The Point: Officers to lead RCTC’s efforts to improve mobility across Riverside County

Members of the Riverside County Transportation Commission unanimously elected Riverside County Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington to serve as the Commission’s Chair for 2019.

Also elected by unanimous vote were Wildomar Mayor Ben Benoit, who will serve as RCTC’s First Vice Chair, and Palm Desert City Council Member Jan Harnik, who was named Second Vice Chair.

An elected public servant since 1995, Washington previously served on the Temecula and Murrieta City Councils as Mayor and Council Member for both cities, serving twice as Mayor of Temecula. He is a former Navy officer and aviator and a veteran commercial airline pilot for 24 years. He is preparing for an active year as RCTC’s Chair.

“My priority for RCTC in general is to improve infrastructure within Riverside County so that our residents can move around better internally, as opposed to focusing on improvements on highways and roads that lead out of Riverside County,” he said.

Washington hopes that internal improvements will encourage residents to live, work and play within Riverside County, therefore boosting the local economy.

One project he identified as of great importance to Riverside County is the renovation of Interstate 15.

RCTC Commissioner Chuck Washington

“Revitalizing Interstate 15 requires a delicate balance of improvements—the people on the south end of the I-15 have different concerns than those who live on the north end,” he said. “But helping one end will help the other.”

In the southwestern region, Washington is optimistic that construction of the upcoming I-15/French Valley interchange will help reduce traffic congestion. Farther north, the I-15 will add two new express lanes from Cajalco Road to State Route 60.

“At RCTC, we are currently working on a plan to eventually create some form of public transportation from the I-215 corridor to the San Jacinto Valley,” he said. “We anticipate that increased public transportation can solve some of the congestion issues on I-215, as well as provide increased mobility for those living in the San Jacinto Valley.”

Also in process is the Mid County Parkway project — a transportation corridor that was proposed to decrease some of the congestion between San Jacinto and Perris — and the SR-79 Realignment project, which will provide a more direct route through Hemet, San Jacinto and Winchester.

Washington also will have strong support from his two Vice Chairs.

RCTC Commissioner Ben Benoit

First Vice Chair Benoit won election to the Wildomar City Council in 2010 and served as Mayor Pro Tem in 2011 and Mayor in 2012. He serves on two area conservation boards and understands the need to meet federal mandates while supporting local businesses.

A member of the Palm Desert City Council since 2010, Second Vice Chair Harnik also serves on the Coachella Valley Association of Governments Executive Committee, Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, the Palm Desert Noon Rotary Club, and Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce.

RCTC Commissioner Jan Harnik

Have suggestions for our new leaders for improving mobility in Riverside County? Leave us a comment on social media @theRCTC.