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210 Freeway to open between Rialto, San Bernardino

July 20, 2007|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

The final 7 1/4 -mile stretch of the 210 Freeway between Rialto and San Bernardino is scheduled to open next week, San Bernardino County officials announced Thursday.

When it opens at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the $233-million extension will give commuters a single continuous freeway from the city of San Bernardino west to Arcadia and Pasadena in the San Gabriel Valley.

Eastward, the extension will connect to the 215 Freeway, as well as California 30, which extends to Highland and Redlands.

Civic leaders in Fontana, Rialto and San Bernardino say that the 210 Freeway opening will give them another alternative to the congested San Bernardino Freeway to the south.

"We're anxious to get it opened," said Cheryl Donahue, a spokeswoman for San Bernardino Associated Governments, which worked with the California Department of Transportation in overseeing the construction.

Workers this week were still putting up signs and assembling guardrails that align the shoulders. Once the extension opens, the eight-lane freeway is expected to carry an average of 163,000 vehicles per day, up from the average of 132,000 vehicles per day now seen at the border of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Work began on the extension in 2003, and is mostly funded by San Bernardino County's half-cent-on-the-dollar transportation sales tax.

Residents throughout western San Bernardino County have been longing for the opening for months.

"I'm very excited. It's personally going to help me in my commute," said Fontana Mayor Mark Nuaimi, who commutes east to Colton, where he works as the assistant city manager. "It will finally complete the bridge between our west and east valleys."

Nuaimi said he expected Fontana and surrounding communities to reap the benefits of the 210 Freeway extension. In 2002, officials completed a section of the 210 Freeway that connected his city to the San Gabriel Valley, which he credits with fueling an economic boom.

Not only did more shopping centers and car dealerships open in Fontana, but more residents, seeking cheaper housing, moved into the city from Los Angeles County. In five years, the city has seen its annual sales tax revenue double to a projected $29 million this year, permitting it to have the funds to build a library and regional park.

"I cannot wait to get on it," said Midge Zupanic, president of the Rialto Chamber of Commerce. "We're all antsy, just waiting to get on it."

Zupanic said she expected the freeway to create significant growth in Rialto. The northern part of the city has long suffered from the lack of a nearby direct freeway connection, and planners have proposed building a 112-acre development along Pepper Avenue that would include as many as 236 single-family homes, 550 apartments and more than 340,000 square feet of commercial space.

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