Groundbreaking Marks Beginning of Newport Road Project

City, county and construction officials take part in a groundbreaking ceremony marking the begin...

City, county and construction officials take part in a groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of the Newport Road widening project.
(Photos by Patricia Sanchez)
A $3 million project to widen and add lanes to Newport Road approaching Interstate 215 from the east kicked off today with a groundbreaking ceremony involving the various parties involved in planning and carrying out the project.

Beginning this week and continuing until about the end of November, construction crews will be working in two shifts, night and day, to add one lane each way to the busy east-west thoroughfare. Work will be done in phases, with one lane closed at a time as the center median is taken out and the roadside extended on each side of the street.

According to Kurtis Akabori of Griffith Company construction, a smaller median will replace the wider median. Additional width to the road will be gained by reducing the sidewalk and grass area on each side of the street from Antelope Road about 1,000 feet to the east.

When the project is completed, Newport Road will have three lanes on each side of the median from Menifee Road west to Antelope Road. In addition to adding one lane each way, a second left-turn pocket from westbound Newport to southbound Antelope will be added.

"This is not just a road program," said Interim City Manager Rob Johnson, who attended the groundbreaking along with Mayor Scott Mann and city council members. "This is a bright shining signal that Menifee is growing up. We're designing meaningful and necessary projects that add value to the community and improve traffic circulation."

This project is one of the first phases of a five-year Capital Improvement Project program which will also include widening and redesign of the freeway interchanges at Newport Road and Scott Road and a freeway overpass at Holland Road. Running concurrently with this project is a separate project, funded by the developer Rancon Group, which is building a section of Menifee Road between Simpson Road and Aldergate Drive, known as the "missing link."

Start of construction in the next phase of the program -- redesign of the $37 million Newport Road interchange -- is expected to begin shortly after the current projects are completed. That project also will add one lane in each direction across the freeway and will redesign on- and off-ramps in a looping design to minimize the need for traffic signals. In addition, traffic signals throughout that stretch of Newport will be coordinated to help increase traffic flow.

Work on the current Newport Road widening project will take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Akabori said.

Residents have expressed concern about increased traffic jams during construction and have debated the order of the road projects. In response, a county official said that all factors considered, this is the best and only practical solution to Menifee's traffic problems.

"I really believe they're doing things the right way," said Juan Perez, director of Riverside County Transportation and Land Management. "Newport is such a major corridor that runs all the way from Hemet west through the canyon. Improvement of this road will provide the most immediate benefit to the region."

The current Newport Road project is being coordinated by the City of Menifee. The interchange renovations at Newport Road and Scott Road and the proposed Holland Road overpass will be coordinated efforts with Riverside County, which has been designated as a lead agency by Caltrans.

"We're pushing to have the interchange project ready to start early next year," Perez said. "If this project was not moved forward and the interchange done first, there would be a bottleneck going the other way anyway. Some disruption of traffic is unavoidable, no matter how you do it. It will definitely be worth it in the long run."

From left: County Supervisor Marion Ashley; City Council Member John Denver; Mayor Scott Mann; Deputy Mayor Wallace Edgerton; City Council Member Greg August; Interim City Manager Rob Johnson.


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