SUPPORT-Allocation for I-15 a letter to the CTC

January 5, 2024

Ms. Lee Ann Eager, Chair
California Transportation Commission
1120 N Street, MS 52
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Chair Eager:

As you are aware, Inland Action is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation of spirited leaders who are engaged in issues and initiatives that help advance the economic well-being of the Inland Empire.   Since 1962, we have actively monitored projects and programs which serve to make our region move and improve for the benefit of our growing communities.   The actions taken related to Item #99 at the December 7th California Transportation Commission (CTC) meeting neither move nor improve our transportation systems, and we are deeply concerned that a project of this level of regional significance could be jeopardized, particularly after so much progress, investment, and effort has been made.

The item, slated for the allocation of funds for the I-15 Express Lanes & Freight Improvement Project in San Bernardino County, was pulled from a grouping of CTC staff-recommended approvals by Commissioner Lyou for a debate on the merits of the project, when its merits had already been well-established through the CTC project evaluation process.  It was a debate based on revisiting policy and not carrying out the established process of allocation.

Ultimately, this late and untimely action resulted in the item failing to pass by a 3-3 vote.  As an organization that supports regional projects in self-help counties, the CTC’s established role of programming and allocating funds is paramount to the effective delivery of regional transportation infrastructure.  Decisions like this undermine the ability of our transportation agencies to perform while adding undue strain and cost to our transportation systems.

San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) received a Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) grant award in December 2020 based on a competitive process that recognized the importance of continuing to build the Southern California multimodal express/managed lane network by extending the existing express lanes on I-15 in Riverside County by an additional 11 miles northward.  SBCTA coupled this $118.7 million in SB 1 TCEP funds with $83.8 million of the SBCTA formula share of SB 1 Local Partnership Program (LPP) and State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds, also previously approved for programming by the CTC.  SBCTA has spent nearly $26 million in Measure I local sales tax funds and countless staff hours since these programming actions securing multiple agreements, permits, and environmental mitigation credits to ready the project for construction.

A great deal of planning, collaboration, and design has gone into this project, representing nearly a decade of partnership among SBCTA and the California Department of Transportation, the Riverside County Transportation Commission, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and local jurisdictions in the corridor. The regional network of express/managed lanes needs to operate as an integrated system to provide incentives for transit, support shared rides, improve air quality, and help goods move more efficiently and safely.  This project is part of a multimodal vision to move people and freight more efficiently in the San Bernardino Valley.

Having delivered improvements on Metrolink, the zero-emission West Valley Connector Bus Rapid Transit system, a robust vanpool/rideshare program, bicycle/pedestrian improvements to enhance access to transit stations, the most recent zero-emission Brightline High Speed Rail System to Las Vegas that ties into the regional rail network in Rancho Cucamonga, and incorporating a clean truck element focused on accelerating the transition to zero-emission trucks, SBCTA is an agency that has proven that it can collaborate and innovate.  It is working to continue to do so with this project.

Since 2019, SBCTA has followed the appropriate processes to advance this project and received multiple programming approvals including a competitive award.  In the words of William E. Leonard, a former CTC Commissioner and one of Inland Action’s founding members, “Wait broke the bridge…”   At a time when every transportation dollar matters, we strongly urge immediate reconsideration and approval of this important project.  Corridors that don’t connect will never move our region or our State forward.

With all the innovative transit projects being delivered in San Bernardino County, it troubles us that Commissioner Lyou suggested that the projects noted above were irrelevant to this project because they were “not committed to in terms of the environmental document.”  Those comments seem to represent a prescribed agenda and were uninformed and dismissive of the incredible work that is in progress to meet this region’s unique challenges.  We are faced with balancing the needs of our growing residential community, who seek a more affordable quality of life, with our role in building a more efficient supply chain to keep the State economically competitive, as described in the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan (CSFAP) and other State plans.

In closing, SBCTA is preparing for the item to be reconsidered at the Commission’s next meeting in January 2024, and we expect it to be approved as committed to on December 2, 2020.  In addition, we respectfully request a review of the administrative process that subjects the award recipients to the risk to which this project has been subjected.  That process appears inefficient, slows the movement of funds and project delivery, and allows for the type of uncertainty created by the vote on the I-15 project.

Inland Action seeks the Commission’s careful consideration and swift approval of fund allocation for this critical system enhancement project which will serve local, regional, and interstate needs.



Carole Beswick