Exclusive Interview with Dr. Raymond Wolfe
SAN BERNARDINO, CA-San Bernardino Association of Governments, a.k.a. SANBAG, will spend $734 million this year upgrading roads, highways, bridges and mass-transit bus and rail service throughout the County of San Bernardino. The investment underscores the leadership of the County to bring that money to bear on the issues facing the region and to ensure the County remains a destination of choice for major corporations and investors. GlobeSt.com recently spoke with Dr. Raymond Wolfe of SANBAG about how the projects the agency will be working on and how companies can benefit by being located in the County.
GlobeSt.com: How has SANBAG influenced growth in the County?
Wolfe: SANBAG plays a number of roles in economic development as the County’s transportation commission and authority. SANBAG was originally commissioned in 1973 as the Council of Governments. In 1989, the agency morphed into a more transportation-focused organization with the passage of Measure I, the half-cent sales tax dedicated to County transportation improvements.
Measure I has been responsible for major County projects such as the widening of SR 60, extension of the 210 freeway through San Bernardino and realignment of SR 71, among others. These projects, constructed from the 1990s through the early part of the century, really changed the character of the County’s landscape, provided for more access to the region’s developing lands and allowed for more streamlined goods movement.
GlobeSt.com: How does SANBAG influence goods movement in the County?
Wolfe: The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the most heavily traveled ports in the nation and have been for a decade. Due to the County’s proximity to the ports, freight and goods movement are a huge part of our local economy. Goods movement has helped foster a network of distribution centers—from Ontario to the West Valley. The new Amazon.com distribution center at AllianceCalifornia, a 2,000-acre, mixed-use development in the city of San Bernardino, is a great example. Amazon.com recently opened a new fulfillment center in a 950,000-square-foot building, bringing hundreds of new jobs to the local economy. That type of expansion is needed; however, the increased truck traffic impacts local streets and arterials. A major portion of SANBAG’s work is to improve interchanges allowing for better movement on and off the freeways and to also support local communities and local improvement projects.
GlobeSt.com: Please share some of SANBAG’s top projects.
Wolfe: I-15/I-215/Devore Junction: Trucks and trains move significant volumes of freight along the I-15 corridor, through the Cajon Pass and the Devore Junction, where the I-15 and I-215 freeways meet. The improvement project undertaken by SANBAG in coordination with the California Department of Transportation is focused on adding new lanes, realigning the freeway-to-freeway junction, adding truck by-pass lanes, improving bridges, reconnecting Route 66 and addressing other environmental needs. Only 21% of the $324-million total cost is federally funded. The remaining 79% of the funding is derived from Measure I local sales tax (20.4%), state funding (56.5%) and private funding (2.1%).
Passenger Rail Service: SANBAG is working to expand transit options in San Bernardino and Redlands. During the last several years, SANBAG has been studying the feasibility of utilizing the Redlands Subdivision, a 9-mile railroad corridor extending between Downtown San Bernardino and the University of Redlands, to introduce passenger rail service to this area.
Regional HOV Lanes: We are also working to create an accessible HOV (high occupancy vehicle) network throughout Southern California by working with our neighboring agencies such as Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the Riverside Transportation Authority, Orange County Transit Authority and Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
We’re even dedicating more money to transit-oriented developments with a number of projects now moving through design and environmental requirements. While these projects will take a number of years to complete, they demonstrate a commitment not only to a strong freight and goods movement industry, but also looking at alternate modes of transportation to enhance overall quality of life.
GlobeSt.com: How does your work support economic development?
Wolfe: Obviously all of these transportation improvements are of interest to manufacturers and any companies that need to transport raw materials through the supply chain and deliver finished goods to market. SANBAG is focused on making the County an attractive place to relocate or establish a new business, for all industries. We are lucky to be a self-help county in California, where we have the ability to leverage local sales tax to affect many of these important advantages. This is not the case in many counties that have to rely on federal and state dollars.
GlobeSt.com: What are the benefits to companies locating in the County?
Wolfe: The County of San Bernardino established a Countywide Vision Statement, and transportation is one of the nine elements. These elements, that include water, healthcare, education, among others, are central to improving our County and improving our competitiveness and quality of life. We have great leadership that isn’t just focused on being business-friendly, but is also trying to solve the basic problem of transportation. That can be a basic hurdle toward a successful business climate. SANBAG is committed to helping to implement this Countywide Vision so that we don’t just have a document on paper that collects dust, but we address issues from every angle to make this a destination of choice.
Another great thing we bring to the table is that our average resident age, 31 years, is lower than most neighboring counties. We have a robust workforce that will be available for years to come.
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