Question Mark

By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts
Posted: 02/24/15, 12:01 AM PST | Updated: 1 day ago

REDLANDS >> With a voter-approved commuter rail project that would take riders from San Bernardino to Redlands and back looming as early as 2018, local public transit critics are ringing bells over its funding.

But transit officials say a variety of funding sources will cover it.

The $242-million Redlands Passenger Rail Project project seeks to extend rail service from downtown San Bernardino to Redlands on nine miles of right-of-way that belongs to the San Bernardino Associated Governments, the county’s transportation planning authority known as SanBAG.

Voters approved the plan in 2004. That’s when they approved an extension of Measure I, which included taxpayer funding of the Redlands Passenger Rail Project, which was specified in the measure.

Paying for the project is not all from Measure I. It relies on a combination of Measure I bond revenue, state and federal funds and a giant state transportation bond voters approved last year. But local critics of the project, which is set to break ground in 2017, are sceptical.

Larry Leonard, who is part of the Inland Empire Transit Alliance, views the rail as unsustainable, because ticket sales would not cover the annual operations and maintenance of running a train service. Between 720 to 820 daily riders are estimated to use the Redlands route in 2018 and between 1,120 and 1,340 daily riders in 2038.

For Leonard, the idea that even federal money will help fund the project is not realistic. And taxpayers will pay for that, he worries.

“Everybody says this is free because they got federal grants,” he said. “Well, federal grants aren’t free. There’s no free lunch, so the people of this area here will have to decide how much they’re going to pay for this devil.”

The San Bernardino Associated Governments, or SanBAG, administers Measure I revenue. The funds are allocated based on a strategic plan. The SanBAG board of directors in April 2009 approved the strategic plan for the 2010-40 Measure I revenue.

Measure I sets aside 8 percent of revenue for rail projects, including the Redlands Passenger Rail and extension of the L.A. Metro Gold Line light rail.

Measure I funding will make up about 46 percent of the project’s total $242 million estimated cost, said Justin Fornelli, chief of transit and rail programs with SanBAG.

The remaining costs will be provided through state and federal funds, including Proposition 1B — the state’s transportation bond program, the Transportation Development Act, Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Funds, grants and private funds.

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