It has turned vacant land into cash cows. Auto malls, shops and restaurants have popped up alongside luxury home developments. And it's even provided a smoother commute, for some.

When it opens later this year, the 210 Freeway's final eight miles will connect Fontana and San Bernardino in a project delayed for many years.

And Saturday, there will be a chance to travel the new stretch of freeway in Rialto and San Bernardino for the first time, albeit on bicycles, at the Come Play on the Freeway: The Finale event starting at 7 a.m.

In essence, the last eight miles of the $1.1billion project opens up a new transportation corridor east to the county seat. It also will be a new way for west county residents to reach the 10 Freeway in Redlands.

"It's joining all the cities together. We are going to be a regional powerhouse down that corridor," said Fontana Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren.

The completion of the freeway will provide new access, visibility and promise - promise to transform communities.

Strengthening commerce

For several years, officials in Rialto and San Bernardino have eyed the prosperity the freeway has brought to Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, and are eager to get a piece of the pie.

The freeway has been a marketing tool to lure developers to the area to provide much needed services that help keep residents and shoppers in town.

One of the largest retail developments along the 210 is Upland's Colonies Crossroads.

"It has opened up the city to areas that probably would not have existed commercially," said Warren, also Upland's deputy public works director.

Fontana has dubbed a section along the 210, from Citrus to Sierra avenues, the Miracle Mile.

Along that stretch, the freeway has brought in new residents to Sierra Lakes and new businesses, including an auto mall, a Costco, restaurants and shops, including Home Depot and Lowe's. The Sierra San Antonio Medical Plaza is also there.

In 2001, when a portion of the 210 opened between Rancho Cucamonga and Sierra Avenue, Fontana collected $11million in sales tax.

This year, Fontana is approaching $25million in sales tax and projecting $29million next year. Much of that growth is from the north end where the 210 cuts through the city.

What has led to that sales tax opportunity and viable retail opportunities is the influx of people who come to Fontana via the 210.

The completion of the 210 to the west connected Fontana to the San Gabriel Valley, making it a bedroom community, said Mayor Mark Nuaimi.

It was a city where larger homes were available for lower mortgages. Its trade-off: a little bit longer commute.

New residents have come, and property values have skyrocketed.

"With growth in property value came growth in personal incomes," Nuaimi said.

"We had more people coming with more disposable income, and that created a Miracle Mile," he said.

Extending the freeway east opens Fontana to even more potential residents, he said.

Minutes away from the freeway and just across the street from shopping is the upscale residential development Sierra Lakes.

Some of the adjoining businesses have freeway frontage - a hot commodity when trying to attract residents and shoppers. The freeway makes it easier to see the shops and access them to do business.

Other cities such as Rialto and San Bernardino have taken notice.

"As you look at the 210 corridor going to Rialto and San Bernardino, there are opportunities for that same thing to occur," said John Husing, a Redlands-based economist who focuses on the Inland Empire.

A massive retail and housing project called Renaissance Rialto is poised to replace the city's airport near the 210.

City leaders hope the project brings a burst of economic activity coupled with sales tax to the city.

That project combined with others accessible from the 210 could lead to a rebirth of the city in image and its future.

Bringing retail to areas has helped cities boost tax revenues and homeowners be closer to needed services, said developer Randall Lewis, executive vice president of Lewis Group of Companies.

The firm has developed Sierra Lakes homes and shops just north of the 210. Lewis has proposed Renaissance Rialto.

"It's been a big asset in terms of opening up the market to commuters from the west, and it's also had a benefit that it's made it easier to attract retail that wants to be at a freeway location," Lewis said.

The freeway has also been an asset to the entertainment industry.

Traffic relief

A stressed 10 Freeway will get some relief with the 210 running parallel.

The 210 can also help eliminate the stop-and-go traffic now on city streets.

"My husband and I love the 210. It's because we used to have to take Base Line (Road) or Foothill (Boulevard) until we could pick up the 210," said Marcia Tuzzolino, a Rancho Cucamonga resident.

"It took at least a half-hour off our travel time," she said.

To the San Fernando Valley, it now takes her 45 minutes. Without the 210 reaching Rancho Cucamonga, it took twice as long, she said.

"I especially like it because I can see my granddaughter quicker," Tuzzolino said.

The freeway will not just be moving people, but goods.

"Mostly what it means is an increase in the efficiency in movement of transportation systems," Husing said.

The route will help goods get distributed from manufacturing and logistics centers in the county.

"From a retail and service point of view, it's going to be a real plus," said Bill Carney, president and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, a nonprofit regional economic development organization.

"The biggest beneficiary of this is going to be San Bernardino and its environs because it's going to bring people directly into the city," he said.

The freeway will encourage new development and help revitalize older corridors, he said.

San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris acknowledges more people will use the 210 as a gateway into the city.

"That's a blessing, and it's also of some concern," he said.

"The blessing is we will have a corridor of commerce that will come to us and not struggle with the roadway system."

But his concern is where the 210 hooks up with Highway 30, a freeway at that point that is two lanes in each direction, creating a bottleneck.

"That's going to create some heartache and no doubt some backup until we can expand the existing 30 to more lanes," Morris said.

Still, San Bernardino is blessed with more ingress and egress points than any other city in the region, he noted.

Officials in Redlands and Highland, in particular, plan to take advantage of the opportunities made to other cities via the 210.

They believe the freeway will make their cities more attractive for commercial development and already have projects in the pipeline.

But heading east from Rialto is the urban core of the county and not much vacant land to develop, Husing said.

"Traditionally, when you see a segment of a freeway open like this, one of the things you tend to see is an acceleration of housing development," the economist said.

"However, in the East Valley as opposed to the West End, there is less land available to do that."

Not all communities may want to see more shops, people and traffic.

"The one community that will probably change as a result of this will probably be Muscoy, which has been a relatively rural area," Husing said.

"If you are a person who wanted a rural lifestyle anywhere along that corridor, it's gone," he said.

Staff writer Leonor Vivanco can be reached by e-mail at, or by phone at (909) 386-3875.