Coachella Valley to LA Chugs Forward Passenger Train Service

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — A proposed rail route that would take travelers between Los Angeles Union Station and the Coachella Valley — with transportation through the Banning-Beaumont area — is moving forward.

Riverside County supervisors voted Tuesday to submit an application 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 counties, Orange and Los Angeles.

“It’s been a lifelong desire for decades – to connect the Coachella Valley to Los Angeles,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Karen Spiegel. “That money would really get this started to see it run its course.”

Spiegel joined Supervisor Manuel Perez in asking for full board support 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.

“It’s a big step for us,” Perez said. “I look forward to this being accomplished and completed.”

The initial environmental impact report on the project was completed earlier this year, and further assessments are needed to reach the next phase, supervisors said.

Up to $60 million could be needed to carry out impact studies on six proposed railway stations, as well as a third main line and level crossings along the eastern part of the project area, covering about 76 miles, officials said.

Spiegel and Perez are considering federal “Build Back Better” grant funds available through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “regional challenge” rewards system, according to documents released on the board’s agenda.

The Riverside County Transportation Agency is the project leader, working in conjunction with Caltrans and the Federal Railroad Administration, documents show.

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

What are the details of the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Project?

The Riverside County Transportation Commission, Caltrans, and the Federal Railroad Administration studied the 144-mile passenger rail service corridor between Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley, with the eastern endpoint at Indio or Coachella. Service is scheduled with an approximate travel time of 3 hours and 15 minutes with scheduled stops in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Two daily round trips are offered.

Amtrak will likely provide intercity service on existing tracks shared with other freight and passenger rail operators, according to the RCTC.

The estimated cost of the project is $1 billion.

Many Riverside County officials have advocated for desert train service from the west.

Jose P. Rogers