After years of analyzing the idea, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA), previously known as SANBAG, approved on July 12 the construction of toll lanes on the Interstate 10 Freeway in San Bernardino County.
With a 16-2 vote, the SBCTA voted to build a 33-mile toll lane project at an estimated cost of $1.8 billion, which would run from the Los Angeles County line to Redlands.
Fontana will be one of several cities impacted by the decision, which marks the first time that toll lanes would be implemented in San Bernardino County.
The I-10 Freeway is a major critical transportation corridor used by more than 263,000 vehicles and more than 20,000 trucks every day, creating the need for the toll lanes, the SBCTA said.
"As the region grows, travel will increase, resulting in more congestion, pollution, and loss of time," the SBCTA said.
Over the past four decades, the county’s population has tripled to 2.1 million; by 2035 the number of residents is expected to increase by 30 percent, and by 2060 it could go up by 60 percent.
“That’s like adding the entire population of Phoenix, Arizona into the county. This trend is continuing with neighboring counties as well, with Riverside County growing at a similar pace,” according to staff reports.
With this growth, daily traffic is expected to increase to 350,000 vehicles by 2045, the SBCTA report said.
“Increasing goods movement will also create heavier traffic conditions. For example, between 2003 and 2030, there will be a 75 percent increase in truck traffic on I-10, resulting in 23,000 trucks on the I-10 every day,” the SBCTA said.
However, Fontana resident Kathy Ponce said local elected officials “failed” the hard working families by approving the idea, which adds “yet another undue tax onto our daily lives.”
“I am very disappointed that this initiative passed. If they (elected officials) do not think this will be remembered in November of ‘18, they are very wrong. To those that did not show up for the vote, or had to 'leave for another meeting,' that is poor representation of your constituents,” said Ponce.
In fact, out of the 29 board of directors, only 18 cast their vote, and one of those was Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who supported the toll lanes. When asked for a comment by this reporter, Warren said she is preparing a letter to the editor to explain her decision.
Earlier this year, Warren replaced Fontana City Councilmember Michael Tahan as Fontana's representative on the Board of Directors of SBCTA. Tahan had opposed the idea of toll lanes, and Jesse Sandoval, another member of the City Council, also said he was against the proposal.
The two "no" votes at the SBCTA meeting were cast by San Bernardino County 5th District Supervisor Josie Gonzales, a former member of the Fontana City Council, and Chino Mayor Eunice Ulloa.
According to Tim Watkins, a spokesperson for SBCTA, 11 out of the 29 board members were absent at the regular meeting, including Janice Rutherford, who represents the 2nd District on the Board of Supervisors.
A similar idea of creating toll lanes is being considered for the I-15 Freeway, which has a daily vehicle traffic average of about 223,000. Truck traffic is projected to continue growing by 2 percent to 2.5 percent per year, stated SBCTA. Authorities are looking at 33-mile Express Lanes in each direction of I-15 between State Route 60, in Riverside County, and U.S. Route 395 in the High Desert.
The I-10 Freeway toll lanes project will be constructed in two phases, with the first phase planned to start late next year. Opening of the first phase is scheduled by 2022, and the corridor is expected to be completed by mid-2024.
Before the vote, a group of area residents served the SBCTA Board of Directors with a lawsuit, attempting to stop or at least delay the project. Watkins said he could not comment on any active lawsuit.