If You Build It They Will Come

Saturday, February 28, 2015 – 11:30 a.m.

San Bernardino County leaders, not Inland Empire as a whole, seem fascinated with building public works projects that will never be self-sustaining. Even though they say otherwise.

Some of the projects are public necessity. Some are flat out boondoggle’s. Some are just ill-conceived.

The latest is the hoopla over the planned MetroLink extension from San Bernardino, otherwise known as Gotham City, to Redlands.

The project is referred to as the Redlands Passenger Rail Project. A project with an expected price tag of $242 million.

Supporters say the project, funded by federal grants, sales tax and Proposition 1B bond money, will eventually sustain itself.

Wrong. It’s another project that won’t sustain itself. Just like the $300 million-plus, and counting, San Bernardino International Airport (SBIA) to nowhere.

Just like the $200 million-plus, and counting, scantly-used SBx Bus Line (SBx), which happens to have a dedicated route from the campus of Cal State San Bernardino, through a high-crime area located in the heart of the aforementioned Gotham City, and on to Loma Linda University Medical Center.

I know. What a brainchild.

Other high-dollar projects such as the San Bernardino Justice Center and I-215 Widening Project fall into the category of public necessity. But they aren’t, nor will they ever be, local economic drivers, as some say.

Unlike the other two “Build it and they will come” SBIA and SBx boondoggles, the Redlands Passenger Rail Project seems more like an amenity than anything else.

I love Downtown Redlands. It’s still quaint. It has a busy nightlife. It has relatively low crime.

It’s a college town.

The thought of having a passenger rail service landing at the old Orange Street location is very appealing. Even if it’s just for the image.

But if anyone believes there is going to be some broad demand for the Redlands and Yucaipa area crowds to hop on the train and ride to San Berdoo and beyond, you can forget it!

Interestingly, the guy who is trying to cleanup on the whole passenger rail deal is ESRI Founder Jack Dangermond, who has bought up property all around the planned rail route.

Whether Dangermond’s bet along with the planned high-density housing will pay off, remains yet to be seen.

It’s also interesting to make note of the extreme disconnect between the West Valley and East Valley regions of San Bernardino County. The forward thinking and long-range planning differences, between the two, is absolutely amazing.

But that’s a conversation for another day.

Now back to the point.

Does anyone really believe the rail project will ever be self-sustaining?

Is the $242 million, money well spent?

Is it good for local leaders to snow taxpayers on the idea that the project will be self-sustaining?

As always, your comments are welcome.