Menifee Director of Public Works Explains Priority Given to Newport Road Interchange

Traffic congestion heading westbound over the Newport Road bridge will be reduced by the new design...

Traffic congestion heading westbound over the Newport Road bridge will be reduced by the new design.

Story updated with additional information at 4:10 p.m.

Editor's note: Menifee 24/7 and City Hall have received many comments and inquiries since our June 6 story about the city's plan for road improvements -- especially the prioritizing of projects designed to alleviate traffic congestion. In an effort to clarify the situation, Director of Public Works and Engineering Don Allison sat down with Menifee 24/7 this week.

As part of the city staff's budget proposal to the Menifee City Council, a capital improvement project listed top priorities for road improvements. All are contingent on additional funding the city is seeking through grants and other revenue sources. The top three projects that were presented to the City Council for consideration, in priority order, are:

-- Reconstruction and expansion of the Interstate 215 interchange at Newport Road
-- Reconstruction and expansion of the 215 interchange at Scott Road
-- Construction of a freeway overpass at Holland Road

These projects are being considered while the city continues to attract additional businesses, including a Wal-Mart planned for Scott Road near Haun Road.

Recognizing the current traffic congestion crossing the freeway at Newport and at Scott and realizing the additional traffic jams that would be caused during construction on these interchanges, many residents are asking the same question:

Why won't the city build the Holland overpass first?

"We all understand Holland is an important project," said Don Allison, Director of Public Works and Engineering for the city. "Ultimately, the city council sets these priorities. It's their decision if they want to change them. But we believe they're concurrent with this plan."

Here's why:

According to Allison, the Newport Road interchange was given top priority by the county long before Menifee became a city. County officials designated it as a regional corridor from east to west. Drivers use this route from Hemet, where it was expanded by county work crews as Domenigoni Parkway, some 20 miles to the west to Lake Elsinore, where it is Railroad Canyon Road. Thousands of vehicles use this important artery every day, encountering one major bottleneck -- at Newport Road and the 215.

Design renderings show the configuration of the proposed Newport on-ramps and off-ramps.

For this reason, Riverside County has been involved in the design and funding of the Newport Road interchange project from the beginning. The Holland Road overpass also was identified by the county as a priority, but it has not yet been given the same priority as a major regional corridor, Allison said.

"A big design team has been working on this," Allison said about the Newport project. "The design project is just about completed. Now we're trying to line up all the financing."

The project already has received $17 million in funding through the state's Total Road Improvement Program (TRIP). In working to acquire the remaining $20 million needed to fund the $37.3 million project, City of Menifee officials have the opportunity to receive financing through other county and regional sources. These include the Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee (TUMF), which is administered through the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG); the Regional County Transportation Commission (RCTC); and other state and federal sources.

The TUMF ordinance, approved by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, generates funding for regional highway improvements by charging a fee to developers of new construction in the area. The Newport interchange qualifies for TUMF funding because it has been identified as a regional transportation project. The Scott Road interchange -- another regional highway project -- also is on track to qualify for TUMF funding.

The proposed Holland Road overpass is also eligible for TUMF funding, Allison said, but that funding has not been pursued at this time. Sources of funding identified so far are low-cost loans and grant opportunities.

"We just have to identify it (TUMF funding for Holland) as something we have to pursue," Allison said. "Even if we started the Holland project today, it would not get built before the Newport project. It would need a preliminary design, environmental report, funding, and acquisition of the right of way."

When the Newport Road bridge was expanded previously, a new section of the bridge was added on the north side of the existing bridge, Currently, the section with the north lanes is slightly higher than the section on the south side, with K rail in the median. Each side has two traffic lanes plus a left-turn lane -- one leading drivers from westbound Newport onto the 215 South on-ramp and the other taking drivers from eastbound Newport onto the 215 North on-ramp.

In the new design, Allison explained, each side would have four through lanes and no left-turn lanes, thus minimizing traffic stops at each end of the bridge. Freeway on-ramps would begin in the outside lane and loop around onto the 215. Motorists heading across the bridge would be stopped at a red light only when drivers coming off the freeway are given a green light to turn left onto Newport.

Looking eastbound on Holland Road at Antelope Road, the Holland overpass would give motorists a clear path over Interstate 215.

Allison said that during construction -- which is expected to begin some time in 2013, if funding needs are met -- two through lanes will be open each way, with one left-turn lane. The older, south portion of the bridge will be removed and the newer portion will be widened, effectively doubling the traffic capacity once completed.

The Scott Road interchange will have a similar design. When funding is acquired and designs completed for the Holland Road overpass, the bridge will extend from Haun Road on the west to Hanover Lane on the east, passing over Antelope Road and "landing" in an area which is now vacant land east of the Cantabria Apartments.

"That grass area is to accomodate earth work as the bridge comes downhill," Allison explained. "That area has been set aside specifically for the Holland project."

That, apparently, is probably two or three years off. Meanwhile, working with county officials, Allison and his staff are intent on seeing the Newport project through to completion as soon as possible.

Coming westbound off the Holland overpass, motorists would return to ground level at Hanover Lane.


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