SBX project will harm businesses
Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/08/2011 07:01:55 AM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – A high-speed bus line in the works faces opposition from a newly formed group that says the project is a government boondoggle that will harm commerce in the area.

Taxpayers Against Wasteful Government Spending says the $192 million SBX project, a 15.7-mile bus line along the E Street Corridor proposed to connect the Cal State San Bernardino and Loma Linda University areas, will make it difficult for drivers to access businesses already hit hard by the economy, especially along Hospitality Lane.

“This thing is going to put a bus lane down the middle of the road,” said Jim Ott, a spokesman for the group. “It’s going to change the flavor of Hospitality Lane from a nice thing to a transit corridor. You might
as well run light rail through the middle of it.”

Ott is a former Colton planning commissioner who owns property in the affected area.

He said he took on the role of spokesman for the group of property owners – the number of which he declined to disclose – because he is against government waste, not necessarily because of how it affects him financially.

Officials with Omnitrans, the public transit agency serving the San Bernardino Valley, and San Bernardino Associated Governments, the county transportation planning authority, say SBX construction could start in the middle of this year, with operation in early 2014.

They say the project, funded with federal, state and local money, will add customers to local businesses and draw new restaurants and shops to the E Street Corridor.

Once up and running, buses will use dedicated lanes, as well as dedicated traffic signals that allow bus drivers to make red lights turn green or make green lights stay green longer.

The opposition group says a stretch of U-turns created by the dedicated lanes – starting at 10th Street and continuing south to Hospitality Lane, then continuing east on Hospitality and ending at Tippecanoe Avenue – will clog traffic and cause motorists to avoid the area and its businesses.

“If I had my way, I would nix it,” said Sheila McDevitt, who runs Angie’s Plants and Flowers at 423 S. E St.

But transportation officials say the project won’t negatively impact traffic, and may improve it, while providing an alternative to the automobile in a time marked by high gas prices and efforts to reduce pollution.

They say traffic solutions were designed into the project, which is part of a wider regional effort to ease commutes and increase commerce.

“As part of a larger system-wide corridor plan for the greater San Bernardino Valley region, SBX will have other routes besides the E Street Corridor,” Omnitrans officials said in a statement.

It will connect with other services such as the proposed Metrolink extension and with other transit agencies, officials said.

The project impacts 151 properties, requiring temporary construction easements and “sliver takes” resulting in Omnitrans buying 1-foot to 15-foot pieces of land to widen streets along the route.

As for the project’s price tag, Omnitrans officials pointed to a federal commitment of $75million to the project, money they say is allocated for transit projects and will be lost to other communities if not spent here.

They contend that now is the time to invest in the project because in the down economy, material costs are lower and labor is more competitive.

“Ultimately, we are planning for the region’s longevity,” Omnitrans officials said in a statement. “Not just for today but five, 10 and 20 years from now.”

Those plans include addressing air-quality mandates and development along the transit corridor.

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