County Transportation Agency Quietly Pushing Toll Lanes On I-10 & 1-15

San Bernardino County’s Transportation Agency is stealthily militating to create toll lanes along Interstate-10, and Interstate-15 at a cost of over $15 billion.
The near secrecy in which those entrusted to oversee the use of tax money for maintaining and improving local road and highway infrastructure is a byproduct of the public sentiment against the toll road concept as well as the voter-approved road improvement funding charter by which a major portion of county road improvements are carried out.
Though a handful of the transportation agency’s board members share with a substantial number of their constituents opposition to paying to use local freeways, a majority of that board’s members have concluded that toll money will need to be a component of the funding mechanism needed to widen two of San Bernardino County’s four major freeways. While quietly pushing the project ahead, there has been little in the way of publicity about what will eventually cost over $1.5 million. Notably, most of the disclosure of the effort has come when the alternate representatives to SANBAG, the county’s transportation agency, attended those board meetings.
SANBAG is an acronym for San Bernardino Associated Governments. As San Bernardino County’s primary transportation agency, SANBAG has a 29-member board consisting of all five county supervisors plus a representative of each of the county’s 24 incorporated cities.
A consensus among SANBAG’s board members, based upon population increase projections, traffic pattern studies and consultants’ input, is that at least one and more likely two and perhaps as many as three new lanes will be needed to prevent traffic gridlock along the 33-mile stretch of the I-10 at the Claremont/Montclair border to Redlands. But there is not adequate funding available to build even one new lane, the cost of which has been pegged at $55 million in today’s dollars, let alone three. Similar usage increases are anticipated on the I-15 Freeway, which passes through San Bernardino County beginning at the Riverside County/Eastvale City Limit border with the county and runs north. The I-15 meets up with the I-215 Freeway, which in San Bernardino County runs from the Riverside County/Riverside City Limits border near the county line/Grand Terrace City Limits.
These projects must be funded with available public dollars. Other undertakings, many of them approved as long as a decade or more ago, have taken a place in line ahead of those lane additions.
Highland mayor Larry McCallon, Rancho Cucamonga mayor L. Dennis Michael, Barstow Mayor Julie McIntyre, Big Bear councilman Bill Jahn, Upland mayor Ray Musser, Chino mayor Dennis Yates, Victorville Counciman Ryan McEachron, Chino Hills Councilman Ed Graham, Yucaipa councilman Dick Riddell, Yucca Valley Councilman George Huntington, Hesperia councilman Mike Leonard, Needles mayor Edward Paget and Ontario councilman Alan Wapner all have supported constructing the toll roads.
Former Adelanto councilwoman Cari Thomas, former Rialto councilman Ed Scott, former Apple Valley Town councilman Rick Roelle, former San Bernardino mayor Patrick Morris, former Twentynine Palms councilman  Jim Harris, and former San Bernardino County supervisors Neil Derry, Brad Mitzelfelt and Gary Ovitt also supported the toll road idea. They have all been voted out of office or left voluntarily. Former Redlands mayor Pete Aguilar was also a supporter. He is now a congressman.
The concept has been opposed by San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford, Montclair Mayor Paul Eaton, Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, former Grand Terrace Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz, Fontana Councilman Michael Tahan and Colton Councilwoman Deirdre Bennett.
SANBAG has not publicized the toll road concept. The most comprehensive explication of the undertaking is in a document completed and filed in January 2012 titled the “Measure I 2010-2040 Ten Year Delivery Plan.” In that document, the toll lanes are not referred to as “toll lanes” but rather as HOT lanes. One must go to an “acronym list” at the back of the document to learn that HOT stands for “High-Occupancy Toll.” The definition explains that “HOT lanes are HOV (i.e. high occupancy vehicle or car pool) lanes that also allow vehicles not meeting minimum occupancy requirements to use the lane by paying a toll.”
Under the project description of the “I-15 HOT Lanes,” the Measure I 2010-2040 Ten Year Delivery Plan document states, “This project will start at the north terminus of the Riverside County Transportation Commission’s proposed Express Lane Project at SR 60 and end at the Devore interchange. The conceptual design includes the addition a HOT lane and auxiliary lane in each direction from the SR-60 to the I-10, and the addition of two HOT lanes in each direction from I-10 to south of Devore Interchange. Initial conceptual engineering has been completed but the Project Study Report has not yet been initiated.”
According to that document, SANBAG intends to spend $349,219,000 in Measure I money on the I-10 toll lane project, which includes $10,549,000 for project approval and environmental documentation, $48,409,000 for plans, specifications and estimates and $283,686,000 for construction. Further funding will come from Regional Transportation Improvement Plan set-asides and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program funds. SANBAG also intends to spend $187,689,000 on the I-15 toll road project, which includes $21,497,000 for project approval and environmental documentation, $32,242,000 for plans, specifications and estimates and $128,261,000 on construction with further funding comingfrom Regional Transportation Improvement Plan set-asides and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program funds
Measure I, which called for a half-cent per dollar sales tax to be collected throughout San Bernardino County for transportation improvements, was passed by county voters in 1989.
In this way, county residents will be contributing tax money toward a program to construct a toll road.
SANBAG was drawn into examining the toll road concept by the consideration that Orange County already has toll lanes in place and a larger system of toll roads that would include San Bernardino County, Riverside County, Los Angeles County and Orange County freeways is being pushed by regional transportation officials, who insist that for the entire system to work there must be uniform participation.
There is resistance to the concept, however. On the Atlantic Seaboard and in the Midwest, toll roads are referred to as turnpikes, not freeways. In California, freeways have historically been maintained by the state and federal government through taxes, not toll charges.
Upland City Glenn Bozar, who normally does not attend SANBAG meetings but is Upland’s alternate representative on that panel, recently attended a SANBAG meeting in the place of Upland Mayor Ray Musser. In a statement at the most recent Upland City Council meeting, Bozar remarked upon his alarm at learning that the project is moving ahead with very little scrutiny by the public.
A Facebook page, “Toll Free IE,” with the URL address, has been created. “This page is committed to halting the creation of toll roads in the Inland Empire, specifically on the 10 from Pomona to Redlands and on the 15,” its description reads.
Spontaneously, a movement to vote out of office any county or city officials supporting the toll lane concept in San Bernardino County has formed.

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