Rail Service feasibility study up for consideration in Palm Desert

PALM DESERT — After decades of wishing, hoping and dreaming of rail service in the Coachella Valley, it appears closer to becoming a reality than ever, albeit not tomorrow.

The Palm Desert City Council is set on Thursday to award a $496,464 a professional services agreement to Kimley-Horn and Associates from Indian Wells for a rail station feasibility study. The agreement is for one year with an option to renew.

The project has been moving at a snail’s pace but moving, nonetheless.

Palm Desert Prepares for Rail Service in ValleyOn July 13, 2022, the Riverside County Transportation Commission adopted a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impact Report for the “Coachella Valley – San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service” plan to extend the daily passenger rail service to the Coachella Valley. The new rail service would provide a 144-mile connection to Los Angeles’ Downtown Union Station, as well as a connection to the Metro and Metrolink system. These plans are a coordinated effort between RCTC, the California Department of Transportation, and the Federal Rail Administration (FRA). The adopted Tier 1 plan explored potential rail stations for the Coachella Valley including:

  • Palm Springs (existing)
  • Mid-Valley (new)
  • Indio / Coachella (new)

With the adoption of the Tier 1 plan, RCTC, Caltrans, and the FRA, will be conducting a Tier 2 study to identify specific rail station locations within the Coachella Valley and provide environmental clearance for those identified locations. With approximately 6.5-miles of rail line along Palm Desert’s northern boundary and unique amenities, including the anticipated addition of the California State University’s Campus and new event arena, “the city of Palm Desert is ideally suited for a potential rail station,” according to Vanessa Mager, Management Analyst for the city.

To enable the city to participate in the Tier 2 planning process and advocate for a future mid-valley station, the city will supplement RCTC’s Tier 2 study by providing a city-funded rail station feasibility study.

On Sept. 15, 2022, the City Council approved the release of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a feasibility study to identify potential rail station locations within the City of Palm Desert.

Kimley-Horn and Associates will prepare a city-wide assessment of potential locations for a rail station in Palm Desert with the Cook Street corridor being the focal area. The first part of the study will assess the existing land uses, transportation network, demographics, topography, and economic conditions in Palm Desert.

The second part of the Study will identify and evaluate strategic alternatives to enhance multi-modal traffic and circulation in and around the preferred site. This includes:

  • The viability of Palm Desert as a passenger rail station stop for Amtrak along its existing Sunset Limited train service and/or as part of the Coachella Valley–San Gorgonio Pass.
  • Analyze a design for a suitable platform for intercity passenger rail service.
  • Evaluate current public transit services provided by Sunline Transit Agency, which
    provides daily bus services.
  • An analysis on Sunline’s current bus routes and ridership to establish the best permanent
    transportation hub that will serve all residents and accommodate other transportation
    modes to reduce single-occupancy vehicle use.

The third and final part of the analysis will be the selection of the most appropriate site for a rail station facility and development of a conceptual design that demonstrates how an accessible station would function.

Staff anticipates the feasibility study process to take approximately 9 to 12 months, inclusive of public meetings and presentations to various City boards and commissions. Once finished, staff will prepare a report identifying the preferred location, as recommended by the CV Rail subcommittee, to the City Council for consideration. It is projected this will be brought before the City Council for adoption in Fall 2023. Once adopted, the study will be submitted to RCTC for consideration with its Tier 2 study.

Fasten your seat belts, this is going to get interesting.





Image Sources

  • Rail service illustration: Pexels
  • Coachella Valley rail proposed route.: RCTC