Menifee City Council Approves Plan to Purchase Additional Parcels as Right of Way for Scott Road Interchange

This map on the Riverside County Transportation Department website shows the plan for the expand...

This map on the Riverside County Transportation Department website shows the plan for the expanded Scott Road interchange. Construction on the $52 million project is set to begin in the summer of 2015.
The proposed construction project to expand the Scott Road freeway interchange took a major step forward tonight with the Menifee City Council's approval of a cooperative agreement among the City of Menifee, City of Murrieta and Riverside County regarding the purchase of right of way.

The unanimous approval by council members allows the parties involved to pursue and complete the purchase of approximately 14 acres of land on 15 pieces of property. Total appraised value of those parcels is $9.9 million, according to a city official.

Plans call for an expanded Scott Road bridge spanning Interstate 215 that will allow three lanes of through traffic in each direction, plus turn lanes. A total of 11 lanes are included in the project, which will greatly reduce traffic congestion in the south part of Menifee.

This action does not move up the timetable for construction, which is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2015. However, having approval to begin making offers to the affected land owners could expedite certain procedures in seeking funding.

According to City Engineer Jonathan Smith, the city still lacks $23.4 million of the estimated $52 million cost of construction. But once the right of way is acquired, seeking grants and other funds for the project becomes much easier, he said.

"I'm ecstatic about this agreement," Smith said. "The further along you are in a project, the more priority you're given when you seek funding and approvals."

The Environmental Impact Report and other preliminary studies have long since been completed. Although a sliver of land in the right of way lies in the City of Murrieta, because of previous negotiations between the two cities and the county, Menifee will handle the purchase of right-of-way lands.

Plans call for the construction of a new bridge next to the old bridge first. Then the old bridge would be torn down and an additional section of bridge built and combined with the other half for a new, much wider bridge.

Smith said Scott Road would have three lanes each way from Antelope Road to Haun Road, where the road would narrow again. However, there are future plans to add lanes to Scott beyond both of those cross streets, he said.

Although the City of Menifee could not make formal offers to the 15 land owners before tonight's action, Smith said he does not expect difficulties in negotiating the sales. Money for those purchases come primarily from developer impact fees, he said.

"The people we've talked to say, 'Come on in,' because they realize it has to happen for them to benefit," Smith said.

One of the primary land owners involved is Walmart, which is moving closer to the start of construction on vacant land northwest of the interchange. Walmart would have to sell a sliver of its land to accommodate the wider bridge and roadway.

Two other affected parcels are owned by PacTen Partners, a real estate development company based in Los Angeles.

One of those, located northwest of the Haun-Scott intersection on land including the old Bailey family homestead, is the site of the proposed Junction at Menifee Valley, a 54-acre retail and commercial site. The other is a site that stretches from Scott Road south to Keller Road, where plans call for a 38-building business development called Commerce Pointe Menifee.

A parcel of undeveloped land to the northeast of the interchange, between the freeway on-ramp and Antelope Road, is owned by another investment company.

So even though a lot of work remains to be done before traffic flows freely on Scott Road, a significant step has been taken. Now, in addition to the purchase of the right of way, a push for additional construction funding can move forward.

"We are in the process of making a joint request of the Riverside Transportation Department for funding," Smith said. "We hope to hear on that by the first of the year."

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