At least once a day, Kimberly Calvin hops off the 210 Freeway at the State Street/University Parkway exit and heads south.
With Lincoln and Roosevelt avenues quickly behind her, the San Bernardino City Council member soon passes 16th Street as she approaches an unceremonious dead end at Hanford.
And with that, a major north-south thoroughfare in the westside of town disappears.
“Every day,” Calvin said this week, “that street gives me heartburn.”
Plans to extend State/University 1.5 miles south to Foothill Boulevard have been on the books for at least 20 years, making the job the second oldest in the city.
Next month, a Riverside construction company will begin the first phase of the project, extending State to Base Line Street.
“It is monumental news,” Calvin, who represents the area, said this week. “It was past due. We live in a food desert. There’s nowhere to shop, there isn’t any entertainment. We’ve got to go to 7-Eleven for a cup of coffee. We’re the only ward without a Starbucks.
“That’s not what this community wants.”
With precious few places nearby to buy groceries, grab a bite or shop for leisure, westside residents presently drive to Rialto Renaissance Marketplace to spend their money, Calvin said.
Connecting State to Foothill is a critical step toward keeping those dollars in San Bernardino.
Rikki Van Johnson, who represented the 6th Ward from 2004 to 2016, pushed City Hall to make extending the major thoroughfare south to Route 66 a priority. While in office, the former councilman had a vision of transforming the area along State to what Rialto now has a few miles west.
“Something to bring in dollars,” Johnson recalled this week. “But (city leaders) didn’t want to put value in the 6th Ward. They didn’t understand that it was value for the city as well.”
The $7.4 million State Street Extension Project will bring a new four-lane divided roadway to the area with medians, sidewalks and storm drains. The new roadway is meant to improve connectivity to the 210, decrease cut-through traffic in residential neighborhoods and provide better access to Arroyo Valley High School and Anne Shirrells Park.
Calvin commended City Manager Rob Field, Public Works Director Daniel Hernandez and Deputy Public Works Director Alex Qishta for moving the long-awaited project forward.
“I’m happy these folks are on board and they’re beginning to envision what this really could look like,” Calvin said. “But I’m making a whole city over here in the 6th Ward because we were left this way. Whether it was intentional or not, now it plays out for the best interest of the 6th Ward, and the remainder of the city will benefit as well.”
Additional phases will extend State beyond Base Line to Foothill. However, that job will require two bridges over the Lytle Creek Basin and tons of funding.
Nonetheless, Calvin and Johnson foresee sit-down restaurants, a bank or two, perhaps even a gas station and somewhere to shop finally landing in the 6th Ward once work concludes.
“I want to be able to have a bank in my community,” Calvin said. “I want to be able to shop in my community. I want to go to dinner in my community. I need a sign as you’re approaching University Parkway on the 210 that says: ‘Exit here’ to go to this restaurant, this restaurant, Starbucks, gas, banks.
“I need for it to come up on people’s GPS,” Calvin added. “Gas. Food. You can exit right here on University Parkway.”
With State being the last completed north-south artery in San Bernardino, Johnson said, “might as well put all the bells and whistles on it.”