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Ranchero Road project: The sound of progress

After months of watching and waiting, teacher Audrey Longshore was excited when a construction crew finally punched daylight under the railroad tracks at Ranchero Road in Hesperia.

“I will be to work in less than half the time,” said Longshore, who works at Oak Hills High School and has lived east of the tracks for more than 35 years. “Instead of what is sometimes a 25-minute drive, it will be a 12-minute drive.”

Like Longshore, residents across the valley are thrilled about the three-phase Ranchero Road project, which includes the underpass, the future widening of the road to Interstate 15 and the addition of a $36 million freeway interchange that should break ground by January.

“Drivers will be able to use the underpass legally in late spring or early summer,” said Scott Prieder, director of development services with the city. “People that experience Main Street and C Avenue gridlock will see an immediate decrease in traffic once the underpass project is complete.”

Candy Eidson, owner of Just-4-Kids and Just-4-Toddlers Preschool on west Ranchero Road, said the underpass will allow east Hesperia easier access to the freeway and should help businesses on her side of the tracks.

“The underpass is a God-send, and it’s been a long time coming,” said Eidson, who hopes the underpass will bring her facility new families. “Hesperia has not been business-friendly in the past, but now we have a council that have opened their arms to business.”

Businessman Sam Thatte, who lives less than a mile from the underpass, said the project could change the business climate in west Hesperia and bring a major increase in taxrevenue.

“Our southwest portion of Hesperia is not fully developed, but hopefully we’ll get some cafes and grocery stores with the traffic,” Thatte said. “We may even attract some people who want to buy land in the area.”

Use of the underpass may also be a benefit to Bear Valley Road commuters as it lessens traffic, according to Councilman Thurston “Smitty” Smith, who also believes the new route will benefit the city.

“Once the infrastructure is in place, we’ll see new business, new jobs, new homes and an increase in sales and property tax revenue,” Smith said. “It’s a win-win situation all around.”

Many property owners are waiting for construction to begin on the interchange before they decide to develop property in that area, Preider said.

But not everyone is excited about the Ranchero project.

When Linda Vellas and her husband built their home in Hesperia, the couple thought they had found their slice of tranquility. But the project has turned the couple’s dream upside down.

“My husband and I are afraid for our safety, property and privacy,” said Vellas, whose home sits directly across from the widening project. “They put in a new road that connects the new Ranchero Road to Old Ranchero Road, and runs straight toward my house.”

The addition of the new A Street is an accident waiting to happen, according to Vellas.

After investigating her concern, the city found that the addition of the new street will reduce traffic in Vellas’ neighborhood, as it shifts the volume of traffic off of Old Ranchero Road onto the new road.

Despite the underpass construction, dust and noise near his home, Frank Morales, 62, is still excited about the project.

“I’ve dealt with train and plane engine noise for over 20 years,” said Morales, as he ate breakfast at the airport’s Mile High Cafe. “Progress has a sound and sometimes it’s loud, but as long as it helps the community, bring it on.”


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