12/09/2012 02:58 am ET Updated Feb 08, 2013

10 Freeway Expansion: Many Unknowns About I-10 Changes Concern Area Residents

Frustrated with the congestion along the 10 Freeway?

San Bernardino Associated Governments and Caltrans are looking at two plans to provide relief although neither would enter the construction phase until 2020.

The most ambitious plan would expand the 10 by two lanes in each direction from the Los Angeles County Line to Ford Street in Redlands -- 35 miles at a projected cost of a little more than $1 billion.

A detailed cost and revenue study will be completed in the spring.

The plan, which highway planning officials call Alternative 3, would be the first time San Bernardino County officials used a hybrid of toll and car-pool lanes -- called express lanes.

A less ambitious plan, which highway officials

call Alternative 2, calls for the construction of one car-pool lane, in each direction, from near Haven Avenue in Ontario to Ford Street in Redlands. This plan covers 25 miles at a cost of $546 million.

This plan, while cheaper and less disruptive, would provide relief for "less than 10 years before it becomes congested again," said Garry Cohoe, SANBAG's director of project delivery.

By adjusting tolls, highway officials hope the express lane plan will successfully modulate congestion for decades.

There is an Alternative 1, which calls for no improvement.

That approach has virtually no support because "parts of I-10 are at peak capacity now, especially in the West End, in the Ontario-Montclair area," Cohoe said.

Currently, Alternative 3 appears to have significant support among SANBAG board members, who will ultimately decide which option is chosen.

But there is a group of SANBAG board members opposed to that alternative.

The cost and revenue study will help illuminate the decision, said L. Dennis Michael, mayor of Rancho Cucamonga.

"A lot of work needs to be done...we don't have enough information now," he said.

Today's financing realities -- with dwindling funds from state and federal sources -- also favor freeway construction which incorporates toll lanes as another revenue source, Cohoe said.

The practice of congestion pricing -- where motorists can pay for a faster ride during peak traffic flow periods -- made its debut in Los Angeles County earlier this month along an 11-mile stretch of the 110 Freeway.


Late last month, SANBAG and Caltrans officials began the public comment period with two public meetings, one in Ontario and one in San Bernardino.

Among those attending the Ontario was Pastor Daniel Grabowski who is worried what the noise and pollution implications are for the more than 100 children attending his Ontario-based

Redeemer Lutheran Church school.

The sound wall to the current freeway ends at the property line for his school's playground.

"How much will this encroach into our property?", he asked.

Highway officials didn't have an answer. Detailed studies are ongoing to determine how much property will need to purchased by each alternative, where sound walls and retaining walls need to be placed and many other engineering questions, Cohoe said.

Miles away, longtime Redlands resident Mary Hampton wonders how much worse freeway noise will be at her near 10 Freeway residence.

"Some nights now I wouldn't be able to sleep if the TV wasn't on," she said.

Colton resident Yvette Gonzales is concerned that new sound walls might obscure signage that advertises her storage units and is visible from 10 Freeway.

"Also the sound wall will probably attract graffiti," she said.


"The engineering data shows that a car-pool lane (Alternative 2) would be helpful, but would not provide a sustained level of relief. It would be nothing more than a Band-aid," said Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who also sits on the SANBAG board.

Says Michael Tahan, a SANBAG board member who is also a Fontana councilman: "My concern is that a high toll would make the other lanes even more jammed. And drivers will go to the local streets instead of paying a toll or face the other four general purpose lanes that are even more jammed."

"And who will pay for the increased wear and tear on city streets?" he asked.

There will also be increased dust and pollution in cities located off the 10, said Tahan, who is among a minority group of SANBAG board members opposed to the having tolls on San Bernardino County freeways.

Josie Gonzales, chairwoman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, is in that camp as well.

"It is my belief that the taxpayer has already paid and invested in the transportation infrastructure. I have a difficult time asking people to pay for the privilege of riding on their own freeways," Gonzales said.

"I don't sense public support, said Janice Rutherford, county supervisor for the Second District and president of the 29-member SANBAG board.

"It's double taxation and elitism and I don't believe it will produce efficiency in traffic flow."

Rutherford said that of all the governmental messages she posts on her Facebook page, the issue of toll roads draws more response than anything else -- and it's all negative.

"I fully support this 100 percent," said Alan Wapner, Ontario councilman and SANBAG board member, said of Alternative 3.

He said that paying a toll isn't a tax -- it's a user fee.

And this user fee is a way to fill "a huge funding shortfall."

Looking ahead to a series of express lanes across Southern California, Wapner said they need to be coordinated so that there is not a situation where three in a car during rush hour is free in one county, but a neighboring county requires four passengers for a free ride in the express lanes.

Freeway travelers who don't pay a toll, still get the benefit from fewer people being in the general purpose lanes, Cohoe said.

Studies of express lanes in San Diego County show that 60 percent of people with incomes less than $40,000 approved, just 10 percentage points less than the 70 percent approval rate for those making more than $100,000 annually, Cohoe said.

Said Aguilar: "This is going to be a long conversation. It is going to take a great deal of time to analyze and go through the public process."