We now understand that the Nisqualli Interchange, first proposed, oh, 25 years ago as a solution to the Bear Valley Road mess that has plagued Victor Valley traffic flow for years … and years … and years … is now going to be started. Um, “now” meaning in a year or so.
The San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG, an appropriate name for an agency concerned with roads if you live in the Victor Valley) has for years … and years … and years … kept the interchange at a low priority in favor of far-flung projects that absorb Victor Valley tax dollars and state stipends, to the detriment of local motorists.
Now, it appears, Caltrans has opted to relinquish control over the project to the city of Victorville, which will oversee construction. Cost is now pegged at $63 million, on the assumption that right-of-way needs by the city can be obtained without further onerous cost.
As far as we’re concerned — and have been for the said 25 years — there’s no transportation need more pressing in the Victor Valley than for an expanded and improved traffic system. And that need has grown apace with the valley’s growth over the past several decades.
We’ve long advocated, as the major factor in any plan to relieve the High Desert’s traffic congestion, the construction of an additional cross valley roadway, one that would ultimately connect Victorville with Apple Valley and thus reduce the pressure on both Highway 18 through the Mojave Narrows and Bear Valley Road. As we all know, local officials have made various promises over those decades — and long before that, truth to tell — to work to make such a roadway a reality.
The latest part of that promise is the aforesaid Nisqualli Road interchange. A couple of years or so ago, the city of Victorville said it would provide $30 million in funding for the interchange (then projected to cost about $60 million) with another $15 million coming from the state through STIP (State Transportation Improvement Program) funding, and another $15 million from SANBAG, taken from Measure I funds.
But SANBAG (opting again for its own agenda instead of the needs of impacted Victor Valley transportation) decided it would not share in the funding for the interchange, and voted instead to divert the money to an I-10 project down the hill — to build carpool lanes. How did that work out? Who knows? Who cares? Only SANBAG bureaucrats.
Need we remind our readers that Measure I funds are obtained through a half-cent tax collected on retail sales throughout San Bernardino County? And that the revenue was supposed to be used to fund transportation projects within the county? And that the most demanded of those projects was a cross valley freeway?
When the original Measure I, proposed by SANBAG, was narrowly approved by voters way back in the 1980s, High Desert voters backed the measure because they were promised by SANBAG that the High Desert would share in those funds on a pro-rata basis with the rest of the county. That half-cent measure was extended by voters several years ago, again on the promise from SANBAG that the funds would continue to be shared on a pro-rata basis.
In the meantime, High Desert residents — and the state, and SANBAG, and the county — will now be paying something north of $63 million to complete a project that should have been in full operation a decade or so ago. Back then, it would have cost … well, we don’t know, but $30 million is probably in the ball park.
In addition, of course, completion back then would have saved us all a decade or so of frustration, millions of hours of time sitting in traffic jams on Bear Valley, and billions of gallons of gas burned up while our cars were idling waiting for the grid to unlock.
Think we’re kidding? We’re not. Traffic congestion may be a way of life in California, but it’s not for lack of funding by an over-taxed, underserved public. It’s because government — city, county, and state — would rather expend those tax dollars on irrelevancies, and pay no attention to critical problems that, if solved, would enhance California’s lifestyle instead of making it a burden.
Yes, we agree, better late than never. But why not on time instead?