The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), in coordination with the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, Caltrans and the Federal Railroad Administration, is studying the expansion of passenger rail service to the Coachella Valley and San Gorgonio Pass.
Providing passenger rail service to the Coachella Valley has been a long-standing priority for the area for more than 20 years, with the first studies completed in the early 1990s. In 2010, RCTC reaffirmed its formal support for implementation and expansion of intercity Amtrak rail service to the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass. In 2013, Caltrans completed an Alternative Analysis Study of the Coachella Valley that identified the purpose and need of the project and showed strong potential travel markets.
Due to the trip length (141 miles from Los Angeles) and the approximate three-hour ride, Amtrak is viewed as the most appealing option for commuting and leisure travel. Although stops and station locations are yet to be determined, the initial service plan would be for two daily round trips along the corridor.
The project team is currently working on its first task to define the project approach and begin stakeholder and public outreach. The next task will be to identify service patterns and alternatives, including track alignments, routes, station alternatives, ridership estimates and the cost forecasts and to receive initial input about these early studies. Following the completion of these two tasks, RCTC will make a determination if the project should continue to the environmental phase. The determination is expected to be made in summer 2015.
If RCTC determines that the project should receive further study, it then would enter a formal Environmental Document phase to examine potential impacts to the environment and ways to mitigate these impacts. Pending project approval, a Service Development Plan would be created and funding would be explored.
Development of a new rail corridor is a lengthy process that is subject to early studies, environmental approvals, public and agency support, and funding. This long-term process is in the early stages. RCTC will begin reaching out to stakeholders and the public in the near future to help inform this process.