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Hilary’s aftermath: Indian Canyon could be closed for months, officials push state for bridge funding

The aftermath of Tropical Storm Hilary continues to grip the region as a vital Palm Springs artery could remain closed for months.

Officials said Indian Canyon Drive, which has extensive damage due to extreme flooding underneath several feet of mud, could take until late October to repair and reopen.

The severity of the situation has prompted local leaders to once again rally for much-needed funding to construct a bridge, a project they believe will prevent such disruptions in the future. In a move to expedite the process, a letter has been dispatched to Governor Newsom, emphasizing the urgency of the matter.

"This road is absolutely totally impassable. It is not even recognizable to many of us," said Palm Springs Councilmember Lisa Middleton. "It will be probably somewhere around two months before we are able to reopen Indian Canyon."

The closure of Indian Canyon Drive holds significant ramifications, affecting crucial access to the west valley's only hospital and trauma center, Desert Regional Medical Center. With the road out of commission, residents could face delays of up to 45 minutes, which could prove critical during emergencies.

"It seems like Groundhog Day. Every few years, we're redoing this over and over again," said Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas.

For years, officials have been grappling with the challenge of constructing a bridge, a solution that has been hindered by its hefty price tag. "Palm Springs has a $220 million annual budget. We cannot fund this project ourselves," Palm Springs Councilmember Christy Holstege said.

Artist rendering of potential bridge structure along Indian Canyon Drive
Courtesy Michael Baker International

The most recent proposal for the bridge comes with a cost of approximately $74 million. Palm Springs leaders used Governor Gavin Newsom's recent visit to City Hall during the tropical storm to emphasize the project's urgency. "I was not about to let him leave the room without hearing about the fact that we have an application in to his administration," Councilmember Middleton said. "I think he was very receptive."

A Porsche driver found himself stuck in the mud behind Thursday's press conference held on Indian Canyon Drive, serving as an ironic reminder of the challenges posed by the closed road. The driver had attempted to circumvent the barricades, only to be ensnared by mud flows, requiring a tow truck's assistance for rescue.

With Indian Canyon Drive having already been closed for 38 days this year, the extended closure due to storm damage has the potential to double that number.

To alleviate the financial burden, the Coachella Valley Association of Government applied for a $50 million grant in July. The remaining funds would be sourced from local and regional budgets. The decision on the grant application's approval is expected in November.

Local Officials Letter to Governor Gavin Newsom

Last summer, I-Team investigator Jeff Stahl took an in-depth look at the Coachella Valley Association of Governments' plans to build some short bridges and culverts through the Whitewater Wash on Indian Canyon Drive along with two other major roadway connectors.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

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Jake Ingrassia

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