California does not build many freeways. So as Caltrans has opened segments of the Interstate 210 freeway in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, the road has received an unusual amount of attention — especially regarding how the state actually built the freeway and what impact it will have on traffic congestion. The new segments of Interstate 210 runs parallel to Foothill Boulevard at the base of the San Bernardino from San Dimas, in Eastern Los Angeles County, about 20 miles to Rialto. Completion of the final eight miles to I-215 in San Bernardino is a few years away. But the most interesting, and easiest to overlook, aspect of the 210 Freeway's construction is the fact that it has altered the role of a major arterial street through a series of suburbs. For decades, Foothill Boulevard carried tens of thousands of commuters every day because the 210 dead ended on Foothill in the City of La Verne, and the nearest east-west freeway, I-10, was notoriously slow. When Caltrans completed the 210 freeway from Highway 57 in San Dimas to I-15 and into Fontana in November, much of the commute traffic disappeared from Foothill Boulevard. Most of the cities along the route — from west to east: La Verne, Pomona, Claremont, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga — see the traffic change as an opportunity to remake Foothill Boulevard in a fashion more friendly to businesses, shoppers and residents. Several officials have already noticed trade increasing at Foothill Boulevard establishments because locals can drive to the businesses during commute times without getting stuck in traffic jams. The cities have not coordinated their strategies and each city is approaching the issue a bit differently. La Verne, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga have been the most aggressive so far. La Verne has continued to implement a specific plan, Upland is following up on recommendations in a 2001 economic study, and Rancho Cucamonga is seeing the largest project in town get developed along Foothill. Some officials are also hoping that new freeway interchanges will spur economic growth in their cities. The market needs study and revitalization plan commissioned by Upland made clear the hurdles for overhauling Foothill Boulevard are high. The street is marked by numerous struggling commercial centers, vacant storefronts and, in places, a run-down feel. At the same time, most of the cities have other areas available for retail and office growth; moreover, the cities compete with each other for businesses that generate sales tax. The report by Economic Research Associates and Barrio Planners states, "[T]here is an evident, visually obvious clear need for the transition of Foothill Boulevard property uses based on the presence of more than 200,000 square feet of vacancies, mostly caused by departed supermarkets, and more recently added to by the abrupt decline of tenancies at the east end of the city … where another 100,000 square feet is in the process of becoming vacant." The study predicted a turnaround would take five to seven years. While the study focused on the 4.1 miles of Foothill Boulevard in Upland, the findings apply to stretches of the thoroughfare in other cities, too. Upland undertook the study because the city sees the boulevard as an important asset, said Steven Dukett, Upland redevelopment director. The street's strength, especially now that the commute traffic is gone, is as a center of neighborhood commerce, he said. Since the study was completed in August 2001, Upland has adopted an incentive program, and has taken steps to annex an island of unincorporated territory along Foothill, which Dukett said has not been developed to city standards. The city intends to follow up annexation with creation of a new redevelopment project area. City officials also are working on a general plan amendment that will allow residential uses along Foothill. The general plan amendment should be in place this spring. "We have engaged in some open dialogue with property owners who have shopping centers with major numbers of vacancies," Dukett added. "We certainly didn't have that dialogue before." The city has also had some successes, as both Lowe's Home Improvement Center and Vons have opened new stores on Foothill during the last year. The Lowe's is in the western part of Upland, near Claremont, from which Upland officials hope to draw shoppers. Claremont has not yet developed a strategy for the newly unclogged Foothill Boulevard. "We're going to be doing some pretty extensive testing of traffic flows in January and February," said Scott Miller, Claremont economic development and redevelopment manager. Foothill through Claremont has been in a redevelopment project area since the 1970s. However, the street still sports a large number of underutilized parcels and buildings, and tax increment from the project area is flat, Miller said. Much of the development feels worn, especially on the west end, he said. Like Claremont, neighboring Pomona has done little planning for the new conditions on Foothill Boulevard, instead focusing attention on its downtown several miles to the south. In contrast, La Verne adopted a specific plan for Foothill Boulevard in 1989 and updated the plan 10 years later. For La Verne, Foothill Boulevard is the primary commercial corridor; Claremont and Pomona have shopping malls and commercial centers elsewhere. La Verne's detailed plan addresses everything from land uses and circulation to architecture, landscaping and public art. The latest version permits greater flexibility in commercial and office development, expands the permissible architectural styles, and encourages development closer to the street itself and less on-site parking. Farther east lies Rancho Cucamonga, which has undertaken significant infrastructure improvements along Foothill Boulevard as part of a 20-year-old redevelopment project. Rancho Cucamonga also has approved a huge retail, office and residential development on the north side of Foothill Boulevard at I-15. The 150-acre Victoria Gardens project will feature a "Main Street" shopping and entertainment district, major retailers and extensive multi-family housing. The city is also working with the developer, Forest City Development, on building a library, performing arts theater and events center. For now, the new freeway dumps motorists on the streets of Rialto, a city that lies between the I-15 and I-215 freeways. The city is "just coping" until Caltrans completes frontage roads to handle the through traffic, said Development Services Director Michael Story. Much of Rialto's vacant land lies along the freeway route, and encouraging development in that part of town has been difficult because of poor access, Story said. Four new freeway interchanges will change that. "It's really going to be a benefit," he said. Contacts: Steven Dukett, City of Upland, (909) 931-4103. Scott Miller, City of Claremont, (909) 399-5341. Michael Story, City of Rialto, (909) 820-2535.