FHWA celebrates re-connected San Bernardino
In 1959, if you happened to be driving in San Bernardino, California, a new freeway there could have provided you with a modern transportation route. Unfortunately, it also kept one part of town separated from the other.
But not anymore.
Last week, I traveled to California and joined officials from Caltrans, the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) and the City of San Bernardino at a ribbon-cutting for the I-215 widening project. This was a big undertaking and a special endeavor for a lot of reasons.
Caltrans and SANBAG replaced bridges and added two freeway lanes in each direction for more than seven miles, along with direct connectors at the State Route 210 interchange. Adding two freeway lanes --one general purpose lane and one HOV lane-- in each direction makes I-215 considerably wider and safer for the 130,000 drivers expected to use the corridor each day.
More importantly to many area residents, the improved I-215 reopens access to and from San Bernardino's Westside, connecting it with the rest of the city for the first time in more than a half-century.
Just as in many other cities across America, when the original freeway came through, it isolated the Westside community, choking economic development. Today, as Secretary Foxx said, "This project will rejuvenate a community and connect parts of this city that have been separated for decades."
The word “connections” is bandied about a lot in the highway business, sometimes to the point that it becomes abstract and hard to experience. But for the people of San Bernardino's Westside, the new I-215 is a concrete example --no pun intended-- of what real transportation connections make possible and how important they are for neighbors and businesses alike.
I know that San Bernardinans are pleased to see a safer, stronger I-215 as well as a reunited San Bernardino, and we at FHWA are proud to have been able to support this achievement.
Greg Nadeau is Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.