County Transportation Commission Accepts EIR For SB-To-Redlands Rail Line

SAN BERNARDINO—(March 4) San Bernardino County’s transportation agency this week approved the environmental impact report for the Redlands Passenger Rail Project, clearing the way for the final design and construction of the undertaking, which is estimated to cost about $242 million.
“After years of studying alternatives to reduce San Bernardino County travel congestion, we have approval to move forward on a passenger rail solution that will connect residents and businesses with systems across the state,” said SANBAG Board President L. Dennis Michael.
SANBAG, an acronym for San Bernardino Associated Governments, is the county’s transportation agency, the 29-member board for which is composed by a representative from each of the county’s 24 municipalities and all five members of the county board of supervisors.
SANBAG explicitly referenced the specific concept of a rail connection between the cities of San Bernardino and Redlands with a 2004 ballot measure to extend the existing half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements in San Bernardino County. Projected population growth and increased congestion, along with physical barriers like the Santa Ana River and Interstate 10 led SANBAG to look at alternative cost-effective travel options for communities along the Redlands Corridor. The Redlands Passenger Rail Study became a key selling point in the appeal to voters for continued support of Measure I, the half-cent sales tax measure to support transportation projects countywide first passed in 1989.
The environmental impact report accepted at the SANBAG meeting on Wednesday, March 4 outlined SANBAG’s detailed process of reviewing and eliminating alternatives based on environmental and social impacts. SANBAG studied significant potential effects like land use and planning, air emissions, noise levels, visual aesthetics, floodplains, and hydrology. Other transit alternatives, like light rail and bus rapid transit, were removed from consideration due to additional property acquisition requirements and longer travel times.
SANBAG came up with what was designated as a locally preferred alternative, which runs along the existing railroad right-of-way from E Street in San Bernardino east to the City of Redlands, roughly a nine-mile extension of passenger rail service ending at the University of Redlands. Other features of the environmental impact report include passenger rail service of up to 25 average daily trips, connecting to other regional transit modes with access to Los Angeles, employment and shopping centers throughout the Inland Empire, and destinations in the San Bernardino Mountains and high desert; majority use of existing right-of-way already acquired by SANBAG; new track and replacement/retrofit of existing bridges; passenger boarding at four new stations, with station stops at five locations; the use of existing train layover and maintenance facilities; safety improvements at 22 at-grade crossings, including quiet zones determined by memorandums of understanding with the cities of Redlands and San Bernardino on February 4, 2015; and five public at-grade crossings closures for added safety.
Funding for the project will include local, state and federal contributions.
Three of the four stations would be constructed in Redlands — where the line crosses New York Street, downtown and at the University of Redlands. The fourth station will be at either Waterman Avenue or Tippecanoe Avenue in San Bernardino.
SANBAG is estimating that between 720 and 820 daily riders will use the Redlands route in 2018 and between 1,120 and 1,340 daily riders in 2038.
In the early portion of the 20th Century, The Pacific Electric Railway had established the Red Car system, a network of rail lines which included a line that ran all the way from Los Angeles through San Bernardino to Redlands. That system reached its zenith in the 1920s when it was the largest electric railway system in the world. It declined with the rise of the automobile era and met its demise as the Southern California freeway system was established.
A revival of the rail link between Redlands and San Bernardino was considered and given at least nominal promotion at the time of the campaign on behalf of Measure I – the half-cent sales tax proposal for county transportation improvements – in 1989
SANBAG in 1992 used Measure I funds to purchase the historic Redlands Loop from the Santa Fe Railway.
The Redlands Rail Project will utilize a portion of the Redlands Loop alignment. With county voters supporting the extension of Measure I in 2004, a commitment to actuating the earlier promise of a new San Bernardino to Redlands rail system was made, growing out of the overwhelming support of voters in the city of Redlands – more than 79 percent – for the tax extension.
In September 2010, ESRI, Redland’s most successful corporation, hosted a meeting to promote the San Bernardino to Redlands rail concept. The concept picked up steam as SANBAG held public meetings to discuss the concept in 2010 and 2011. A draft environmental impact report was drawn up in 2012. After his election as San Bernardino County Third District supervisor in November 2012, James Ramos formed the Rail to Redlands Working Group, seeking wider input from the community.
Despite enthusiasm for the project in many quarters, there has been opposition. The Redlands Tea Party Patriots and the more recently formed Inland Empire Transit Alliance in Redlands group have questioned whether the benefits of the line will justify the expense and if the benefits will outweigh the impacts such as noise, interference with vehicular circulation and congestion in Redlands historic downtown.
Regional critics say it would have been better and more logical for SANBAG to have invested the money it is now putting into the San Bernardino to Redlands line on the extension of the Gold Line from Los Angeles County eastward into San Bernardino County, getting that portion of a comprehensive rail network completed before investing in and completing the more eastward portion of the line, which ultimately would tie into the Gold Line to make it a truly regional system.
The San Bernardino to Redlands line will allow travelers to catch a bus from the Waterman or Tippecanoe station to achieve the San Bernardino terminus of the MetroRail System, which runs to Los Angeles.

Leave a Reply