Valley News -

Project 371 meets with Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor representatives

 

Last updated 12/7/2018 at 2:28am

Diane Sieker

Bud Elmore explains the purpose of Project 371 to Supervisor Chuck Washington's legislative assistant Brian Tisdale at the meeting Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Anza.

Project 371 founder Bud Elmore and several concerned Anza Valley residents met with Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington's legislative assistant Brian Tisdale Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Anza.

A perceived increase in tragic and deadly accidents on state Route 371 has motivated Elmore to become a community activist, determined to do something about the statistics. His wife Lorraine was involved in an accident Monday, Sept. 17, and she is still recovering from her injuries. 

State Route 371 serves as a short connector from state Route 79 near Aguanga to state Route 74 near Anza. The heavily used shortcut connects southwestern Riverside County to the Coachella Valley via Route 74. The road was part of state Route 71 until 1973, when Route 79 and Route 71 were co-signed from Aguanga to Temecula. In 1974, the portion of Route 71 from Temecula to Corona along Interstate 15's current alignment was deleted, and the orphaned route from Aguanga to Anza was reassigned as state Route 371.

Route 371 is the main highway crossing through the communities of Anza and Aguanga and connects both towns in unincorporated Riverside county. Route 371 crosses through the private community of Lake Riverside Estates, as well as the Cahuilla Indian Reservation. Because of the recent increase in traffic, this highway has been the scene of many accidents with numerous fatalities in recent years.

Elmore said he is gathering support to advocate for more law enforcement presence and much-needed highway improvements by Caltrans.

He opened the meeting by addressing his concerns and frustrations to Tisdale. 

"We've already met with CHP, Caltrans, and those guys... they have our attention," Elmore said. "We'd like your support from your end, as we were advised to work up the chain of command."

Elmore said that he was frustrated by the response by other agencies.

"It seems to stem from budgetary problems," he said, and outdated data.

He touched upon his quest for more data in regards to the numbers of vehicles using the highway and described several projects that can improve the road and make it safer.

Residents expressed their frustrations with the dangerous conditions presented by reckless drivers using Route 371 as a shortcut. 

"The biggest problem we have is – not enough turnouts for the impatient people that travel this corridor between Palm Desert and Temecula, the improper placement of turnout lanes, the lack of markings," Elmore said.

"Where we used to have some passing areas," Mary Gardiner from Lake Riverside Estates said. "They put a double yellow line."

This change was made just a few weeks ago, Gardiner said.

One resident complained, "I attended the AVMAC meeting with Caltrans reps, and they were promoting "No on Prop 6," saying the money would make improvements possible, but the state has been collecting that money for a year, and there seems to be no improvements planned for the 371 and any work to be done could be a decade in the future."

Tisdale said that many of the issues stem from a lack of population – and tax base – in the Valley. It's about the numbers, he said.

"The supervisor will fight for a traffic study and a count," he said. Tisdale assured the group that Washington will do all he can, but there are many more things the Project 371 can do as well.

He advised them to contact the state senator and assemblyman with their concerns.

"I have a meeting coming up in December, with the San Gorgonio (CHP) station. They are holding a task force meeting to look at traffic safety in their area. I'm going to be on that task force, so I'll bring it up, but remember CHP is only enforcement," Tisdale said.

Resident Jill Holt asked about deploying a cardboard CHP cruiser decoy to make people slow down, and this was met with approval all around. Tisdale advised the group to ask CHP if this was an option, and Elmore said that it may be a signage issue and that he was looking into it. This method has been used successfully in other jurisdictions to slow traffic.

Plans were discussed to reinstate the passive radar speed sign that was removed from the 45-mph zone through Anza. Tisdale said he would look into it. The group told him how effective the flashing sign had been when it was in place.

Ideas ranged from placing crosses at fatality accident sites along the highway and rumble strips in town to decals for local cars advising of dash cams. The alarming incidence of accidents and even deaths have everyone concerned.

"The biggest cause of death is behavior," Tisdale said.

If the sign said 45 mph but they want to go 80 mph and crash, that's behavior, he said.

It was agreed that CHP enforcement is one of the most effective methods to control reckless drivers.

"If we had more presence up here, that would be great," Elmore said.

"Washington will support anything to make it better and safer," Tisdale assured the group. "Obviously we will support more CHP and more law enforcement. The people that drive this are your assembly members and state senator.

"You'll get support from county transportation," he said. "You'll get support from Washington's office, supporting more funds, supporting a study."

Diane Sieker

Supervisor Chuck Washington's legislative assistant Brian Tisdale inspects data shown to him by Bud Elmore at the Project 371 meeting at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Anza.

The meeting ended on a positive note, with Tisdale carrying away an understanding of residents' concerns about highway safety on Route 371. 

Anyone who observes unsafe and reckless driving on Route 371 can report it by calling 911. The CHP requested that drivers get a license plate number, location, observations and description of the vehicle. With this information, the CHP said they will send out a warning letter that states that the offending vehicle was observed driving unsafely and list the possible repercussions. Generally, they send these letters out when the violation occurs outside city limits since inside is the primary responsibility of the local police, but exceptions can be made, CHP officials said.

For more information about Project 371, visit http://www.project371.org.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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