Ribbon-cuttings that celebrate grand openings can be dry affairs, but Wildomar put itself on the map Friday with an event that attracted hundreds.
Wildomar City Manager Gary Nordquist asked this reporter, “Have you ever seen anything like this for a bridge?”
“No, can’t say that I have.”
The ribbon-cutting Friday morning on Catt Road at the 15 Friday celebrated the $23 million Clinton Keith Bridge widening project that saw the overpass expanded, the installation of improved traffic signals, freeway on- and offramps widened, as well as new sidewalks installed. The project has taken 16 months of construction and is now in its final weeks.
With a population of just over 32,000, Wildomar is a small city. But Friday’s event was huge, and many who attended expressed big approval with the project that was funded largely by developer fees.
While city and county officials applauded a job well done, it’s the alleviation of horrible gridlock at the bridge that many are celebrating.
Even Murrieta City Councilman Randon Lane, who attended Friday's ribbon-cutting, quipped he's thrilled about the improvements because his wife had his ear about the traffic problems at the interchange.
Although the project still has a few weeks before construction crews are completely gone, the gridlock has nearly disappeared. According to Dennis Green, a consultant on the expansion project, the remaining work includes final construction for freeway on- and offramps, including the installation of ramp meters, and further syncing of traffic signals on the bridge to ensure optimal and safe traffic flow.
“We should be out of here in two weeks,” Green said.
Wildomar residents can expect a separate road improvement project to take place in the coming months near the freeway interchange. The Clinton Keith Road/Hidden Springs intersection will see left-turn signals installed. The project for one of the city’s most dangerous intersections is going out to bid and is expected to wrap by year’s end.
All these improvements have Wildomar city officials giddy.
“It’s going to explode in this area,” said Wildomar Mayor Tim Walker of development on the stretch of Clinton Keith Road dubbed the Miracle Mile.
According to Matt Bassi, planning director for Wildomar, several projects are either in the works or looking like they might come forward. For example, an application for a mixed-used development at Catt Road and the 15 Freeway has been submitted. The project, currently known as Westport Promenade, includes office space, retail, and condominiums, Bassi said.
Grading on the west side of the 15 Freeway at Hidden Springs has piqued some residents’ interest, but Bassi said an application for approximately 35,000 square feet of retail space that was approved by the county before Wildomar incorporated is still in a holding pattern. However, officials are hopeful. Wildomar City Manager Gary Nordquist said the applicant on the project, David Hornstein, would not move forward on a project until the bridge work was complete.
Now that it's nearly done, “we’ll see,” Nordquist said.
In recent weeks, the Wildomar Planning Commission also voted to recommend that city council approve a development agreement with CV Communities for 84 single-family homes to be built off Hidden Springs Road, between Clinton Keith and Catt roads.
And of course work is well underway on the Oak Springs Ranch project next to Inland Valley Medical Center. That development from San Diego-based GLJ Partners includes a 312-unit luxury apartment complex targeting the nearby medical community.
This is all music to the ears of Tony Casarez, the director of operations for Clinton Keith Chevron.
“We’re extremely excited and looking forward to the future,” he said.
Casarez, who lives in Temecula, said in years’ past residents avoided the Clinton Keith interchange due to traffic congestion, and many still do because they aren’t yet aware of the improvements. He thinks as word spreads, his Chevron station located there will benefit.
“We haven’t seen the full effect yet,” he said.
But Casarez is banking on big numbers. Improved traffic flow in and out of local businesses like Chevron was part of the bridge expansion project, and Casarez has been working on adding services for customers, including being the first in Southwest Riverside County to offer ethanol for motorists. Click here to read more about that story.
Perhaps a more important – and potentially life-saving – part of the improvement project is the ability of ambulances and paramedics to gain quicker access to Inland Valley Medical Center located just off the east side of the 15 freeway and Clinton Keith Road.
“Now all of us old people don’t have to worry about dying on the bridge,” Walker joked.
Green said that while some residents and businesses may have grumbled about the traffic delays during construction, the concerns were very easy to smooth over.
“Everyone worked with us,” he said. “I’m very happy with it.”
Note: According to Wildomar City Councilman Ben Benoit, the cost of Friday's celebration was paid for by local sponsors.