over the next two decades. Businesses pay a per-square-foot fee.

Earlier this year, the transportation commission received 29 requests for funding, and narrowed the list to the 23 projects approved Wednesday. In addition to the work on Ramona Parkway and California 79, the approved projects include improvements to Bundy Canyon Road, Scott Road, Green River Road, Foothill Parkway, Van Buren Boulevard, Perris Boulevard, as well as work on interchanges and eastern and western bypasses.

The funding approved Wednesday is largely limited to paying for planning and design work, with right-of-way and construction dollars to be awarded in the future.

Transportation officials said finding local funding sources was key.

"Unfortunately, our needs are always exceeding our capacity to fund," Sugita said. "It has to be a partnership."

Calimesa's representative, Councilwoman Shenna Moqeet, was the lone opponent to the approval, saying she thought the projects were concentrated in the southwest portion of the county, and did not help cities along the Interstate 10 corridor, such as Calimesa, Banning and Beaumont.

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