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91 Freeway expansion leaves homes in limbo

October 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Judy Le Master's mobile home is far enough from the wall separating it from the 91 Freeway. But she can't help but wonder if her property would be one of the ones that may be purchased by the Riverside County Transportation Commission to make way for the expansion of the freeway.

"If they do take them I wish they'd take mine, because I don't want to be right up against the freeway wall," said Master of Corona.

Starting next year, construction will begin to widen the freeway between Riverside and Orange County.

The 91 Freeway will be expanded to include an extra lane of traffic in each direction and improved access on and off the freeway. It will also add express lanes along the 91 Freeway from State Route 241 in Yorba Linda to Pierce Street in Riverside. The commission is heading up the $1.3 billion project.

"Much of it has been outlined, it's a design build project, so we'll be doing a procurement soon where major design build firms will compete to do it, similar to what's going on in Los Angeles on the I-405," said John Standiford, deputy director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

It's a massive undertaking that will require the acquisition of property near the chronically congested freeway.

For resident Victor Quintana, Master's neighbor, that was cause for concern.

"We've been kind of wondering what's going to be happening, but we just attended a meeting last Thursday and they said it wasn't going to affect any of the property," Quintana said.

The properties belonging to Quintana and Master are safe from the upcoming demolition. However, the commission may need to acquire 75 properties in addition to the 27 it has already bought before construction can begin.

"That is one of the big challenges of the project is when you widen a freeway, you end up affecting a lot of properties that is adjacent to the area," Standiford said. "This area has been developed, so there are a lot of properties both commercial and residential that need to be impacted."

The commission said that if they acquire a property, by law they must provide assistance to the property owner. Imminent domain will be used as a last resort, it said.

Construction is projected to begin next fall and wrap up by 2017.

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