Tag Archives: San Bernardino County

SANBAG Releases I-10 HOV/HOT Lanes Draft EIR for Public Comment

The clock is now ticking after San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) finally released the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed I-10 HOV/HOT lanes this past Monday, April 25. With the comment period closing June 8, interested parties have just a little over a month to review and weigh in on several gigabytes worth of information. SANBAG really should’ve taken the proactive step and opened up for a 60-day comment period, but that ship is likely sailed. In either case, there will be a more in-depth review of the proposed projects at a later date, but it’s important to get the word out about the comment period.

A quick glance through the Executive Summary shows a project steeped in the height car-centric planning and design that has led to a region consistently ranked as highly sprawled and that is completely out-of-line with state goals and the economy of the 21st Century. Though the No Build is provided by way of comparison, the report focuses on the two build alternatives: extending the existing HOV lane from Haven Ave. in Ontario to Ford St. in Redlands or constructing HOT lanes from the LA/SBD county line through to Yucaipa. Those options come with a price tag of around $660mn or $1.7bn respectively, but either figure is almost certain to increase after more involved design and construction activities are undertaken.

Those price tags might ultimately be this project’s undoing. Although San Bernardino County’s Measure I allocates funding specifically for a HOV lane on I-10, it will likely not be anywhere near enough to cover the full cost of that alternative. Additionally, as the State continues to cut funding from transportation projects due to the volatility with gas tax income (which is set to enter free fall soon) as well as an increasing focus on moving the transportation paradigm away from its car-centric focus, it seems increasingly unlikely that SANBAG would be able to procure many State funds for a project so diametrically at odds with the State’s goals. Perhaps they will be able to get more luck out of the Feds, but even the USDOT has realized that we can’t build roads indefinitely.

This Draft EIR also provides some insight into recent reports that SCAG* is frantically fighting to delay the implementation of SB 743, which will replace LOS with VMT as a significant impact under CEQA, and is another prime example how other agencies are hampering Caltrans’ efforts to modernize. SCAG’s Transportation Committee is chaired by a representative from Ontario (by way of SANBAG), a city right at the literal crossroads of this project and a similar proposal for I-15 and where a sprawling new community of over 46,000 homes is currently under construction. The Executive Summary casually mentions that the two build options are forecast to result in a 3% (HOV) or 10% (HOT) increase in VMT, something which the forthcoming CEQA thresholds would certainly consider a rather significant impact in need of mitigation since they aim to set a threshold of significance at 15% below baseline. Needless to say, SANBAG and its member jurisdictions are not interested in being told that they need to reign in the parade of building more freeways and overbuilt stroads that dice up the region, even as they struggle to maintain what already exists.

Of course, a project this large has not gone ahead completely unnoticed. While the HOV option was expressly included in the Measure I extension that was passed way back in 2004 with around 80% support, the HOT option was not. Not surprisingly, SANBAG is seeking to get more bang for the buck by leveraging that money with private investment to build and operate the HOT option. However, the prospect of including tolls has piqued the interest of the Tea Party in the area, who have continued to turn out in force to protest this “Agenda 21 plan to force us out of our cars”. Considering that SANBAG and its member jurisdictions continue to build and widen roads with reckless abandon [PDF], that claim couldn’t be further from the truth. At the same time, they are attracting some public interest against the project, which may ultimately prove to be a blessing in disguise if it delays or stops the project.

As mentioned above, a far more in-depth (and boring) look at the project will be undertaken at some point in the future. But for now, it’s imperative that everyone head over to the project website, http://www.1015projects.com, access the Draft EIR documents, and comment on it. Though considering the size and magnitude of the document and project, it would be nice if SANBAG would extend the comment period, that doesn’t seem likely, so look and comment early. Comments can be sent to the following address:
Aaron Burton, Branch Chief, Caltrans District 8
Attn: I-10 CP Draft EIR/EIS Comment Period
464 W. 4th Street
San Bernardino, CA 9240

*Though SANBAG is large enough to be an MPO itself, the regional MPO is SCAG.

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Evaluating RCTC’s Coachella Valley Rail Proposals

For a little over a year, the Riverside County Transportation Commission has been undertaking a study to explore the possibility of providing daily passenger rail service to the Coachella Valley. This is at least the seventh time in nearly 30 years that the concept has been explored. (Previous studies of all or parts of the potential route were the focus of or included in other efforts previously completed in 1991, 199319992005, 2010, and 2013.) But with this being take seven on the project, perhaps it’s time to figure out exactly what needs to be done to get this plan off the shelves and to see trains rolling.

The elephant in the room continues to be that the only truly viable alternative to reach the area is by routing passenger traffic through the Union Pacific Yuma Subdivision that heads east from the Colton Crossing. As one of the two principal freight rail arteries in and out of SoCal heading east, Union Pacific understandably has concerns about the proposition of running an increased number of passenger trains over their rails. Currently, Amtrak’s Sunset Limited operates through the corridor, but it is only thrice-weekly service with late night/early morning stops in the area–hardly usable by the majority of potential travelers.

The latest report provides five Alternatives along with reasons for/against them. As the Yuma Subdivision is the only existing route to the Coachella Valley, all the differences occur from the Colton Crossing to LAUS. The five Alternatives (resulting in six total possibilities) are to use the BNSF San Bernardino Sub (Alternative 1), use the UP LA Sub (Alternative 2); use the UP Alhambra Sub (Alternative 3), use two variations of the Metrolink San Gabriel Sub (Alternative 4), or use a hybrid option blending Alternative 4B and 3 (Alternative 4). Four of those options made it through the course level screening to a more detailed analysis and will be expounded upon: 1, 4A/B, and 5.

Alternative 1

As mentioned above, west of Colton is where the differences lie. Of the four potential routes advanced to fine-level screening, Alternative 1 was the only one looked on favorably and advanced to the level of further planning/EIS. Several factors in its favor exist including most principally, a corridor population that is around 25% higher than the others have or would provide in the near-term. Though all study is being done using the assumption of Amtrak service similar to the existing Pacific Surfliner, this proposed route would be the functional equivalent of extending the Metrolink 91 Line out to the Coachella Valley and would in effect, be adding a limited stop train from LAUS to Riverside. Ideally, the Rail2Rail program should be implemented over that portion of the route to allow people to take advantage of that option. From Riverside, the train would then continue north to the Colton Crossing, where it would turn east to reach Indio as outlined above. RCTC currently still has quite a few unused daily allotments for the route, so implementing service via Alternative 1 would only require buying (or leasing) the trainsets and building a few stations. This route also has the second-fastest projected travel time and high ridership.

Alternative 4A

The second Alternative considered at the fine level is branded 4A. This option would be routed primarily over the San Gabriel Subdivision, which is owned by LA Metro and SANBAG for operating Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line. However, the San Gabriel Sub is at present, not directly connected with the Yuma, so this option requires several things be done to make that connection. The proposal calls for squeezing a track to connect to the northbound BNSF line between I-10 and the Colton Crossing and also just continue it through Colton to connect to the Metrolink Short Way Subdivision that is used by the IEOC Line to reach San Bernardino and Metrolink to access their Colton yard. A flyover would then be built to connect that track with the San Gabriel Subdivision and the report also calls for the two segments of double-tracking already underway to be built. This Alternative would have Inland Empire stops at Rialto and Montclair before heading to LA over the same route used by Metrolink. According to the analysis, this option would produce the fastest travel time of 3:06 as well as the second-highest ridership.

However, it was ultimately, it was not selected for further study due to requiring a minimum investment of $141mn more than Alternative 1 and potential ROW issues, including relocating a trucking facility at the BNSF San Bernardino yard. But looking at the reality of the area, a connection could probably be built to connect to the existing flyover and thus avoid relocating the majority of the trucking yard. Presumably, some of the money would also go into the double-tracking projects mentioned above, but it’s primarily slated for providing the connection to the BNSF tracks and Short Way in Colton as well as the flyover to connect with the San Gabriel Subdivision. Additionally, at least two actual bridges would be required (one over La Cadena, one over Lytle Creek) and though there is a little room for it, adding a fourth track through Colton will require a couple things to be moved and at least two more grade crossings be expanded. Though not studied in the report, the Colton track does provides an opportunity for a Colton stop to be added to the IEOC Line and potentially the CV train as well.

Alternative 4B/5

The last two Alternatives, 4B and 5, are functionally the same, so they’ll be looked at in tandem. Both would use the same connection in Colton as presented by 4A to reach the Short Way, but would instead utilize the San Bernardino Downtown Passenger Rail extension to continue all the way into the recently completed San Bernardino Transit Center located downtown. Going to the SBTC would provide connections with numerous transit services serving the San Bernardino Valley, Mountain communities, and Victor Valley areas. This option also avoids the need for a flyover in the BNSF yard, but leaves the recommendation for the double-tracking along the San Gabriel Sub. However, the train would have to switch ends in San Bernardino before being able to continue to LAUS. According to the report, this maneuver can take up to half an hour, so accommodating it is projected to likely necessitate another layover track be added to the site. The layover also effectively cuts the journey into two separate trips. That could be great for station-area businesses in San Bernardino, but results in a major hits on ridership and travel times. Unsurprisingly, these two options have the longest scheduled travel times but lowest ridership.

The rest of the route is for Alternative 4B, identical to Alternative 4A. Alternative 5 instead uses the UP Alhambra Subdivision into LAUS from near the El Monte station which provides a potential bypass of the single track line on I-10. Both 4A and 5 would differ from 4A in that they would not stop at Rialto, only at Montclair. Additionally, 5 require second flyover in El Monte to provide access to the Alhambra Sub without running into freight congestion. Course-level screening indicated that Alternative 5 would require double-tracking of the Alhambra, but the ongoing Alameda Corridor East San Gabriel Trench appears to be taking care of that. Still, in comparison to Alternative 1, these two options have a potential cost of $130mn more for 4B or $162mn more for Alternative 5. Due to both the cost but especially the turn time depressing ridership, these two Alternatives were also nixed from further configuration.

Results

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alternative 1 has been selected for further study and advancement to the EIR/EIS stage. This is the only Alternative that would actually serve the City of Riverside, which, notwithstanding the relative lack of necessary investment compared to the others, likely was a part of the deciding factor for its favorable consideration in a study commissioned by RCTC. Progress toward those environmental documents is undoubtedly being worked on now. Additionally, though Measure A doesn’t put much money toward rail, cap and trade money might provide the ability to acquire equipment and start the service. With new locomotives on the way for the Surfliner and Metrolink, there will probably be some surplus power available in the LA area soon that, pending funding, can be leased for a decent price to get things rolling within a few months of final approval of the environmental documents. Hopefully, that can happen before the 40th anniversary of the first study.

SANBAG Slowing Chugs Ahead with Metrolink Double Tracking

Yesterday, the SANBAG board of directors approved a motion directing staff to begin searching for a firm to complete an environmental document and 30% design for a chronically needed double-tracking of Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line. This comes after it zoomed through the agency’s Commuter Rail & Transit Committee last month. The proposed segment of double track will be a pivotal piece of infrastructure that will allow Metrolink to better serve and grow the corridor with the highest ridership.

Screenshot 2015-11-26 21.19.49
The Metrolink San Bernardino Line Twitter account (@MetrolinkSB) is an ongoing chronicle of the innumerable near-daily cascading delays caused by the  prevalence of single track on the route.

The biggest improvement will undoubtedly be the ability to ease congestion and decrease some of the delays that are a surreal problem on the line nearly every single day. The proposed segment will add about three miles to an existing siding of just under two miles, creating one of the longest sections of double track along the line. The project will also mean the addition of a second platform (and likely pedestrian underpass) at the Rialto station, which will hopefully be long enough to serve Metrolink’s new eight-car trainset being used on the San Bernardino Line.

If done right, the improvements could greatly benefit not just Metrolink  users, but the city of Rialto too. Currently, there are several vacant properties that are located next to the Rialto station which provide a perfect opportunity for smart TOD that can integrate developments into the station via the proposed pedestrian underpass (or overpass if that’s the final decision) and dozens more within a kilometer. The newly expanded parking lot at the station can also be leveraged to meet parking requirements for developments, reducing the “need” to build more parking in an area that is not exactly constrained. Furthermore, AB 744 can also be invoked as a last resort for any developments that include affordable housing components.

lilac_gates
The second of two bicyclists who proceeded past the lowered gates at Lilac Avenue in less than a minute.

The double tracking project will also provide the perfect opportunity to perform several necessary safety enhancements. The biggest is likely the ability to upgrade up to eight grade crossings to be quiet zones, a very welcome and necessary move that would provide relief to the surrounding communities that are currently subject to hearing more than 1000 horn blasts a day. Additionally, quiet zone improvements can form one part of efforts to decrease unauthorized access to the rail corridor that currently sees frequent use as a walkway by the community at large, including children heading to/from school.

The SANBAG staff report included with the item [PDF, p. 97] mentions that this project came out of a joint study with LA Metro [PDF] that looked at the most cost-effective strategies to improve San Bernardino Line service (which should’ve just been titled “what should we double track first?”). The report also mentions that LA Metro is moving forward with a similar proposal for environmental and preliminary engineering for double-tracking Lone Hill to CP White in LA County and makes the case for waiting on both studies to be complete before seeking grant funding for both in tandem. That may ultimately not be the best idea, especially if one study gets delayed or contested, as the improvements are needed immediately.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
SANBAG’s Chief of Rail & Transit presents at the December Board meeting.

No timeline was presented at the meeting, but the Countywide Transportation Plan projects that it will be at least another decade [PDF, p. 128] before the project is complete, up to four years after projects to widen the two adjacent freeways, I-10 and I-210, are completed. That’s absurd. Building three miles of track next to an existing track in an active rail right-of-way that has room to fit five tracks shouldn’t take ten years to accomplish. With Metrolink continuing to bleed ridership, that amount of delay to complete the first of several needed double-tracking projects is rather unacceptable, especially in light of AB32 targets for 2020 and with funding available from Cap & Trade for rail projects. It is imperative that anything that can be done to speed the process along be undertaken.

To be fair, the Metrolink San Bernardino Line Infrastructure Improvement Study did present and recommend that an accelerated timeline and funding schedule funding schedule be used, which it appears that SANBAG is attempting to pursue by completing the study in tandem with LA Metro. If those recommendations can be followed, it would be very encouraging for both Metrolink riders and the region as a whole, especially as VMT-based CEQA standards come into the picture.

More photos available on Flickr.

Montclair’s Arrow Station Misses the Mark on TOD

The City of Montclair is betting big on their transit center (dubbed the “Montclair Transcenter”). Located in the northern part of the city, it features a stop on Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line (now including the daily “express”), a hub for several Foothill Transit and Omnitrans routes (including the Silver Streak and Route 290), one of Caltrans’ biggest park-and-ride lots (Excel spreadsheet), and will in the future be a stop on the extended Gold Line. Additionally, the Pacific-Electric Trail dips right down to within a block of the station at this point. Still surrounded by relatively empty land, it isn’t an understatement to say that it presents the perfect opportunity and support to build exemplary transit-oriented development that caters well to those who are or want to be car-lite or even car-free.

The Arrow Station development under construction is one of the ongoing stabs at TOD in the area surrounding the station. But thus far, the prognosis on the transit-oriented part is not good at all. Though the North Montclair Downtown Specific Plan calls for creating an entryway to the city from the station by way of extending the current pedestrian underpass that exists at the station, the land where it would open up is still occupied by a warehouse. Unfortunately, no provision has been made to provide an interim connection between the development and the station until that entrance is built.

Intermission for pictures.

The result is that although the homes in Arrow Station are less than 75 feet from the tracks and residents can see the platforms from their windows, bad planning forces them to make a trip of over 1/3 of a mile to actually reach the station. To add insult to injury, even though Arrow Station and the Transcenter are both on the east side of Monte Vista Avenue, that 1/3 mile trip requires passing through two traffic signals because there is no sidewalk on the east side of Monte Vista through the underpass.

A screenshot of one of the listings for homes available in the Arrow Station development on Zillow.
A screenshot of one of the listings for homes available in the Arrow Station development on Zillow.

Predictably, neither set of homes under construction (in two adjacent communities: The District and The Walk) makes any mention of the development’s proximity to the Transcenter as an amenity on their website because for all practical purposes, it might as well not exist. (Though to be fair, it doesn’t make mention of proximity to freeways either. Or really anything at all.) However, Zillow comes through and does state that the homes are within “walking distance” of Metrolink.

It’s probably too soon to be able to gather any meaningful data on transportation usage from the community under construction. Perhaps some people might actually brave the odds and make their way to the Transcenter anyway. However, fixing the connectivity problem is a surefire way to make choosing transit an easy and intuitive choice for the residents from Day One. (It would also help sell homes by providing a greater pool of potential buyers.) A temporary easement, a ribbon of concrete, and some lights are all that it takes. What’s lacking is the forethought to include them.

 

What If: Priorities

Where do your community’s priorities lie? That’s a question that we should all be asking ourselves as we prepare to make infrastructure investments that will have an effect for decades into the future.

Nowhere is this more evident and important than in our transportation decisions. In many communities, the transportation network rests on a backbone of arterial roads. However, decades of

A typical arterial cross-section being used in many newer developments all around the country dedicates all space to cars.
A typical arterial cross-section popular in the region dedicates the majority of space to cars.

car-centric planning and design have resulted in facilities that are increasingly referred to as “stroads“. They’re not good streets, but they’re not good roads either and in the end, everyone gets the short end of the stick. The result is a facility that suffers from “peak hour” congestion and that doesn’t serve those who aren’t driving.

But there’s a better way. With a little shift in thinking, it becomes easier to design a transportation network that is good for the mobility of all, whether they be on a bike, in a car, walking, or using transit. When viewed as a corridor and principles of complete streets are applied, these facilities can be optimized to provide maximum movement of goods and people, not just cars.

An arterial dedicated to moving people takes on a different form.

With that understanding, it becomes evident that the current system is grossly inefficient and needs to change. But what does the alternative look like? Using the same room as before, a redesign of the corridor assigns each mode its own dedicated space optimized for its specific travel needs. Cars and trucks don’t slow down transit, transit doesn’t block lanes to load its patrons, and bicyclists are free to pass along on their own separate path optimized for biking. For roads that access industrial facilities, it can even be tweaked a bit more to offer a dedicated truckway in the corridor that is reinforced to handle the axle loads of trucks.

Far from just musings, this design is in use already in The

Archimedeslaan in Utrecht includes a roadway for motorists, a busway (bus times shown), and a bikeway.
Archimedeslaan in Utrecht includes a roadway for motorists, a busway (including a bus information screen at stops), and a bikeway. This corridor has the capacity to move triple the amount of people as the “Major Arterial” above.

Netherlands, where mobility in numerous cities is provided for all in a manner optimized for their needs. The same model can be used in the existing cities and especially new developments here in the Inland Empire. Instead of building the biggest roads today in anticipation of “future demand”, they can be built with all modes in mind in a method that greatly increases the efficiency of all the systems for all.

This is vitally important as despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the transportation infrastructure in the Inland Empire region has shown no improvement in recent years, barely maining a D+ rating in both the 2005 and 2010 assessments from the local branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, but requiring  a whopping 67% increase in annual investment during that time. If we are going to ever truly see signs of improvement on not just the roads, but many other local issues, there needs to be some real change in priorities. Switching the focus to the movement of goods and people over just cars will set the Inland Empire up for a more robust and resilient future.

Today’s News

Well, welcome to another week and another month! Here’s what happened over the weekend:

  • San Bernardino County Parks received a $3.4mn grant to complete the next long-awaited phase of the SART
  • Adelanto consider putting more jails in the city on hold for 50 years (VVDP)
  • Carnage: Woman killed walking on SR-60 in Moreno Valley (PE)
  • Carnage: Motorcyclists killed in Apple Valley (VVDP, VVNG, PE)
  • Carnage: Truck collisions results in honey barbecue chicken (PE)
  • Riverside forum recalls desegregation of Riverside schools (PE)
  • MoVal bridge out after getting hit by cargo on a truck (PE)
  • Burning wood comes under fire for PM2.5 emissions in new SCAQMD research (SB Sun)
  • One of the world’s oldest cyclists passes in Long Beach (LAT)

That’s all for today, stay tuned for more tomorrow.

Weekly Planning Review

It seems that all that gets talked about here is plans. Well never fear, I have no intention of disrupting that cycle now. There are several more chances to provide your input over the coming days. Here goes.

Metrolink (SCRRA)
Metrolink future scenario S2.
Metrolink provides a tantalizing vision of a possible service scenario over the next decade. Image: Metrolink.

Metrolink has released another survey seeking more input on their 10 year strategic plan. This plan is the driving force behind what they do over the next decade or more, so it is imperative that it include forward-thinking planning now to make a better system tomorrow. They of course have all the questions that one would expect from a survey of this nature, but please take the time and go answer them.

One of the top results of an earlier survey was that the people want to see more service and that it come by more frequently. Metrolink has prepared several scenarios with a general summary of both the stations and frequencies that would be in place. By far, S2 (pictured above) is the most ambitious option of the lot as well as the most helpful to the IE and should definitely be supported. It includes the extension of service into Santa Barbara County, two branch extensions of the Perris Valley Line, Metrolink extension as part of the Redlands [Passenger] Rail Project, and a spur down to KONT.

There are also some improvements to service time, with trains coming as frequently as 15 minutes during peak hours between San Bernardino and Ontario and between Riverside and Corona West. However, eastern connections are not as good nor convenient, so the plan should be tweaked a bit. It is becoming increasingly common for people to travel wholly within the IE for work and pleasure, but S2 still focuses a few too many resources on getting people to get to DTLA instead of between San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

Altair Specific Plan

The City of Temecula released a Notice of Preparation [PDF] a couple weeks ago for the Altair Project (which was also apparently known as “Village West”). It is now coming down to the last few days as comments are due by December 15. The plan would just under 1800 homes on about 200 acres directly west of Old Town Temecula, right at the base of the hills. The Initial Study does acknowledge that the Project would likely have Potentially Significant Impacts to a rather substantial number of metrics on the CEQA list, so there are really plenty of bombs to lob at it. Of course, they’re doing a CEQA review for precisely that reason, to find possible mitigation measures for all those potential impacts.

Though unlikely, stopping it would be nice. Short of that, the biggest and most effective thing that could be done to tame the project would be to require that the Transportation & Traffic analysis be done pursuant to the VMT-based CEQA rules that are being wrapped up. If you submit a letter asking for only one thing, let that be it. Though the Project is dressed up as a “primarily residential mixed-use community”, it is unlikely that the immediate area would provide jobs for those inhabitants, so daily VMT due to the project would still grow.

Planning for cars should kill it because a traditional LOS-based traffic analysis will drop a load of widened streets and longer signal timings, but we all know better. By contrast, the only way to counter a VMT-based analysis would be to actively discourage people from driving short distances because they’ll almost certainly be driving long ones for work. That would meant that stuff like getting the Murrietta Creek Trail completed, cycletracks on the Temecula Parkway/Western Bypass, and direct bike/ped connections between each of the “villages” in the Plan, but not driving access (maybe even make them into “woonerven”). There also needs to be a direct connection to all school so that kids wouldn’t driven to school.

Well, not that much this week. The holiday probably has something to do with the dearth of documents to be reviewed, but the opportunity to be heard is still very much open.  Make sure that your voice matters, and this is a great time to put that notion into action. With a little planning and foresight, the Altair Specific Plan could provide a model of how things are supposed to be moving forward instead of being stuck in the past. But, that’s all we can do beside sit down and watch. Get yours.

Play Time!

The Inland Empire needs more opportunity for play. Image via Worakit Sirijinda on freedigitalphotos.net.
The Inland Empire needs more opportunity for play. Image via Worakit Sirijinda on freedigitalphotos.net.

Recently, KaBOOM! released the Playful City USA 2014 list of cities and it contains a couple of bright spots here in our very own Inland Empire. Several area cities have received Playful City USA designations, some multiple times. (Record is Riverside with seven.) This is great news not only because it adds a feather into the cap of the respective communities, but also because it means that the community is coming together to actually do something to improve the living environment for its residents.

Communities on the list are working hard to provide more for their residents, as exemplified by a recent KaBOOM! playground build in San Bernardino. KaBOOM! partnered with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, the City of San Bernardino, and dozens of volunteers to build a playground built in a day (video below).  The new park is located near downtown and is directly accessible from where the legendary Route 66 passes through the City.

This is a great start, but we need more. The Inland Empire is in dire need of places and parks are a great way to accomplish that for very little money. As a result of winning the sprawl competition, thousands of acres sit devoid of life, driving wedges between our communities. Yet, relatively small changes to those spaces are all that are needed to make things better. These humble efforts can have big effects on livability, such as the move by Redlands (which isn’t even on the KaBOOM! list) to pedestrianize an alley and provide human-scale furniture to encourage a livable space in the city.

Other opportunities abound in the region and are just waiting for rejuvenation by the community. It doesn’t take much to bring life to a drab slab. A couple of tables and chairs can create an inviting environment. A pocket park can do wonders to a dejected corner. Let’s stop wasting time. Let’s play. Yes, even (or perhaps especially) the adults.

Plans Plans Plans

It seems like there is always another plan in the pipeline. Which is good. Plans are certainly great, especially when we’re spending money on projects that have broad implications for now and the future. In light of that, there are several things in the works that can still take YOUR input to help improve them. Here go two things to look at over the next few weeks and leave your thoughts or concerns.

Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan

Caltrans is working on updating their Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan (ITSP) for 2015 and are seeking input on areas to focus the Department’s energies. The ITSP is what they use to decide how to prioritize corridors and make improvements to vital connections across the state. Especially to remote areas, some of which are certainly present here in the IE. They hosted some workshops already, but you can still send them comments and they also have a survey. Nonetheless, your input is important, so make sure they get it!

High Desert Corridor
HDC DEIR/DEIS cover art.

Along that same line of thought are the plans for the High Desert Corridor. Streetsblog LA has kept tabs on the project as it has poked along over the last few years. Earlier this year, the HDC  DEIR/DEIS made a splash when it was released…because of the cover art. The project would create a (new) thoroughfare across the, you guessed it, High Desert. The current plans are for a controlled access design (either tollway or freeway) from SR-14 in the west to I-15 in the east, then an expressway down to Apple Valley. The intent is to improve SR-18 and SR-138 safety and travel efficiency. If the HDC is built, Caltrans is proposing to revert those two routes back to local control in their respective communities. Options also include a possible rail line that would connect with CA High Speed Rail in Palmdale and continue on to Las Vegas. It would be great for it to also include regular commuter rail as it could finally bring daily train service to the Victorville area. Additionally, there are plans to include solar installations to power the facilities.

Most promising of all, there is a plan to include a parallel Class I facility for non-motorized travel along the entire length of the Corridor. But as great as that sounds, the DEIR shows that Caltrans is still fundamentally focused on moving cars and just tacking the non-motorized portion on to get (Jerry) Brownie points. Specifically, the DEIR makes comments on the problems of 8′ wide paths, which is the minimum width allowed in the HDM for a Class I. However, considering the importance of the corridor and lack of alternatives, the minimum width should be at least double that to allow for a good experience to all users and of course for adequate access by maintenance equipment. The HDC has the opportunity to really improve active transportation options for High Desert residents, but they need guidance to make sure that it happens.

That’s where you come in. The Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement is available for just over a week more on the Caltrans District 7 website. If you feel like some light reading [PDF] after your turkey, thumb through the volumes then submit your comments. Additionally, LA METRO has developed an interactive map where you can leave comments. Take full advantage of those opportunities to call for Caltrans/METRO/SANBAG to build the best corridor possible for all users, not just another highway.

If you know of any other plans in the works, especially over the holiday season, leave a reply in the comments with info about it! Some agencies like to sneak their stuff out at this time of year when everyone is taking vacation and won’t notice it until too late. Don’t let that happen to us this year.

Diving Into the ATP

Caltrans released the staff list of recommendations for this year’s round of the Active Transportation Program funding cycle last week. In it were some winners and others for us out here in the Inland Empire.

The Active Transportation Program combined several fragmented pots of money allotted for several different years into one single feeding frenzy. Emphasis was placed on projects that benefit disadvantaged communities and Safe Routes to School and the proposals delivered.The vast majority of the proposals purported to tick one or both of those boxes, which led to some noggin scratching at some of the “disadvantaged” communities on the initial list.

Nevertheless, lots of good did come out of it. Without making this a publication to rival the length of Atlas Shrugged, a brief look at the local projects competitive at the State level [PDF] is prepared below. It’s organized by county and is based off preliminary staff recommendations. Formal adoption of the awards for the State/Rural level will occur on the 20th, after which everything that didn’t get funded goes down to the MPO level. For the Inland Empire, that means SCAG will be doling out its portion of funds to the remaining projects.

Riverside County
  • County Department of Public Health
    •  SRTS Active Transportation Program City of Perris $350k
    • SRTS City of Jurupa Valley $500k
  • Jurupa ValleySRTS Troth St. $627k
    • Pyrite St. SRTS $665k
  • Moreno Valley – Citywide SRTS Ped Facility Improvements $1.64mn
  • Perris
    • Murrieta Road Ped Improvements $1.10mn
    • Perris Valley Storm Drain Channel Trail $1.20mn
  • Riverside – Downtown and Adjoining Areas Bicycle and Ped Improvements $877k
  • San Jacinto – Safe & Active San Jacinto SRTS $989k

County IE total*: $7,950,000

San Bernardino County
No access
Colton’s award will allow them to identify opportunities to improve the connectivity of the facilities in the City, such as a connection here to the trail.
  • Colton – Active Transportation Plan $265k
  • Omnitrans ** – West Valley Corridor Connector $3.5mn
  • Ontario – SRTS Active Transportation: Bon View, Corona, Euclid, and Vineyard Avenue Elementary Schools $1.16mn
  • Rialto – SRTS Plan $1.45mn
  • SanBAG
    • SanBAG SRTS Plan $400k
    • Metrolink Station Accessibility Improvement $4.68mn
  • Yucaipa – Safe Routes to Calimesa and Wildwood Elementary Schools $872k

County IE total*: $12,327,000

*Not included in these counts were awards to cities outside of the area generally considered to be the “Inland Empire”, which can admittedly be somewhat nebulous. If all projects are included from all areas of both counties, Riverside County total would be $21,931,000 and the San Bernardino County total $13,422,000.

**Though listed as part of the county ‘VAR’ on the Caltrans worksheet, Omnitrans has been included as part of San Bernardino County totals because it operates almost exclusively within communities in San Bernardino County, with only two or three lines entering Los Angeles or Riverside counties. Without the Omnitrans award (but including all awards within the County), the San Bernardino County total would be $9,922,000.