10:00 PM PST on Monday, January 17, 2011

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

Construction of a long-awaited new court building in downtown San Bernardino is scheduled to begin in March.

The 36-courtroom, 377,755- square-foot complex will be built on 7.3 acres across the street from the current courthouse on Arrowhead Avenue. The 11-story structure will be the tallest in downtown San Bernardino, court officials say.

The current courthouse, built in 1926, has become increasingly overwhelmed with crowded hallways and heavy caseloads, said San Bernardino County Superior Court Presiding Judge Douglas Elwell.

Despite the state’s budget woes, money for the $325 million project already is committed from the State Court Construction Fund, Elwell said.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time coming.”

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court is scheduled to attend the March 18 ground-breaking ceremony.

“It’s considered a significant court project for the state,” Elwell said.

The San Bernardino building is one of the state’s first new court projects since it took over local courts in 2002, and it’s the largest the state is building, he said. That priority is an indication of the county’s needs, Elwell said.

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