For a little while, it was a dream come true for drivers seeking to avoid Winchester Road on their way to and from French Valley.
But a year after its opening, the Clinton Keith Road extension has gone from being a convenient shortcut for residents to a traffic nightmare.
Dawn Morabe, who lives in the Foxtail community south of the intersection of Leon Road and Max Gillis Boulevard, said she has a hard time even pulling out of her housing tract during peak hours.
“We get locked in our neighborhood during certain times every day,” she said. “There’s no way for us to get out of our neighborhood.”
More concerning than the traffic, though, is the danger, Morabe said; she’s witnessed the aftermath of dozens of car accidents where the extension dead-ends at Leon Road. Clinton Keith Road, which has a 55 mph speed limit for most of its length east of the Murrieta city limit
, drops down to 45 mph around Trois Valley Street and connects to Leon Road via a sharp curve with a recommended speed of 15 mph.
That curve is made especially more dangerous by the fact that it’s off-camber, meaning the road slopes away from the turn.
“The momentum is pulling you to the outside curve, so if you’re speeding on these curves – which everybody’s doing – the potential to get into a single vehicle collision is much greater,” Morabe said.
A vehicle flew down an embankment, Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Clinton Keith Road dead end. The driver was left hospitalized.
That crash was exceptionally serious, but Morabe said there have been a lot of less severe ones.
“Some of them, you have fire and ambulance respond to, some of them you haven’t, because the people have simply abandoned their vehicle,” Morabe said. “They’ve taken out the guardrail more than once. If you drive out there, if you simply look at the concrete … there are tire skid marks, there’s vehicle parts.”
Morabe said she’s reached out to the county and been told that while county officials are aware of the problem, there isn’t yet funding to complete the Clinton Keith Road extension to Winchester Road and eliminate the issue.
And while she has been perhaps the most active in reaching out to find solutions, she’s not the only one who has noticed problems with the road extension since it opened in July.
Joyce Mohrmann, who has lived in the Foxtail community for 12 years, said she, too, had noticed a large amount of accidents.
“When these first went up, these curve signs, they were down every other day because someone had hit them,” Mohrmann said.
She was also recently involved in an accident coming out of her neighborhood because, she said, she was unable to see a fast-moving vehicle that was approaching.
“I had stopped at the stop sign, so I was going maybe 5 mph, but here she comes,” Mohrmann said. “And I hit her right behind the right rear tire, and she spun around. Thank goodness she didn’t roll over or anything.”
Speed might be behind some of the problems, but Morabe blames the off-camber curve design, especially for the single-vehicle accidents that have occurred.
“Speeding is a factor, but roadway design is a contributing factor,” Morabe said. “So if you combine the two, then you create a dangerous situation.”
Dennis Acuna, Riverside County traffic engineer, confirmed the county is “aware of the issues at this location and are currently working on a plan to enhance traffic safety.”
Acuna said the county has record of only two collisions near the intersection of Clinton Keith and Leon roads between July 2018 and August 2019 – for a total of three, counting the Oct. 22 crash, since the Clinton Keith Road extension first opened – but he said that any collisions not reported to law enforcement are not reflected in the county’s data.
“At this time we are analyzing the above collision data and preparing recommendations based on feedback we have received from the public,” Acuna said. “The recommendations will be centered on providing additional warning and guidance of the curve as well as reducing speeds for motorists approaching the subject curve.”
Morabe, for her part, said she hopes a solution comes sooner, rather than later.
“Do we have to wait for somebody to get killed?” she said.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at email@example.com.