A coalition of local governments in San Bernardino County recently offered to lend Caltrans $30 million interest-free to continue funding freeway projects in the county that are in jeopardy because of the state budget crisis.
Several projects, including the extension of State Route 210 in Rialto and the freeway-widening project on Interstate 15 between Victorville and Barstow, are in danger of running out of money Sept. 5 if the state budget still is not approved.
The same budget crisis is looming throughout the state as lawmakers meet in Sacramento to try to agree on a spending plan that will close a $38-billion shortfall. Already, contractors working on freeway projects throughout California have threatened to stop construction as early as next week if the state budget impasse causes delays in payments.
In San Bernardino County, the $30 million would come from Measure I, a half-cent sales tax increase dedicated to transportation projects.
"It's critical for our region that these projects continue as scheduled to avoid wasted costs and layoffs of construction employees," said Norman R. King, executive director of the San Bernardino Associated Governments.
King signed a nonbinding loan agreement Friday with the California Department of Transportation and plans to ask directors of the association to approve the loan at its next meeting Aug. 6.
Ann Meyer, Caltrans director for San Bernardino and Riverside counties, said her agency has signed a memorandum of understanding to accept the loan.
Once the state budget is adopted, Caltrans can pay back the funds. The association, known as SANBAG, has about $40 million in Measure I funds invested in short-term securities. SANBAG is expected to lose nearly $40,000 in interest by lending the money to Caltrans for two months.