The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau has finalized a direct loan of $225 million for the Interstate 10 Corridor Project, a critical step forward for one of the most highly anticipated regional transportation and mobility improvements in Southern California.
Construction will begin in early 2020 on the four-year project in San Bernardino County, which will include the installation of express lanes (also known as toll lanes) between the Los Angeles County line (near Montclair) and Interstate 15 (just west of Fontana).
The low-interest federal loan, which closed on May 3, is through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and represents about one-fourth of the project’s overall $929 million anticipated cost. Additional funding is coming from a variety of local, state and federal sources.
“The 10 is a vital stretch of highway and I’m pleased that federal financing has been secured to modernize it," said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). "This is a major corridor for domestic commerce and international trade, connecting the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to markets across the United States. This project will help move goods more efficiently through the region while also accommodating the Inland Empire’s rapid population growth. I look forward to seeing construction begin next year."
When completed in 2023, the project will result in dual express lanes for about 10 miles along the I-10 in each direction. Motorists may access those lanes either with or without a transponder and would pay a fee, based on traffic conditions at the time. Vehicles with three or more occupants may use the lanes for free with a valid transponder.
Similar projects in Los Angeles County and across the U.S. have shown that express lanes encourage greater use of carpooling and improve the flow of traffic on the remaining lanes, officials said.
“The closing of the TIFIA loan is a major milestone for the I-10 Corridor Project and underscores the importance of that stretch of interstate to the entire country," said Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31), whose district includes part of Fontana. "As the Inland Empire’s economy and population continue to grow, it’s important that we find ways to increase mobility throughout the region. I look forward to the benefits the I-10 Corridor Project will bring to our community.”
Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35), whose district also includes part of Fontana, added: “The I-10 Corridor Project is an important step toward reducing vehicle congestion and improving air quality throughout the Inland Empire and Southern California. This funding will help ensure that the project is completed on time and with maximum benefit to our region.”
The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) approved the Corridor plan in 2017 after an exhaustive study into how best to address congestion along the heavily traveled freeway. Compounding matters are population projections that show the Inland Empire growing from 4.5 million to 7 million people within 30 years.
“The I-10 Corridor project is critical to our future as a county and a region, and we’re extremely grateful to our Congressional members and those who supported our TIFIA application,” said Darcy McNaboe, president of SBCTA and mayor of Grand Terrace. “Reducing congestion at a time when we’re growing, as a region, faster than ever is an urgent priority. Building new freeways isn’t an option, for a variety of reasons. Express lanes are proven to work, and with this funding in place, we look forward to the beginning of construction.”
Eventually, the I-10 Corridor Project is scheduled to extend all the way from Montclair to Redlands, but there are many factors remaining to be considered, including the timing of express lanes that are slated to be built on I-15.
"As we continue to develop transportation improvements along both the I-10 and I-15, we must consider demand and available resources moving forward," said Tim Watkins, chief of legislative and public affairs for SBCTA. "The next logical step for the I-10 east of I-15 is to extend the Express Lane system to Sierra Avenue in Fontana. However, the schedule for that portion will likely compete with the development of Express Lanes along the I-15 Corridor between the SB/RIV county line to just north of I-10, a system that will connect with Express Lanes under development in Riverside County. But for now, the Board has yet to make a formal determination as to which project will advance first.
"As you can see, the network looks at an overall regional effort and not just localized to our county. The planning and execution can be very complex when navigating the funding, traffic demand, benefit to the end user, etc."