Tag Archives: Perris

Is RCTC Purposefully Killing Rail Transit to the San Jacinto Valley?

Earlier this year, the Riverside County Transportation Commission joined several transportation agencies around the state to gripe about the uncertainty of revenue projections due to the recent gas tax swap formula that has resulted in a lower gas tax this fiscal year. This should come as no surprise, as the vast majority of Riverside County’s Measure A funds are being poured into building wider roads throughout the region. With only 15% of the money dedicated to transit, it should be imperative that they do everything possible to stretch those dollars.

riversiderail
A screenshot of the map included in the 2005 Riverside County Commuter Rail study shows potential routes and options for rail service. Image: RCTC, edited by author.

Although Measure A sends the vast majority of revenue raised toward building wider roads, Riverside County voters also expected some increase in rail service when they voted to reauthorize it in 2002. In 2005,  RCTC delivered a report on some options for increasing rail connectivity in the county. Out of that report, a further (peak commuter-focused) extension of the currently ongoing Perris Valley Line extension an additional seven miles east to Hemet/San Jacinto* was rated very favorably. That extension would also serve an area similar to that of the planned Mid County Parkway, potentially reducing the need for RCTC to build another freeway through the center of a disadvantaged community.

However, buried deep in the Environmental Impact Report/Statement for the SR-79 realignment is a ticking time bomb against the prospect of rail service ever reaching San Jacinto. In 2013 [PDF, page vi (12)], the report had this to say:

The design options would include a near-grade crossing over the San Jacinto Branch Line with embankment and structural section for SR 79. The near-grade crossing over the existing railroad would be approximately 0.9 to 2.4 m (3 to 8 ft) above grade. (Emphasis added.)

In other words, at the point where the realigned highway would cross the railroad, it would be at a height of less than ten feet above the rails. This dismal synopsis was repeated in the Recirculated EIR/EIS [PDF, page 3-167 (243)] that went out earlier this year. For those of you keeping track at home, no trains can fit under bridges that low (not even a manned rail rider on the shorter side). Section 9.1 of CPUC General Order 26-D says that it’ll be at least six feet too low and based on Metrolink’s dimensions (PDF, page 3), their equipment needs a minimum of 16 feet of clearance above the rails. (Metrolink is the logical service provider for this extension as they would already be operating to Perris.)

So in short, despite the fact that RCTC already identified the San Jacinto extension as being one of the most viable and cost-effective options for rail service expansions in Riverside County, RCTC already owning the line, and RCTC leading on the SR-79 realignment project, RCTC did not stipulate that their own freeway construction would need to provide adequate clearance for any future trains that they would plan on their own tracks. That is a breakdown of colossal proportions.

Further on, the report does acknowledge that rail transit has been considered on the corridor. However, they consider constructing overpasses to make sure that train service on an existing line remains viable to be the responsibility of the rail project, not the responsibility of freeway that is severing the rail access:

In the future, if a separate project is developed that adds passenger rail service, a grade-separation project would need to be considered.

In short, RCTC is shooting a worthy project in the foot. The only question is are they doing it on purpose or is this merely a (massive) oversight? Unfortunately, we may never know. However, Caltrans does still have to issue final approval and building a(nother!) freeway runs counter their recent admission that building freeways doesn’t help traffic at all. Instead, Caltrans needs to be more proactive about alternatives, in this case by putting their foot down and not allowing a viable rail transit line to be severed by a freeway. (They really should go a step further and require that the rail extension to Temecula via the SR-79 alignment that was also identified in the RCTC rail study to be built concurrent with the freeway.)

Failure to do so makes it much harder for the all levels of government to meet legislative goals focused on reducing GHGs, VMT, and disparate impacts of transportation dollar allocations, especially in the Inland Empire. Cities along the route of both freeways (realigned SR-79 and the Mid County Parkway) are already looking forward to the freeways “spurring development”, but injecting two new freeways into the San Jacinto Valley without also upgrading transit is all but guaranteed to ensure that no TOD will be built. Instead, there would be more sprawling development in what is already one of the most sprawled regions of the country [PDF]. That doesn’t have to happen, but it requires Caltrans and RCTC officials doing the right thing and lead.

*For those who may feel tempted to call the area rural, including its own residents, remember that were it not for RCTC and SCAG, Hemet alone is populated enough to require its own metropolitan planning organization under federal law and San Jacinto is really close.

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Facing Funding Shortfall, Riverside County Presses On with More Roads

Even as Riverside County officials bemoan the recent downward spike for repairing roads in revenue, they’re digging in and getting ready to fight for a $1.7 billion, sprawl-inducing, LOS-based road expansion project after a lawsuit was filed to stop it last week. It is but one part of a long list of other expansions that the folks in Riverside are currently working on that will add hundreds of lane-miles to a heavily car-centric transportation system that is already just two steps above failing.

The general footprint of the Preferred Alternative for the MCP would pass within mere yards of three schools in the City of Perris. Image: Google Maps.
The approximate footprint of the Preferred Alternative for the MCP would pass mere yards away from three schools in the City of Perris. Image: Google Maps/author.

In an ironic twist or perhaps an apology in advance for its impacts, the project has been dubbed the “Mid County Parkway”. Current plans call for it to head east from I-215 through the City of Perris and terminate in San Jacinto, 16 miles away. Along its course, it would route a projected 80,000 or more vehicles a day to within a stones throw of several sensitive receptor sites, including some  elementary schools and parks. In addition to being more than double the current counts, a significant portion of that number would likely be some of the 14,000 or more trucks a day accessing warehousing sites like the World Logistics Center that are currently proposed or under construction in the area. The construction of the freeway would also disrupt [PDF] a couple planned healthy transportation corridors [PDF] without providing any acceptable mitigation.

With the certified Final Environmental Impact Report in hand as of their April board meeting [PDF] and barring any action by the courts, the Riverside County Transportation Commission is hoping to soon begin design work and the acquisition of any properties in the way of injecting a six-lane freeway through the heart of some of the poorest neighborhoods in Riverside County. In an all-too-familiar narrative, this planned freeway has been curtailed. Earlier plans [PDF] called for it to also extend 16 miles westward to connect with I-15 near Corona, but those appear to be shelved for at least the near term after opposition from residents [PDF] of the more affluent communities along that route.

Meanwhile, despite high demand by Riverside County residents in the area for more transit options, decade-old plans to extend the Metrolink [PDF] Perris Valley Line (and potentially other rail transit services) to the very same San Jacinto along an existing rail continue to languish. Not only would that project achieve the same goal at a vastly lower cost than building the MCP, it would also help contain growth in the area that is threatening farmlands and open space. As Caltrans seeks to realign toward being more multimodal and develop an inclusive transportation network, their biggest hurdle may not come from within, but from other agencies proposing projects like this.

Weekly Review

With a new year comes new plans and development. As we head into the second full week of the year, a lot of exciting things are already shaping up for you to get involved in. Here go a couple.

Jurupa Valley General Plan
The City of Jurupa Valley is holding several meetings concerning the completion of an Interim General Plan.

The City of Jurupa Valley has had a challenging history in its short life. Right after coming into existence, Jerry Brown yanked a major funding source from them and there was concern that the City might be quickly dissolved back into a pocket of Riverside County. Nevertheless, they’ve managed to survive and as they look to celebrate a fifth birthday soon, they’re al looking to become more permanent and want to plan what they’ll be in the future. The City is looking for guidance and input as they seek to develop an Interim General Plan. They will be holding several meetings over the next four weeks, so check out the list [PDF] and attend the one that works best for you.

Perris Optimus Logistics Center DEIR

TODAY [PDF] is the last day to submit any comments you might have to the City of Perris that pertain to the planned Perris Logistics Center in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Report [PDF] for the project. In typical fashion, the plan is to scatter stoplights, dedicated turn lanes, and other similar “improvements”. Stuff that is patently bad for bicycling. Of great concern are the intersections where the roads will balloon in size. That’s not good for speeds and definitely not good for fostering a comfortable riding environment.

But even more concerning is the callous disregard for the City’s Trails Master Plan [PDF], which includes bikeways on many of the streets identified in the EIR analysis as needing widening improvements. What’s more, the traffic analysis was done by the same consultant group that did the Trails Master Plan. It seems like they should have the files on their computer still since the City approved it not even two years ago. All they had to do was look back at the document to realize “oh crap, maybe this isn’t a great idea” for the majority of the stuff that they put in the Traffic Analysis of the EIR.

No surprise, that conversation apparently didn’t occur and without robust standards, we have to fight to get anything beyond BIK LANs next to an expressway. Hopefully, Caltrans develops competent standards for Class IV cycletracks, especially for applications when one is necessary versus using a painted Class II lane. The VMT-based traffic analysis standards are also something to look forward to and will hopefully help alleviate this kind of nonsense for future projects.

Share Info!

That’s all for today, but there’s almost certainly more going on. If there are any projects or planning that you know is occurring, get in touch and share it! One that we’re looking out for is the  Draft Environmental Impact Report for the forthcoming World Logistics Center project that is under consideration for the City of Moreno Valley. That document is due within the next month or so. At that time, it will be interesting to see what comes out of that as far as traffic mitigation goes, though history hasn’t shown the consultants who do most of the traffic analyses for this area to be particularly inclined to do anything beyond throw around traffic signals and turn lanes. But we’ll see for sure soon. Until then, ciao!

Update: The City of Chino is also preparing to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for a project being dubbed the “Brewer Site”. More information on that project is to be found at the link above. This is an exciting new time for projects like this since the traffic impacts must now  be evaluated using VMT instead of LOS and plopping houses in the IE for people to drive to LA/OC/(SD) will require far stronger mitigation measures for local trips and really an opportunity to get some innovative new solutions. So check it out and get some comments in, even if only a few lines.

Diving Into the ATP

Caltrans released the staff list of recommendations for this year’s round of the Active Transportation Program funding cycle last week. In it were some winners and others for us out here in the Inland Empire.

The Active Transportation Program combined several fragmented pots of money allotted for several different years into one single feeding frenzy. Emphasis was placed on projects that benefit disadvantaged communities and Safe Routes to School and the proposals delivered.The vast majority of the proposals purported to tick one or both of those boxes, which led to some noggin scratching at some of the “disadvantaged” communities on the initial list.

Nevertheless, lots of good did come out of it. Without making this a publication to rival the length of Atlas Shrugged, a brief look at the local projects competitive at the State level [PDF] is prepared below. It’s organized by county and is based off preliminary staff recommendations. Formal adoption of the awards for the State/Rural level will occur on the 20th, after which everything that didn’t get funded goes down to the MPO level. For the Inland Empire, that means SCAG will be doling out its portion of funds to the remaining projects.

Riverside County
  • County Department of Public Health
    •  SRTS Active Transportation Program City of Perris $350k
    • SRTS City of Jurupa Valley $500k
  • Jurupa ValleySRTS Troth St. $627k
    • Pyrite St. SRTS $665k
  • Moreno Valley – Citywide SRTS Ped Facility Improvements $1.64mn
  • Perris
    • Murrieta Road Ped Improvements $1.10mn
    • Perris Valley Storm Drain Channel Trail $1.20mn
  • Riverside – Downtown and Adjoining Areas Bicycle and Ped Improvements $877k
  • San Jacinto – Safe & Active San Jacinto SRTS $989k

County IE total*: $7,950,000

San Bernardino County
No access
Colton’s award will allow them to identify opportunities to improve the connectivity of the facilities in the City, such as a connection here to the trail.
  • Colton – Active Transportation Plan $265k
  • Omnitrans ** – West Valley Corridor Connector $3.5mn
  • Ontario – SRTS Active Transportation: Bon View, Corona, Euclid, and Vineyard Avenue Elementary Schools $1.16mn
  • Rialto – SRTS Plan $1.45mn
  • SanBAG
    • SanBAG SRTS Plan $400k
    • Metrolink Station Accessibility Improvement $4.68mn
  • Yucaipa – Safe Routes to Calimesa and Wildwood Elementary Schools $872k

County IE total*: $12,327,000

*Not included in these counts were awards to cities outside of the area generally considered to be the “Inland Empire”, which can admittedly be somewhat nebulous. If all projects are included from all areas of both counties, Riverside County total would be $21,931,000 and the San Bernardino County total $13,422,000.

**Though listed as part of the county ‘VAR’ on the Caltrans worksheet, Omnitrans has been included as part of San Bernardino County totals because it operates almost exclusively within communities in San Bernardino County, with only two or three lines entering Los Angeles or Riverside counties. Without the Omnitrans award (but including all awards within the County), the San Bernardino County total would be $9,922,000.