James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Created: 02/09/2011 05:44:28 PM PST

Local mayors and county officials are in Washington this week to ask the federal government for help in completing several major highway projects.

That is, they’re asking for money. And lots of it.

Leaders from San Bernardino Associated Governments – or SanBAG – met with officials from the federal Department of Transportation and with members of Congress. They’re pushing for several big projects, including a freeway between Victorville and Palmdale and a light rail line linking San Bernardino and Redlands.

“Our No. 1 priority is the Devore interchange,” where the 15 and 215 freeways meet, said SanBAG President and County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. “That’s the big project we need help with. Congress should be interested in helping. It’s the second-worst choke point in the Interstate Highway System.”

For that project, SanBAG is requesting $151million. For the Redlands light rail project, the agency is requesting $114million. For new carpool lanes along the 10 Freeway between the 215 and 210 freeways, SanBAG is requesting $100million.

Also on SanBAG’s list are several smaller projects, including railroad crossing improvements in Redlands and two new interchanges on the 15 Freeway.

While SanBAG officials have met or will meet today with every member of San Bernardino County’s congressional delegation, members of Congress could be less helpful in securing transportation funding this year than they have in years past.

Earmarks, the specific projects added to spending bills by members of Congress, appear to be off-limits this year.

“The political environment is certainly such that earmarks are frowned upon,” Mitzelfelt said. “But I think that might translate into funds being allocated … for major types of projects – for transit, for highways, for rail. If that’s the case, we should probably fare pretty well. We are one of the key ports of entry and goods movement corridors in the entire country.”

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