Friday, June 15, 2007

Inland Cities Eagar For 210 extention to Open (LA Times June 11, 2007)

Inland cities eager for 210 extension to open

Rialto and San Bernardino expect a commercial boost when the freeway is completed by the end of the year. But some residents are uneasy.
By Rong-Gong Lin II, Times Staff Writer
June 11, 2007

Although the opening of the final leg of the 210 Freeway through Rialto and San Bernardino is still several months away, merchants and city officials are gleeful at the thought of new businesses already being planned along the roadway and for another route to the Los Angeles area.

"It can't happen too soon," said Midge Zupanic, president of the Rialto Chamber of Commerce, which is so happy at the prospect that it will hold its 100th anniversary black-tie gala on an unopened portion of the roadway on June 22.

The $233-million, 8-mile extension is scheduled to open by the end of the year. The Foothill Freeway now extends 67 miles from Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley through Pasadena, Arcadia, Azusa and San Dimas along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. It ends abruptly in Fontana, not its ultimate destination of San Bernardino. About a three-quarter-mile portion of the extension is open.

The extension will link the 210 Freeway to Interstate 215 and the present California 30, giving many San Bernardino-area residents what they have wanted for decades — relief from the congested San Bernardino Freeway and an alternate route to Los Angeles. The effect on surface streets will be mixed, residents say. North-south streets congested with cars now headed for Interstate 10 should see an improvement, but streets near the new freeway should see the flow increase.

Significant work still needs to be done, including finishing on- and offramps and erecting freeway signs. On one stretch of the freeway Friday, 50-foot-long, 3-foot-diameter steel tubes rested in an eastbound carpool lane, waiting to be formed into an overhead sign. Workers were still digging drainage ditches and were gluing Botts Dots lane markers onto the roadway with a sticky, black ooze.

Not everyone welcomes the extension, however. Some worry that the extension will only add to surface-street congestion and change the nature of their cities.

"You'll get trucks coming and going," said William Avery, 75, of Rialto, "which is highly undesirable and dangerous."

Planning for the Foothill Freeway began in 1948. But the portion proposed for San Bernardino County languished unbuilt for decades because of a lack of funds and priorities that put roads elsewhere. But San Bernardino County voters approved a half-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax in 1989 that provided the money. Nine years later, construction began on a 20-mile leg, from La Verne to Fontana, that opened in 2002.

Work on the last stretch started in 2003. The cost of the entire 28-mile project is estimated to be about $1.2 billion, most of it paid for by the sales tax, said Cheryl Donahue, spokeswoman for San Bernardino Associated Governments.

Despite the lack of an official opening date, many residents are happy it will be soon.

"Beautiful! I'm excited," said San Bernardino florist Edwin Alvarado, who hopes to see an end to the 15- to 20-minute delays he says he now encounters on busy surface streets when making deliveries.

"Any time you have a main artery coming through your city like that, it has to stimulate your economy," said San Bernardino barber Jerome Lewis.

In neighboring Rialto, some civic leaders hope the city can now change its reputation as largely a bedroom community by adding restaurants and commercial establishments. Even a Target store has so far eluded Rialto, though the city is home to the store's regional distribution center.

And they say many residents are happy they won't have to drive as far to get to major businesses and will have a wider selection of good restaurants nearby.

"You can't be a bedroom community and not have the things people want — the upscale amenities and the restaurants we want," Zupanic said. Developers are already sketching plans to develop some of the vacant land surrounding the freeway extension. Zupanic said 50,000 new homes are being considered for a city whose population is 100,000.

Preliminary plans are being made to transform 112 acres near Pepper Avenue into a development with as many as 236 single-family homes, 550 apartments and more than 340,000 square feet of commercial space, said Peter Templeton, one of those working on the idea.

The opportunities for changing the face of Rialto are dramatic, he said. The northern part of the city through which the 210 Freeway extension runs is mostly barren, with rock-crushing operations and sand and gravel pits.

"It was the backside of town for all these cities," Templeton said. "You build a new freeway there, and all of a sudden you build new opportunities and a bright future."

Earline Black, 59, said she savored the idea of strolling down the street from her Rialto home of 30 years, browsing at a Barnes & Noble bookstore or a JCPenney. Now, she says, she often must make shopping trips 22 miles west to Montclair or 14 miles east to Redlands.

But other residents have mixed feelings.

Beverly Clayton, 60, said she would enjoy the new freeway route when she visits family in Pasadena, but worries about increased truck traffic near her home. She is also not happy about the idea of apartments being built close to her neighborhood of single-family homes.

"It's a Catch-22," said Clayton, a retiree. "I love where I am. I love my home. It took me 30 years, and I don't want anything to come in and disturb that, and decrease my property values."

Across the street, Avery agreed with Clayton's concerns. He also hopes, however, that the freeway extension will boost the local economy.

The retired engineer said there wasn't much of a job market in San Bernardino and Rialto. "It'll get better when they build businesses along the 210. They're going to get more sales tax monies, and this whole city will make major changes when that occurs."

Such changes have benefited Fontana, Rialto's neighbor to the west, city officials there say. When that city gained access to the freeway in 2002, Fontana was opened up to San Gabriel Valley homeowners seeking to upsize their homes, said Fontana Mayor Mark Nuaimi.

"We saw quite an influx of folks moving down east on the 210," Nuaimi said. "With increased property values came increased family income and commercial development."

Since 2002, he said, major shopping centers have sprouted near the freeway, attracting auto dealerships, home improvement stores, and, last November, a Costco.

As a result, sales tax revenue for San Bernardino County's second-largest city has doubled in five years, Nuaimi said. Money has been freed up to invest in a new library and 40-acre regional park.

"All of that is tied from the 210 and connecting folks to the west," said Fontana Mayor Mark Nuaimi. "It's really been a major lifeblood for us."

But some warn that the freeway extension will put more pressure on existing roads like California 30 and the San Bernardino Freeway heading east toward Palm Springs, which have not yet been widened to accommodate growing traffic. California 30 will lose that designation and will become part of the 210 when the extension opens.

"Everyone's excited about it until they come to the reality — and I've been saying this for years — of … all the additional traffic," said Ross Jones, the mayor of Highland, just east of San Bernardino. "Locals are going to have to stick to surface streets." The problem, Jones said, is that these freeway improvements should have been completed two decades ago.

"That's part of the transportation problem in California: We under-design and under-plan for the growth and the need," Jones said. "Therefore, all our freeways are crammed because the demand just continues to increase."

BS Ranch Perspective

Everyone is in a hurry to get home!! They don't have time to stop off the freeway and get anything but maybe a tank of gas!! So, the Commercial that they are waiting for might just be a pipe dream, Most of Highland Ave. Dried up of the businesses that were on there and they are just now starting to come back and that is only because they are dreaming that the new extension of the 210 will bring the business back. But what took the business away from Highland.

I will tell you it was the Completion of the Crosstown Freeway, that is going to be also known as the 210 Freeway or 30, Cross town Freeway, Unless the Crosstown ends at the 215 Freeway. I believe that if the people live beyond Rialto they will drive beyond Rialto, and that will be that!! say good by to them unless the people that they are talking about are the ones that move to Rialto to live. that is different. If that is the case then they are here and they are stuck.

BS Ranch

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