SanBAG begins design of Redlands Passenger Rail Project
By Sandra Emerson , Redlands Daily Facts
REDLANDS >>The design phase of the Redlands Passenger Rail Project has begun, but actual operations are still a few years away.
San Bernardino Associated Governments, or SanBAG, the lead agency on the project, has started an 18-month design phase and hired a public outreach team to help prepare the community for the future rail line, which will extend rail service nine miles from downtown San Bernardino to the University of Redlands.
“This rail has been out of service for several decades, so there’s a safety component that we want to get out to the public — to inform them of the rail system coming and to be safe and interact safely around the tracks,” said Justin Fornelli, SanBAG’s chief of transit and rail programs, during a presentation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Construction is expected to start in late 2017, with operations in mid-2020.
The project’s estimated cost was increased from $242 million to $250 million because of the type of vehicle to be used and upgrades planned for the maintenance facility in San Bernardino, Fornelli said.
“A portion of these dollars are estimated at this time. Some of them we’ve realized. As the project moves forward we’re going to be zoning in and dialing in these actual expenses.
Operations and maintenance costs are estimated to be between $8 million and $10 million.
The project is heavily supported by the Measure I half-cent sales tax, originally approved by voters in 1989 and renewed in 2004.
The first phase of the construction includes placement of nine miles of single track with two miles of double track in the middle to allow vehicles to pass each other.
There are four stations planned: Waterman Avenue; New York Street near Esri, at the company’s expense; downtown Redlands; and the University of Redlands.
The Redlands rail will connect to the new San Bernardino Transit Center, which is Omnitrans’ East Valley hub. SanBAG has recommended that Omnitrans take over operation of the Redlands rail.
“I think one common misconception about this project is that it’s an extension of Metrolink,” Fornelli said. “That’s not the case. It is a stand-alone service with its own vehicle type.”
SanBAG will begin procuring Diesel Multiple Units early next year. The DMUs were selected over traditional locomotives because they are smaller, more efficient and quieter. But they are more expensive to purchase, hence the increase in the project’s cost.
“During the environmental phase we listened to the public,” Fornelli said. “They were concerned about having large locomotive haul coaches traveling through town all day. This is the type of service, the type of train we’re going to have traveling through Redlands.”
Trains will run every 30 minutes during peak hours and every hour for nonpeak times.
Fornelli addressed concerns over an increase in traffic jams caused by the train. He estimated the railroad crossing gates will be down for three-to-four minutes an hour.
The cities of Redlands and San Bernardino have agreed to implement quiet zones along the rail corridor in order to minimize the sound of train horns. A Positive Train Control system will be used.
Over the past few months, residents have attended City Council meetings in opposition to the train. They have cited the cost, potential for crime, concerns over high density housing and potential lack of ridership.
“One of the speakers mentioned about $300,000 cost per rider and I can understand their math,” he said. “As part of the EIR we estimated 800 to 900 riders per day, so $250 million divided by 800 comes out to $300,000 — on Day 1. That’s if the service shut down after Day 1.”
Fornelli said the vehicles are expected to last 30 years and bridge improvements 75 years to 100 years.
“This is a long-term investment that we’re making for the residents of the county to provide them with a choice on how they want to get around the county,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Jon Harrison said Tuesday that he hopes to be updated at least quarterly on the project.
“I think it’s going to be important to keep not only the council, but the community informed as progress is being made,” he said.
Mayor Paul Foster said he too looks forward to SanBAG returning to a future meeting.
“Many of the speakers that have been before us here over the last several months have brought up a lot of facts or figures and many of them are correct, but they’re not necessarily portrayed in the appropriate context that they need to be considered,” Foster said. “We do appreciate you coming and laying the facts out for the public.”
Sandra covers the city of Redlands. Reach the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Sandra on Twitter: @TheFactsSandra.