New appeal to block the Mid-county Parkway project filed

The long-sought, Mid-county Parkway that one day will hopefully connect Perris with San Jacinto recently gained its Environmental Impact Report approval by the Riverside County Transportation Commission but is running into legal problems that may delay the project further.

The 16-mile Mid-county Parkway project has been in the planning stages since 2015 and is designed to relieve traffic congestion for east-west travel in western Riverside County between the San Jacinto and Perris areas through 2040. RCTC reported it “will provide logical connections with north-south corridors including state Route 79 and Interstate 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 proposed route will see motorist taking the exit from the 215 freeway at Placentia Street, going east to intersect with the Ramona Expressway, then driving northeast past Bernasconi Road by Lake Perris, crossing over the San Jacinto River and turning east again to Sanderson Avenue, which is state Route 79 in San Jacinto.

Voicing opposition to the $1.7 billion six-lane highway project are conservation groups including the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley. They have posed legal challenges in both superior and federal courts claiming the project will create urban sprawl, increase traffic and disrupt the habitat of protected and endangered birds, animals and plants north and east of the Ramona Expressway. A number of residents and businesses would also be displaced in the project and are challenging the project plans.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed Case No. RIC 1505449 to challenge and block the RCTC project in May 2015; it was reviewed by the courts, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters handed down her findings June 30, 2017, dismissing the case. She found the plaintiffs “failed to prove that the project’s environmental impact report was inadequate or flawed, and they also failed to exhaust their administrative remedies for at least one claim,” according to an Aug. 1 news release issued by Best Best & Krieger attorneys for RCTC.

The project had been appealed previously by the groups without success, but another appeal has been filed in the 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside by CBD maintaining their claim that the project will created serious urban sprawl and traffic in a rural area and sanctuary for protected wildlife. The group maintains there are other avenues the RCTC has to link the communities.

The RCTC in its Mid-county Parkway Project update online, www.midcountyparkway.org, reported, “There are currently legal challenges to the environmental approvals of the project, which are making their way through the courts. In the meantime, the commission is proceeding with the final design for the first construction contract, which consists of the I-215/Placentia Interchange. The commission is currently acquiring right of way for this portion of the MCT only. RCTC continues to move forward with meeting the environmental mitigation requirements and necessary permits for construction.”

The Mid-county Parkway project is in the expenditure plan for Measure A, Riverside County’s half-cent sales tax measure for transportation. It will fund a portion of the project.

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