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San Bernardino County Sentinel

by Mark Gutglueck, 8/11/11 - The San Bernardino County Sentinel

There is less than a clear consensus among the county’s transportation agency officials as to the advisability of incorporating toll lanes along Interstate-10, Interstate-215 and Interstate-15.

Such additions are at least a half-decade away. Roughly three quarters of the board members of San Bernardino Associated Governments, which serves as San Bernardino County’s transportation agency, appear disposed to at least considering the concept. Last week they voted to approve expenditures of $13.7 million to facilitate studies and planning toward toll road development in conjunction with private sector companies that would participate in such projects.

The proposal now being entertained would provide for a toll lane from Ontario to Redlands on I-10 and from the Riverside County Line to Victorville on the I-215 and I-15 Freeways. A condition to the construction of the new toll lanes would include the construction of new general use lanes along the same stretches as well.

The most feasible concept for the program, which would cost $2.4 billion for the improvements to all three freeways, would be to bond against the future revenues from the toll lane. Part of the studies to be undertaken with the just appropriated money is to determine if the debt from just such a bond funding mechanism could be serviced by the toll road income.

San Bernardino Associated Governments, which is also known by its acronym SANBAG,  was drawn into considering the toll road concept by the consideration that Orange County already has toll lanes in place and a larger system of toll roads that would include San Bernardino County, Riverside County, Los Angeles County and Orange County freeways is being pushed by regional transportation officials, who insist that for the entire system to work there must be uniform participation.

There is resistance to the concept, however. On the Atlantic Seaboard and in the Midwest, toll roads are referred to as turnpikes, not freeways. In California, freeways have historically been maintained by the state and federal government through taxes, not toll charges.

While SCAG, Southern California Associated Governments, which serves as the regional planning agency for Southern California, supports the toll road concept, within SANBAG there is some resistance to the concept.

The SANBAG board consists of all five members of the county board of supervisors and representatives from each of the city councils of the county’s 24 cities.

While Highland Mayor Larry McCallon, Rancho Cucamonga Mayor L. Dennis Michael, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, Adelanto councilwoman Cari Thomas, Rialto councilman Ed Scott, Apple Valley Town councilman Rick Roelle, San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, Barstow councilwoman Julie McIntyre, Twentynine Palms Mayor Jim Harris, Big Bear councilman Bill Jahn, Upland Mayor Ray Musser, Chino Mayor Dennis Yates, Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron, Chino Hills Mayor Ed Graham, Yucaipa councilman Richard Riddell, Yucca Valley Mayor George Huntington, San Bernardino County supervisor Gary Ovitt, San Bernardino County supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, Hesperia Mayor Mike Leonard, San Bernardino County supervisor Neil Derry, Needles Mayor Edward Paget and Ontario councilman Alan Wapner all have supported at least exploring the possibility of constructing the toll roads, the concept has been rejected by San Bernardino County supervisor Josie Gonzales, San Bernardino County supervisor Janice Rutherford, Montclair Mayor Paul Eaton, Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, Grand Terrace Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz, Fontana councilman Michael Tahan and Colton councilwoman Deirdre Bennett.

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