New RR Lines And Closure Of Second Avenue Upset Downtown Upland Merchants

(June 11) Though it is now just in the planning phase, an effort to put two new rail lines across the urbanized portion of western San Bernardino County has raised the ire of the downtown business community in Upland as well as some historical preservationists.
Over the last couple of decades, the city of Upland has made repeated efforts to revitalize its historic downtown area lying just east of Euclid Avenue south of Arrow Highway and north of Eighth Street. Previously, before the state of California eliminated all municipal redevelopment agencies throughout the state, Upland utilized its redevelopment agency in the downtown rejuvenation effort, seeking to make improvements and offer incentives and subsidies for businesses willing to operate there if city officials believed those businesses would contribute to an ambience that would attract customers and patrons to the area. City officials are yet casting about for a strategy to boost the fortunes of the district. Among those most passionate about reestablishing downtown Upland as a cultural and commercial center is Upland Councilwoman Carol Timm, who was elected last year after sixteen years as a member of the Upland Planning Commission. Timm is also the head of the Upland Historical Society.
Running north and south right through the heart of downtown Upland is Second Avenue. The railroad line along which the Metrolink system runs is just south of Ninth Street and crosses Second Avenue, proximate to where the Upland Metrolink Station is located. A plan which has been previewed by SANBAG, the acronym for San Bernardino Associated Governments, which serves as San Bernadino County’s transportation agency, calls for construction of two new rail lines alongside the existing line, including one line to accommodate a relatively high-speed train. The consortium of railroad companies involved in the plan intends to use the federally-granted authority railroads possess which gives them precedence over local jurisdictions when transportational conflicts between roads/streets and rail lines arise, to close Second Avenue. That portion of Second Avenue runs through south Upland from the westbound exit off the 10 Freeway near Seventh Street all the way to Foothill Blvd. Second Street is considered to be not only an intrinsic part of downtown but a major means of access to the downtown area. Downtown entrepreneurs and supporters of the downtown revival effort were taken aback at the recent public announcement of the intent to eventually close Second Avenue.
This has presented something of a challenge to Upland Mayor Ray Musser, who is a member of the SANBAG board and who sees the addition of the regional rail lines as representing an advantage to Upland upon their completion. Musser also enjoys something of a political alliance with Timm on council and the closure of Second Avenue could threaten their consonance.
This week, Musser told the Sentinel that the coming of the two new railroad lines and the move to close Second Avenue is “not a rumor. The bottom line is in the next two to three years there will be two new tracks. Once they put the second track in, they will close Second Avenue.”
Musser said that accompanying the construction of the new railroad lines will be the demolition of four aging and dilapidating buildings in the downtown area. He said that demolition and the advent of the new railway lines, which tentatively are set to be augmented by a train platform near or at Euclid Avenue, carries with them the potential of reviving the downtown area in a way that past efforts failed to achieve.
“They will need to close Second Avenue when they have three tracks,” Musser said. “One of the tracks will be for an express train that will travel at a speed of 70 to 80 miles per hour. They also want to start a quiet zone [i.e., no train whistle/horn disturbance area] and they want a stop on Euclid Avenue. They will load from that point In order for them to develop the new system, the Railroad Association for safety wants to close both sides of Second Avenue.”
Musser said he appreciates the misgivings those who have invested in locating downtown have, but said that the new station at Euclid has the potential for creating a synergy throughout the entire district, which includes the Upland Civic Center and downtown. He said he believes this synergy will more than offset any loss to the downtown area that will be brought about by the closure of Second Avenue.
“There has been a lot of reaction from the folks downtown,” Musser said. “People are up in arms over this. They think it will ruin downtown. I disagree.”
Musser said it is possible the new train depot will be located at the location where the old Hoyt Lumber yard stood.

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