By Rocky Salmon

Hoping to begin building a new link for motorists from Interstate 215 to Winchester Road, Riverside County officials are proposing to begin eminent-domain proceedings.

The land is needed to turn Clinton Keith Road from a dotted line on a map into a six-lane major thoroughfare. The county has been in negotiations for two years with property owners. Construction can begin once the county has the land.

“Our bid prices for the project are coming in 20 to 25 percent less than a year ago,” said George Johnson, director of the county’s transportation department. “That’s why we want to make sure we have land in our possession. If we time this right, we can take advantage of this good bidding market we are in right now.”

The county has proposed punching through Clinton Keith Road from I-215 to Winchester Road since 1980. A lawsuit stalled the original plans.

County officials resurrected the road-extension project as the French Valley and Winchester areas became swamped in rooftops. After a series of public meetings, the county decided on a 3.4-mile route that will take motorists from the freeway over a creek and connect with Winchester Road.

The project, which will turn the road into six lanes, would have cost $35 million in 2003. It is now expected to cost $70 million. A community facilities district will be created covering properties in the area to fund the project.

The county used the same program to fund the Domenigoni Parkway and the Scott Road widening.

Two years ago, county officials began negotiating with property owners to get the land needed for the project. Johnson said the county did its best to negotiate prices but could not reach an agreement with 11 property owners.

The Tuesday vote would set in motion eminent-domain proceedings to get the land at a cost of $2.8 million.

Johnson said there is no construction date yet because the county is waiting for the right moment to issue bonds to fund the construction. Property owners will pay off the bond.

“We really don’t have a date because of the economic uncertainty we are in right now,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to overburden the landowners.”

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