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Local officials head to D.C. to seek funding for Coachella Valley Rail

This week, Commissioners with the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and local officials are in Washington, D.C. to meet with Congressional representatives and other federal officials to seek funding for the Coachella Valley Rail.

“We do not want our Valley to grow and not have the infrastructure to support it,” said Indio Mayor Waymond Fermon, one of the local officials who traveled to the capital. 

The new daily passenger rail service would provide transportation between Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley. RCTC is seeking federal funding that will allow planning for Coachella Valley Rail to move forward.

“There's a lot of educational opportunities there for the next generation.  It's going to help our tourism or population growth. It's sustainable, and it's just a great economic investment in our community," Fermon said.

The train would make two daily round trips between Union Station in Los Angeles and Coachella – including stops in Palm Springs and other locations around the valley. It's planned to be 144 miles long. A trip to L.A. would be around 3.5 hours from the Coachella Valley. It would include 9 stations throughout the valley along with an upgrade to the current Palm Springs station.

Fermon said it would not only be another mode of transportation for people, but also a way to reduce traffic on Interstate 10.

“If we build more lanes, it's just going to mean more cars. And when we are trying to alleviate some of those greenhouse emissions// this is a project that's going to help us out," Fermon said.

In July, the Commission unanimously certified its Coachella Valley Rail “Tier 1” program-level environmental document.

The project is now advocating for federal funding in its “Tier 2” project-level studies. It includes an in-depth analysis of the service and operations along the planned 144-mile route, which crosses Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, and Los Angeles counties.

“There's a lot of educational opportunities there for the next generation.  It's going to help our tourism or population growth. It's sustainable, and it's just a great economic investment in our community," Fermon said.

With major events happening in both LA and the Valley, he believes the rail would be beneficial, especially as the county continues to grow.

“I mean, we're growing in the Coachella Valley, we have the new Acrisure arena, we have the biggest and best music festival in the city of Indio. So, there's a lot of opportunity there. And there's also a lot of opportunity when you live in the valley, if you want to go to Disneyland, if you want to go to a Dodger game," Fermon said.

RCTC is seeking $20 million to help fund the Tier 2 studies. The project, estimated to cost $1 billion to construct, now must secure $60 million for more in-depth studies on infrastructure and station locations. About $23 million has been raised so far, and the rest is expected to take several years.

So what are the next steps for the project?

“We're in the funding process again. And this has been a long journey. However, we have the baton now. And we're gonna carry it to the finish line. So we're just working hard to get those funds to get us through tier two," Fermon said.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates on the Coachella Valley Rail project.

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Samantha Lomibao

Samantha joined KESQ News Channel 3 in May 2021. Learn more about Samantha here here.

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