Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

Flurry of CIP road improvements underway in Hemet


Last updated 8/2/2019 at 12:57am

Hemet residents are finding many of their side and neighborhood streets being resurfaced, a vital east-west highway bridge being poured and Caltrans crews preparing Florida Avenue for a soon-to-be-constructed raised median traffic safety project.

Additionally, a longtime popular shopping center is undergoing a $4 million renovation with new storefronts added at Sanderson and Florida avenues.

Interim City Manager Chris Lopez with principal city engineer Robert Vestal met Wednesday with the city’s public works supervisors at the various sites to observe the progress being made on the Capital Improvement Projects throughout the municipality. The projects are long needed, according to Lopez.

The city council and staff see the projects as only the beginning of plans to revive the city, to make life easier and safer for its 85,000 residents and to attract more businesses and industry to the city.

“Today what we are conveying is three projects that ultimately show the significant investments that we are making in our community. Two of the projects we are seeing are projects the city of Hemet – our city – is undertaking as well as one project that includes a project that shows the private investment being made in the city,” Lopez said. “It shows the commitment being shown by our team, the engineering staff and other members of our team that are totally committed to improving the community and the city of Hemet. That’s what we are looking at.”

The Valley News accompanied the manager and engineer on the tour to meet with the city supervisors. The tour began with overseeing the cement wall being poured at the $1.3 million Cawston Street Bridge Replacement near Hemet Ryan Airfield. The bridge project will cost $1.3 million, mostly from Federal Highway Bridge Program funding, $830,000, which is administered by Caltrans. It is expected to be completed and open to traffic in the late fall or early winter. Hemet’s cost is $552,000 from Development Impact Funds that do not come from the General Fund.

Lopez said that much of the funding for the city’s CIP projects comes from state and federal highway matching funds and grants, but the city still has a substantial investment in the projects from the General Fund and with the collected DIF development fees. Many of the state and federal funds, once restricted by the recent Great Recession, have again become available to cities.

Currently, the city has 12 or more projects that are going on either in design, out to bid or currently under construction totalling more than $14 million from a combination of different funding sources made up of non-General Fund funding, Lopez said.

The failing Cawston Street bridge resulted in the closing of Cawston Avenue from Warren Road to the bridge since May 2018. Alternate routes to Hemet Ryan Airport were designated. Lopez and Vestal met with Jamie Cruz, city senior public works inspector; Dave Valenzuela, resident engineer; Tom Vaughn, a public works inspector, and Brian Fox, project engineer for Cozad and Fox Inc., at the site for an update on the progress.

The next stop was at the $4 million Crossroads shopping center renovation project on the northeast corner of Sanderson and Florida avenues. The project, undertaken by private developer Jeff Mayhew, is now underway and includes a complete renovation of the storefront facade, along with improved electric and water systems and a resurfaced parking lot area. The former Coco’s Restaurant and Bakery on the corner was completely razed, and a new three-unit structure is being built in its place. The walls were recently raised on the structure.

Lopez said several new businesses will be going into the center, including The Habit Burger Grill, Blaze Pizza and Mattress Firm. He said the developer is looking for other tenants for the new storefronts.

The project, according to the contractor, should be completed in the fall; meanwhile, all the stores in the center remain open to customers.

Lopez and Vestal drove to Stetson Avenue to inspect a major resurfacing project on Stetson Avenue between Palm and Sanderson avenues. The roads in the Seven Hills housing area are being resurfaced along with the senior housing neighborhood north of Devonshire Avenue and the Hemet Valley Mall.

Many of the cross streets between Stetson and Florida avenues east of Buena Vista Street have been resurfaced or are soon to be resurfaced under the 2019-2020 CIP project schedule.

While the city public works department is busy with the city CIP projects, Florida Avenue or Highway 74 is also seeing construction crews and temporary lane closures with the initial Caltrans Raised Median project now underway from Acacia Street in Hemet up to Mountain Avenue in Valle Vista.

Caltrans crews are in the process of upgrading the Florida Avenue traffic signals and widening some of the roadway to allow for the construction of the median. Caltrans agreed to install Emergency Vehicle Preemption Detectors on the traffic lights on 17 intersections to smooth the traffic flow for police and fire vehicles on emergency calls. Caltrans told the city engineers they have no plans to place raised medians in the Florida Avenue downtown Hemet area as once was feared by the merchants.

Autobahn Construction is the contractor for the $7.1 million Caltrans raised median project through the Hemet and Valle Vista Area. Another contractor will be constructing the Highway 74 raised median project from Acacia Avenue, west to the Interstate 215 in Romoland.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected]


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