Ranchero Road is now connected to the I-15 Freeway with a brand spanking new overpass and interchange in the Hesperia/Oak Hills area.
Mayor Eric Schmidt welcomed the public and local, county and state dignitaries to “the new gateway to the High Desert.”
The project did not go off without a hitch. A fire on May 5 started by welding equipment damaged the structure, delaying the project. Damage in the $6 million range was covered by contractor’s insurance.
The contractor and project manager, San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), worked two crews per day when possible, to make up lost time hoping it would be completed by the end of 2014.
Mayor Schmidt told the audience that the finished project is a testament to municipalities being able to work together despite hardships and setbacks. “In the end, it all comes down to leadership, and I believe we are seeing the embodiment of that phrase today,” he said.
Many local, regional and business officials were on hand to witness the completion of a project that required the City of Hesperia, SANBAG and California Department of Transportation to work together on the $60 million project.
Victorville Councilman Ryan McEachron praised the project team and said it will increase the quality of life for everyone living in the High Desert. He also said the new interchange should relieve traffic congestion, as the La Mesa/Nisqualli Interchange has.
Still to be completed is Phase 3 of the Ranchero Road Corridor Project, which will widen Ranchero Road from two to four lanes between Interstate 15, and alsothe Phase I undercrossing at Santa Fe Avenue in Hesperia, at an estimated cost of $15 million. Critics have been vocal about the Interchange opening before Ranchero Road is widened, saying it could create worse traffic congestion than transportation officials understand or estimate.
The engineering and environmental work is already being done on the widening project, because the project had received over $26 million in federal and state funds, and there was both timing and usage restrictions on that funding, making it important to use $26 million on the Interchange while continuing to seek construction funding for the rest.
Lovingood said with the completion of the La Mesa/Nisqualli and Ranchero Road interchanges, the High Desert’s capacity to handle east-west traffic increased by 66 percent, and that all material used to build the interchange overpass came from the local desert. Assemblyman Jay Obernolte and former Assemblywoman and Senator Sharon Runner were also present.