County supervisors move forward with request for federal funds to improve rail link to Los Angeles

County officials are hoping federal money can be secured to help move proposed train service from Palm Springs to Los Angeles forward.

Riverside County supervisors voted Tuesday to submit a request to the federal government seeking funding to complete environmental studies associated with a 144-mile commuter rail project linking the Coachella Valley to San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties. The route includes a stop in Palm Springs.

“This has been an ongoing desire for decades — connecting the Coachella Valley to Los Angeles,” Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Spiegel said. “This money would really start this to see it take its course.”

Spiegel joined Fourth District Supervisor Manuel Perez, who represents Palm Springs and the surrounding area, in asking for the full board’s backing for grant funds to move the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Project forward. The vote was 4-0, with Supervisor Jeff Hewitt absent due to illness.

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“This is a milestone for us,” Perez said. “I look forward for this to be accomplished and brought to fruition.”

The initial environmental impact report on the project was completed earlier this year, and additional assessments are required to reach the next phase, according to the supervisors.

Up to $60 million may be needed to complete impact studies on six proposed rail stations, as well as a third main track line and grade crossings along the eastern section of the project zone, encompassing roughly 76 miles, officials said.

Spiegel and Perez are eyeing federal “Build Back Better” grant funds available via the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “regional challenge”  awards system, according to documents posted to the board’s agenda.

The Riverside County Transportation Agency is the project manager, working in collaboration with Caltrans and the Federal Railroad Administration, documents stated.

“The state of California and RCTC have a vested interest in fostering equitable investments in transportation infrastructure and transit mobility … and are committed to matching funds for this game-changing economic opportunity, with environmental benefit from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley and disadvantaged communities along the route,” according to the supervisors’ funding request letter.

The commuter line would begin in Coachella, transit Indio and Palm Springs, coursing through the San Gorgonio Pass, with stops in Banning and Beaumont. It would veer northwest into Loma Linda, then southwest into Riverside and on to Fullerton, continuing north to the final stop at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The full length of the ride would run just over three hours, according to RCTC. The agency estimated it could provide service for up to 160,000 commuters daily.

In addition to new tracks, existing rail lines would be utilized, officials said.

A prospective timeline for groundbreaking on the project has not been

— City News Service

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