Hesperia commuters who live off of Ranchero Road will one day be able to get off Interstate 15 at Ranchero Road, shortening their commute and reducing traffic on Main Street, thanks in part to funds from the federal government.


The federal government will be providing $657,000 toward the planned Ranchero interchange.


The money was secured during the annual visit of Hesperia officials -- this year consisting of Mayor Thurston "Smitty" Smith, Councilwoman Rita Vogler, City Manager Mike Podegracz and Assistant City Manager Kim Summers -- to Washington to promoting the city's legislative agenda.


"I was trying to play salesman for the city of Hesperia," Smith said Friday by telephone from Virginia. "I think we did a good job."


The money for the Ranchero interchange came out of funds originally passed in last year's infrastructure spending bill. Following the digging of the long-awaited Ranchero Road Underpass beneath the BNSF railroad tracks that divide the city in two, Ranchero Road will be widened and, with the help of the federal government, connected to the freeway.


But the annual visit to the nation's capital also helped secure some of the funds from the federal stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama on February 17.


"We got some actually very good meetings," Smith said, including with Rep. Jerry Lewis and the staffs of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. "We got some good items coming out of the stimulus bill: [money for a sub-regional] sewer treatment plant, the [Emergency Training Center] that we're doing with the county."


There is also funding to build fire stations, Smith said, although the details are yet to be worked out.


Normally, city officials go out to Washington later in the spring, when the weather's warmer and later in the session that begins on January 3 each year.


"Coming back this time was perfect timing, to be pretty much on the forefront for getting information coming out about the stimulus package," Smith said.


He wasn't alone in thinking so: Hesperia officials ran across officials from the San Bernardino Associated Governments, there to ask for infrastructure money themselves.


"There's billions in the stimulus package for multiple different projects," Smith said. "Some of it's matching funds or grants or loans to apply for. But they're still trying to figure out some of the wording in the stimulus package. We'll know more about that in May."


There was also a downside to heading to D.C. so early, though.


"Of course it was 20 degrees, sheesh, with a wind chill factor of 10 degrees," Smith said. "No snow on the ground, but it was cold."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.