Tag Archives: San Bernardino

Progress Report: Downtown San Bernardino Passenger Rail Project

Work is humming along on SANBAG’s project to extend Metrolink service from the current terminus at San Bernardino’s Santa Fe Depot to the Transit Center in downtown San Bernardino. This move of a little over a mile will bring new options and connections to transit users from San Bernardino and many surrounding communities. Though it opened last year, the Transit Center currently only has connections with fixed route bus and BRT service. Once open, this project will provide the first passenger rail service to downtown San Bernardino in at least 70 years.

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The switch that will be installed just north of Rialto Ave. is under construction. All photos: author.

Over the last year or so, the construction phase of this project has been ongoing, with changes slowly manifesting themselves all through San Bernardino’s Lytle Creek neighborhood. By far, the biggest changes are of the transportation right-of-ways. The DSBDPRP is double-tracking the entire loop from the Short Way Subdivision, through the BNSF San Bernardino yard past the Santa Fe Depot, then onto [what remains of] the Redlands District to just past G St., where it splits to provide a third track at the Transit Center and otherwise rejoins the existing double-track segment. The double-tracking will allow trains to freely flow from the Transit Center to the yard that is located about two route miles away in Colton.

In addition to the double-track, two grade crossings are being closed by the project: 3rd St. at the tracks and I St. south of the tracks (the intersection with Rialto from the north remains as a right in/out). The closures aren’t completely bad as especially with I St., it provides a great opportunity for a modernization project on an otherwise chronically overbuilt street. However, it appears that they closures will also cut the neighborhood access off, so that is a bit of a loss to the community.

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One of the cross tracks from the Colton Crossing embedded in front of the Santa Fe Depot.

The Santa Fe Depot itself is also seeing some upgrades. The project is rebuilding the passenger boarding experience to be run-through to allow all trains to be able to continue on to the Transit Center. This includes an overpass of the tracks. But there have been other changes to the outside. Most significantly, the area in front has been altered to more parking away from directly in front of the building to showcase the entrance and really give a more stately look to the building. A nice walkway now leads directly to the front door and a crossover from the Colton Crossing has been embedded in the concrete directly in front of the building. There is also a pad and stop for the Amtrak Thruway bus service that makes daily stops at the station.

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The completed switch awaits installation as work on the second track continues.

Finally, farther west, work has begun on the full extent of the double-tracking. Just north of Rialto Ave., workers have been putting together the switch that will provide the start of the double-track segment that goes through to the Transit Center. Additionally, fencing has been installed at the end of King St. to seal the corridor and keep people off the tracks. While the IEOC Line is the only scheduled Metrolink service to use the Shortway Sub, it is also the connection to the yard, so nearly 50 trains per day will pass through the area to reach the yard in Colton.

Ideally, there will be no major snafus as the year winds down and soon after we ring in the new year, we can begin to take advantaged of one of the most important transit connections in the Inland Empire. Already three years behind, it can’t open a moment too soon. In tandem with the coming Redlands Rail, mobility options in the East Valley are really set to be substantially improved. Hopefully, the cities in the region will be willing and able to properly manage the opportunity that they’re being handed.

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Is San Bernardino Ready to Modernize E Street?

Opportunities to completely change a street for the better for free (or close to it) don’t come along very often, but the City of San Bernardino currently has the option on their plate as a portion of E Street is reconstructed. Running north-south through the heart of the city and downtown, E St. is home to the bronze-rated sbX Green Line and connects the two of the most vibrant corridors in the city, Baseline St. and Highland Ave., with downtown, uptown, and CSUSB in the northern part of the city and is part of the historical business loop for the legendary Route 66. However, even though E St. previously won a Streetsie in 2014, some of the benefits of BRT seen in other cities have not yet reached the entire corridor, with this segment continuing to support a plethora of empty lots and boarded-up buildings.

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The current configuration of “E” Street is vastly overbuilt and encourages dangerous behavior among road users. Image via Streetmix.

At present, this portion of the street still looks very much like a Death Road, with four lanes for traffic and on-street parking. That has led to conditions that encourage unsafe driving and crash data SWITRS shows a string of incidents stretching through the entire project area to lend support to that idea, including some bike and pedestrian casualties. This is particularly troubling since the route is heavily used by children who attend San Bernardino High School and Arrowview Middle School, with the students themselves providing anecdotal reports of rampant disrespect from motorists. Additionally, E St. is unfortunately also at the epicenter of the resurging epidemic of violence that has wracked the city this year, with the owner of one of the small businesses in this stretch losing his life earlier this year during an armed robbery.

Currently, the overbuilt four-lane design moves less than 10k vehicles per day, a figure that despite being nearly 20 years old, is apparently still pretty valid as confirmed by looking at more recent counts obtained at the intersections of E St. with Baseline and Highland. These numbers are well within the bounds of the volume of traffic that just two lanes can handle quite well, which makes this an ideal road diet candidate. That means that this is the perfect opportunity to make sure the rebuild is a complete street that functions better for all users.

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Put “E” Street on a diet. Image/Streetmix.

But what would a road diet look like on E Street? Since they’re not moving curbs, two general travel lanes would be swapped for a center two-way left turn lane and a pair of bike lanes. While some might think it appears like a “loss” for the street because there are fewer general travel lanes, such a proposal is likely to improve operations for several reasons. First, the current configuration encourages speeding and there are several cross streets that have significant left turn traffic, particularly around San Bernardino High School during the morning/afternoon. These left turners frequently hold back the left-hand lanes as they wait for a gap in oncoming traffic, so a road diet allows them to wait out of the stream going straight, a stream that is often exceeding the 35 MPH speed limit. Meanwhile, the single lane of traffic reduces the ability for people to speed.

Jeff Speck explains road diets.

Also, despite the elements on the street that some might consider to be unsavory, quite a lot of people actually do already travel up and down E St. by foot and by bike, including as mentioned above, many students. This design moves the traffic a little farther from the sidewalks, making it a little calmer and more appealing for pedestrians. Additionally, the bike lanes provide a better designation of where bicyclists can be expected and possibly in conjunction with signage, could be an effective strategy to combat the frequent ‘salmon‘ riders in the area.

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This section of E Street is also home to the original McDonald’s. Image by author.

The effect of these changes will provide a vastly improved street environment that is likely the missing link in years of efforts to revitalize this area of the city. The slower, more even speed of the motorists allow them to notice businesses that they had never seen before when blasting by at 50 MPH while the bike lanes and improved pedestrian experience lead more people to walk or bike through the corridor, both of which are groups that can easily stop in stores along the way and in the process, end up spending more over the course a month than the typical motorist. As has been seen elsewhere around the country, road diets do not have negative impacts on business, but do the opposite and increase business. With a high number of vacant storefronts in the stretch, using this project as opportunity to right-size the street is a great way to get the boards to come down and breathe some new life into the area. It would also provide a good connection to the new park coming to the corner of 9th and E, which will include a new skatepark that BMX riders will certainly frequent.

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The location of E St. in relation to alternatives to reach downtown from this area, including a freway. Image/Google Maps, edited by author.

Undoubtedly, there will be some naysayers and people will be concerned that it would increase trip times. However, it’s worth looking at the area view. Since San Bernardino was built on a grid, there are numerous options for those who may feel hampered. Additionally, given the impressive level of decay and decline that currently permeates this segment of the street, the built environment cannot get exponentially worse. But given the existing traffic safety issues, repeating last century’s mistakes on a blank slate is a step backwards. We shouldn’t have to wait for someone to die before trying to address the issue. If it doesn’t work out or the capacity is eventually needed, it’s easy enough to go back and restripe it to the old setup. But with the opportunity to do for minimal cost what other cities around the country are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to do, San Bernardino owes it to itself and to the residents to go ahead and join the 21st Century by giving it a go. The only question is if San Bernardino is ready to do what it takes to be an All-American City again.

 

SANBAG’s Poor Design Leaves Pedestrians Scrambling for Alternatives

A couple months ago, SANBAG announced the completion of the Hunts Lane grade separation project and had a little shindig to celebrate. At that time, I commented that the project is a net benefit for pedestrian access in the area. I spoke too soon.

You had one job! But seriously. These 'shark teeth' are backwards.
The ‘shark teeth’ on opening week. They’ve since been reoriented to the correct direction.

When the bridge opened, the construction crews were still working on a couple other things, such as the ‘shark teeth’ that had been installed wrong as well as ornamental plants. At that time, I also commented on some other potential issues with various other design details that were causing line-of-sight problems.

The crosswalks at the intersections have been purged from the final design.
The crosswalks at the intersections have been purged from the final design.

SANBAG has addressed some of the issues that were brought up in the last post, especially the line-of-sight problems.  This has been accomplished by removing all pedestrian elements that were in place. And while it may have been part of the original plan that had yet to be implemented when the initial review was done, they’ve added insult to injury by installing barriers to prohibit (CVC 275) pedestrians from crossing east or west across Hunts Ln. So while pedestrians wishing to cross the river of speeding cars must detour nearly a quarter of a mile to legally do so, drivers get to sprint across 135 feet, made all the more easier by the improved sight lines courtesy of the removed crosswalks.

This comes as a double slap in the face because efforts were made to open a cul-de-sac with a nice landscaped path that connects to the very corner in question. Needless to say, the majority of people would prefer a straight crossing over a landscaped meandering path that takes them out of the way as can be seen by the people who cross anyway.

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All hope is not lost, though. SANBAG can fix the issue by redesigning the intersection. At a minimum, a pedestrian island should be installed that allows pedestrians a safe passage across Hunts Ln. in the place of the current painted island (pictured above) with at least rectangular rapid flashing beacons. Ideally, that island should also be designed to only allow left turns onto Commercial and Riverwood and remove the ability to turn left or cut across the intersection for cars. This will likely have the added effect of keeping the communities from being effective ‘rat runs’ like they currently are.

It’s unfortunate to see this level of disregard to practical mobility options for those who are not in a car. With these latest developments in the final design, I am forced to downgrade my initial perceptions of the project’s impacts to pedestrians from favorable to unfavorable. The new sidewalks to cross the tracks are nice, but access in general has actually been decreased because though it was a river a cars, there was no actual prohibition on crossing Hunts Lane before, which could potentially be really easy when traffic was stopped for due to any of the dozens of daily trains that passed through there. Hopefully, SANBAG takes up the challenge and remedies the discrepancy for the better.

More photos available on flickr.

Today’s News

Well, that wasn’t long. People are definitely dying on the roads of the Inland Empire again.

  • Carnage: One dead in crash in San Bernardino (PE)
  • Carnage: Man killed while exiting his vehicle on I-15 (VVNG)
  • Carnage: Elderly man killed while crossing the street in San Bernardino (PE)
  • Carnage: Elderly woman killed while crossing the street in Rancho Cucamonga (PE)
  • Menifee’s Cimarron Ridge Draft EIR now available
  • Palm Springs’ 750 Lofts project wins approval from City Council (Desert Sun)
  • Victorville pays off SANBAG debt early, prepares for road spending spree (VVDP)
  • Murrieta gas prices are acting as a regional barometer (Murrieta Patch)
  • Riverside County DOT wins grant to expand GIS mapping of collisions (Valley News)
  • To get rid of ‘bikelash’, change the language (SBUSA)
  • Don’t fire up any wood today (PE, AQMD)

Wow. Hopefully, a better tomorrow.

Today’s News

The week is winding down, but the news is going strong! Here’s what’s happening today:

  • Carnage: Crash in San Bernardino leaves one dead, one in critical condition (PE)
  • Plans for third for-profit jail in Adelanto shelved (VVDP)
  • London’s mayor is proposing a major investment in the city’s bikeway network (SBUSA)
  • SANBAG is holding an opening ceremony for the I-10/Cherry Avenue Interchange tomorrow morning (announcement [PDF])
  • PE opines that curtailing sprawl in the Inland Empire will send young workers and their families elsewhere
  • Over in Fresno, the Droge Building shows modern mixed-use in action outside of the usual suspects (Stop and Move)
  • The ATP Cycle 2 is opening soon (SRTS)
  • Rialto looks to establish ties with a Cuban city (PE)

That’s all, check back tomorrow to prepare for the weekend.

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.

Progress Report: Hunts Lane overpass now open

Well, SanBAG had a Halloween treat for San Bernardino/Colton residents: they opened the Hunts Lane overpass to traffic. An official dedication is scheduled for Thursday morning, but it will occur in a parking lot directly east of the bridge. Still, attend if you can. It’s nice for citizens to show up to these sorts of things every once in awhile.

Existing conditions on Waterman Ave. south of the tracks.
Existing conditions for peds on Waterman Ave. south of the tracks.

Anyway, a little bit of info about the project. Located in the southern end of San Bernardino/eastern edge of Colton, this $29mn project means that the dozens of Union Pacific trains and a smattering of Amtraks (but unfortunately no daily passenger service to the Palm Springs area) that pass through this route no longer result in Hunts Ln. being blocked for any lengths of time. It will also be a massive improvement for pedestrians compared to Waterman Avenue, especially for those living in the neighborhoods directly south of the tracks who need to access the bus. The Hunts Lane sbX station is located approximately half a mile directly north.

Here’s what SanBAG had to say about it:

The last two sentences of that tweet are quite appropriate as the final design leaves much to be desired and includes a fair amount of built-in danger.

Of course, given the name, the accommodations for bikes are of great interest to this blog. Unfortunately, the current outlook is dismal. Since neither Colton nor San Bernardino has a bike master plan, Hunts Ln. is not a designated bikeway in either city either. Therefore, it also never made its way up to the SanBAG NMTP and thus missed this project. Although cycletracks weren’t yet approved when this project was hatched and started, they could’ve still built the bridge a little wider to accommodate some decent bike lanes. Especially considering the cliff faces curbs that border the roadway on the bridge.

That boat has now sailed, so re-adapting what we’re stuck with will have to be the way to go. There is still room for accommodating bikes a little better by way of the striping. It appears that the current design is for 12′ inside lanes and 17′ outside lanes. That presents a quandary to those pedaling along because CVC 21202 could be used against riders who are “impeding” traffic while controlling the outside lanes. However, both inside and outside lanes can be slimmed down a bit to accommodate a striped Class II bike lane. Using 10′ inside lanes and 13′ outside lanes leaves enough room to stripe a 6′ bike lane. Additionally, the slimmer lanes will encourage lower speeds. Currently, Hunts Lane is signed for 45 MPH, but initial observations show that some people think that is only a suggestion.

Speaking of striping, there are a couple of noggin scratchers there too. The most glaring error in that regard is the installation of ‘shark teeth’ upside down. A ‘pork chop island’ and right slip turn were included from Hunts Lane south to Oliver Holmes Rd. west with the requisite ‘YIELD’ sign and line. Or what was supposed to be a yield line. Per Section 3B.16 of the CA MUTCD, yield lines (aka ‘shark teeth’) are to be installed in this manner:

You had one job! But seriously. These 'shark teeth' are backwards.
You had one job! But seriously. These ‘shark teeth’ are backwards. This is how it should be done.

07 Yield lines (see Figure 3B-16 3B-16(CA)) shall consist of a row of solid white isosceles triangles pointing toward approaching vehicles extending across approach lanes to indicate the point at which the yield is intended or required to be made. – CA MUTCD 2012 Section 3B.16

Why so far?
Why so far?

They clearly missed the mark on that one. Another striping quirk was the limit line at Oliver Holmes Rd. It was set a ways back (22′ to be exact) from the intersection itself for all lanes. Oliver Holmes does see a fair amount of truck traffic, so the intent is likely to not have any turning conflict between trucks and vehicles at a limit line at the intersection. But perhaps staggered setbacks would be better? Currently, ALL lanes have their stop lines the same distance from the intersection itself. That distance may be fine for the left turn lane, but the inside lane could probably be brought up another 6′ and the outside lane a good 14′ and still not intrude into the area necessary to complete at turn.

The visibility is constrained from behind the line.
The visibility is constrained from behind the crosswalk.

But the real dangerous part of the whole project is on the south side of the tracks. While the intersections on the north side have signals, those on the south side don’t. As a result, people are left to their own devices and due to the proximity of Riverwood St. and Commercial Rd. to each other, it appears that one continues into the other. However, they’re just far enough apart that it’s not a straight shot. Added to that is the fact that visibility from behind the crosswalk on Riverwood is lackluster. A couple of hairy situations were observed in just the 15 minutes of taking pictures. As more people realize that Hunts is open and start using it, nothing good will come of this hodgepodge of intersections.

This island...
That island (not to be confused with Dhat Island)…
...should be here.
…should be here.

Most peculiar was the island located slightly south of Riverwood to delineate the left turn pocket from Hunts Ln. onto Riverwood. It has no obvious practical purpose. Given the propensity for dangerous crossings at Commercial Rd. and Riverwood St., the concrete would’ve seen better use creating an island restricting left turns off both of those roads. Nothing good will come of the current setup.

All that aside, the end of major construction will certainly be appreciated, even if there is still stuff to be done. At the same time, SanBAG needs to step back and take a long, hard look at their design of grade separation projects. These are the types of facilities that are quite expensive to build and cost-prohibitive to retrofit, especially for bike/ped needs. With several under construction and more in the planning phases, it is imperative that they be done right from the very beginning. There is hope for this project, but what is really needed will likely never happen.

Weekly Regional Roundup: Support Better Biking from the Beginning

In recent weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity in the planning arena toward making things better in the Inland Empire. In addition to the start of construction of the Pacific-Electric Trail Extension into Rialto, various agencies have other projects in some stage of planning that could certainly use some guidance to make sure the best possible stuff ends up being built. Here’s a chance to find out about what’s going on and where to direct any ire or admiration.

Menifee

The City of Menifee has released a Notice of Preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Cimarron Ridge Project. To put it mildly, it needs help desperately. The City’s Circulation Element of its General Plan endeavors to develop a bikeway/NEV network that would allow (and even encourage) residents to not drive within town, yet the proposed project doesn’t include adequate accommodations toward achieving that goal. This is a great chance to get a sprawling development somewhat tamed from the very beginning. Anyone living in Menifee or having an interest in the area or project should make sure that they provide comments now so that they can be addressed by the EIR. Speaking of EIR, there is a glimmer of hope because new rules are going in concerning how traffic impacts are considered under CEQA. This project offers a great opportunity to put them to the test to improve an area that has thus far developed into a textbook example of auto-centric sprawl. Notice of Preparation for the EIR is here, Cimarron Ridge Initial Study is here. Both are PDFs. Follow the links to retrieve the relevant documents and remember to get comments submitted by September 18.

SanBAG

SanBAG‘s Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Study for the Redlands (Passenger) Rail Project was released in mid-August and is now available for inspection and comment (information on how to comment), which are due by September 29. The Project has been in the works for well over a decade and is part of the larger transit improvements that San Bernardino has seen in recent years such as sbX. The RPRP will reconnect a bit of the south eastern portion of the historic Kite-Shaped Track network of Santa Fe. The eventual plan many decades in the future would continue the loop up through Highland and then west along 3rd St. past KSBD and back into San Bernardino proper, but that is years away and this EIR/EIS only covers the portion from the Transit Center in downtown San Bernardino to the University of Redlands. The Orange Blossom Trail will also be very near to it in some places, offering a multimodal experience similar to other rail-with-trail projects such as SMART in the Bay Area. The EIR/EIS is available here. There will also be a public meeting at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, September 9 at The Hotel San Bernardino in San Bernardino. Take the time to at least skim through the documents and gain a little insight.

Redlands
Redlands_BMP_Map
This map allows for easy input on ways to improve the biking environment in Redlands.

The City of Redlands is also seeking input for updating their Bicycle Master Plan. Passed earlier this year, it left some things lacking and people spoke up about that. The City apparently has listened and has taken a step toward improving things. While the finished result has yet to be seen, the interface is definitely a winner. It’s comprised of a map accessible from the City website that allows residents to input their recommendations for bike lanes, off-street paths, bike parking, and protected bikeways directly onto it. But best of all, other users can comment and vote on the recommendations that are already there. If you live or bike in Redlands, definitely head over to their website and check it out! Comments are due by September 25.

RTA
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RTA has added several meeting times to allow customers more and better opportunities to preview and make comments concerning the proposed changes.

Riverside Transit Agency is preparing for the future in a big way as well.  As the transit agency the serves Western Riverside County, they have a tall order to fill since a lot of the region is comprised of classic sprawling developments plopped along the freeways. There are many things to look at in their (Proposed) 10-Year Transit Network Plan and are now seeking public input on it. There are of course some winners and losers. Some routes are being realigned to meander less, which inevitably means that some stops are being taken out. RTA maintains that almost all customers will still be within 1/2 mile at most of a transit stop, but it’ll nevertheless be a tough pill to swallow for those who are used to having a bus stop right next to their porch. One way to greatly lessen the pain would be to make sure they support better bikeways, especially to major hubs. Also, high-quality bike parking at least at stops serving intersecting routes and major destinations can go far toward providing for those who are undoubtedly multimodal.

However, all routes are having service improvements and will all be at least 60 minute frequency. Currently, some are over an hour between buses. That 15 minute improvement makes missing the bus slightly less inconvenient.  At the other end, some routes will have frequencies approaching BRT status. Additionally, there are more indications that they might definitely be heading in a BRT-lite direction for Route 1 with both a limited stop option as well as signal priority. Of course, a decent portion of Route 1 is substantially identical to the proposed Riverside Streetcar, so it is imperative that RTA follow along with that conversation so that improvements could benefit both systems. Final comments on the entire plan are due to RTA by September 19. Access to a copy of the proposed changes is here [PDF] and a copy of the meeting notice is included here (PDF, identical to picture above).

That’s all for now, folks. If there are any other projects going on in the area, feel free to share more info so that others can add comments. There is of course quite a lot going on in the region and some stuff will undoubtedly slip under the radar without vigilance.