Within two years, residents on the east side of town should have easy and direct access to Interstate 15 without braving the Main Street overpass bottleneck.


The San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) regional transportation committee committed to paying for an interchange that will connect Ranchero Road with Interstate 15 at their May meeting. The California Department of Transportation is close to signing off on the project, according to city officials.


"We understand that (Caltrans) headquarters is to give the approval on or around July 9," Director of Development Services Scott Priester said, knocking on his wooden desk.


The first stage of the Ranchero Corridor Plan is already underway, with construction of the Ranchero Road underpass, allowing residents a second east-west route across the BNSF railroad tracks, expected to be completed in summer 2013 in time for the city's 25th anniversary.


Assuming there are no surprises from Caltrans, the $59 million interchange project will go out for bid on Aug. 23, and a bid could awarded the first week of October, with a groundbreaking to follow a few weeks later.


"We figure it's about 14 months construction time," Priester said, or about January 2014.


But the cash-strapped SANBAG and city currently don't have the funds available to widen the road in between the underpass and interchange from two lanes to four.


"It's been our long-range plan to do that," Priester said.


Although the 2004 City Council's move to rename Ranchero Road to Jerry Lewis Parkway was changed back a mere two weeks later, the road will eventually be an expressway, in fact if not in name: It's intended to get commuters from their homes to the highway and back with a minimum of fuss.


"We do not want to repeat the number of traffic lights we have on Main Street or especially Bear Valley Road," Priester said.


Funds for the project are "100 percent committed," Priester said, with the city required to pay SANBAG back for $21.1 million the organization is fronting the city. The remainder is being paid for with a mix of federal, state and local funds.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at Beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.