Recently, rumors were heard concerning the Pacific-Electric Trail and it being extended into Rialto. For years, the trail has ended rather unceremoniously at Maple Avenue on the border of Fontana and Rialto. As it turns out, the rumblings were true! Construction started sometime last month [PDF] and is slated to be finished in December. It’s a tall order, but swinging by last week found that most of the ~1.3 mile corridor was fenced off by the contractor and dug up with drainage improvements going in.
But as usual, a project like this doesn’t happen with any sense of urgency. This project has been a long time in the works. In 2010, the City of Rialto identified the trail extension as a partially funded capital improvement [PDF] in their four year outlook. Not surprisingly, although trails can be great transportation alternatives and that was mildly alluded to, it really isn’t seen as a true transportation corridor to be considered as a transportation improvement and was therefore absent from that section [PDF] of the CIP. (Which is ironic since it follows a historic corridor that the town was built around.)
It then made it into the SanBAG Nonmotorized Transportation Plan that was released in 2011. In that document, the corridor was identified as a 3 mile project stretching basically the entire width of the City along the old Pacific-Electric right-of-way. It is now used by Union Pacific to serve a lumber yard near City Hall. As a result, the extension under construction now only encompasses about half of the originally proposed length (1.3x/3 miles) and ends rather unceremoniously mid-block behind some industrial buildings. Expect to see a lot of people continue their journey on to Lilac Avenue beside the tracks when the trail opens.
Since that track maybe sees 2-3 trains a week, some sort of agreement should be reached that could allow the access to be maintained while at the same time extending the trail. The vast majority of the time, the track sits empty and it’s pretty evident that it’s a lightly used corridor since quite a few of the crossings don’t even have gates.
Now for the fun part: let’s look at the money. The expected cost for the original plan was $1mn/mile for a back-of-the-napkin estimate of $3mn for the entire project in the SanBAG NMTP. As can be seen in the release above, the price has soared to over $3mn per mile. The total price is now ~$4.5mn for less than 1.5 miles of trail. Funding presumably came from several grant sources, though not the recent ATP. Rialto did win some money from it for SRTS which could hopefully be used toward improving access to the schools from the trail for students. As can be seen in the map, the trail goes right past several communities and two schools.
From the looks of it, the trail will continue the irritating configuration that it has further west in other cities. It’s a great recreational pathway, but many hoping for a useful commuting corridor run into a problem at almost every. single. street: the Trail user is presented with a ‘STOP’ sign or traffic light at almost all instances where the Trail crosses another street. This leads to a lackluster experience filled with slowing at best and takes away from the effectiveness of the Trail as being useful for people looking to go somewhere. It would be great if those crossings can be upgraded to allow trail users a stop-free experience. Some Fontana intersections already have in-ground flashers, which could be easily upgraded to HAWK signals. Other places could get a combination of raised crossings/islands/pinchpoints, or complete street closures. But no matter what, something needs to be done to make the trail easier to use.
Anyway, that’s all for the future. It’s great to see that something is [finally] being done after years of waiting. Hopefully, the promise of a Christmas ride holds true so that all the kids can have a safe place to enjoy their presents. Anyway, pictures are worth far more than continued talking, so here’re 18,000 words from the project area.