CA: Big Hopes Ride on New Bus Shelters

Omnitrans has begun installing eight new shelters along San Bernardino's interim downtown bus transfer center as the Inland area prepares for more rainy fall-like weather.

The shelters, costing almost $40,000, are among a few improvements made to the Fourth Street bus stops between F and G streets, said Jeff Smith, senior urban planner for the San Bernardino Economic Development Agency. An estimated $220,000 went toward street, curb and gutter improvements, he said.

This summer, Omnitrans added benches, trash cans and portable restrooms along the street. The enhancements were part of the move to consolidate bus stops and make way for downtown construction projects, including Omnitrans' sbX bus rapid transit line, said Omnitrans spokeswoman Wendy Williams. The $191.7 million sbX project is to transport students and workers between Cal State San Bernardino and the medical complex in Loma Linda.

"This interim Fourth Street transfer center improves connectivity for our customers, but, just as importantly, it creates space for new projects to take shape in the city," said Omnitrans CEO and General Manager Milo Victoria in a written statement.

A constant stream of people got on and off buses on a recent warm and sunny afternoon. Riders sat on grass or stood along the street or under awnings of nearby businesses as they waited for transfers.

Williams said 13 bus routes and thousands of riders will meet at the interim transfer center as a permanent center at Rialto and E streets is completed. Construction is expected to be finished between late 2013 and early 2014, she said.

The downtown San Bernardino transit center, where the buses will stop eventually, will be the centerpiece of the city's transit, officials hope. Metrolink and Omnitrans buses also will stop at the transit center, where more than 10,000 bus and train boardings are expected each day.

Officials are hopeful the project, expected to create 230 jobs during two years of construction, also becomes a catalyst for development.

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