With more than 120 people a day moving into the Inland Empire, according to Census numbers, traffic mitigation is one of our region’s most pressing priorities.

That is why innovative projects such as the Redlands Passenger Rail system are so important — not just in terms of connecting people and places, but reducing carbon emissions, creating new economic opportunities and preserving our quality of life for future generations.

Of course, no one project will solve all of our transportation challenges. However, with thoughtful planning we can connect the dots in a way that will allow us as a region to take full advantage of the opportunities ahead.

We can’t ignore the fact that we will continue to grow in spite of anything we do. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the two-county Inland Empire will reach a population of 7 million people within 30 years — up from 4.5 million today.

Our proximity to the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have made us the top market in the United States when it comes to outbound shipments of freight. We can let all of this happen randomly — or we can take matters into our own hands and do it the right way.

Which brings us to the Redlands Passenger Rail project — a nine-mile connector between the University of Redlands and the San Bernardino Transit Center. Recently, I had the privilege of breaking ground on the construction of this innovative project, with the first low-emission trains set to begin service by 2021.

In many ways, Redlands Passenger Rail is the lynchpin of our transportation planning moving forward. The East Valley of San Bernardino County is an emerging population, economic and innovation hub, and the need for transportation alternatives has grown exponentially over the years.

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When fully operational, Redlands Passenger Rail’s new Arrow service will connect some of the far reaches of the Valley with the Metrolink system, providing commuter rail access all the way to downtown Los Angeles.