In Riverside County, a proposed highway project is facing opposition from locals and environmental groups. The Riverside County Transportation Commission (“RCTC”) approved the Mid-County Parkway EIR last month, allowing the project to proceed to the next stage. This freeway would be an entirely new road connecting the I-215 in Perris and the SR-79 in San Jacinto, and would span about 16 miles. More information can be found in the complete Environmental Impact Report.
A lawsuit was swiftly filed by environmentalist groups, who are questioning the necessity of the proposed freeway, in light of the wildlife sanctuaries that would be threatened by its construction. The lawsuit names at least two endangered species that can be found in the San Jacinto Valley, which would be directly impacted by the project.
Residential and commercial properties could also be affected by the project, which may be acquired by the State through the use of eminent domain. The Press Enterprise reports that almost 400 people may be displaced in order to build the Mid-County Parkway and the RCTC is preparing residents for potential property takings:
“We’ve been very proactive in explaining the potential right-of-way impacts of the project,” Standiford, [John Standiford, RCTC deputy executive director] said. “We will comply with state and federal laws regarding acquiring right of way.”
The lawsuit against the project further alleges that construction of the 6-lane freeway, is, in addition to not meeting standards for eco-friendliness, is not cost-effective, and will discourage public transportation development. In addition, it claims that future traffic forecasts for the area found in the EIR are overstated.
According to the project website, there is a pressing need for an east-west freeway, as none currently exists, because it’s considered an effective solution for Riverside County’s traffic concerns.