The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
March 21, 2023
Subject: Support for the Coachella Valley Rail Project Application for Corridor Identification and Development Program
Dear Secretary Buttigieg:
The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) fully supports the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) submitting the Coachella Valley – San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor (CVR) Corridor for selection into the Corridor Identification and Development Program (“CIDP”).
Caltrans is seeking support from the FRA to initiate Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC)’s corridor development efforts, including the development of the scope, schedule, and cost estimate for preparing a service development plan (SDP) for the CVR Corridor. Selection of the CVR Corridor into the CIDP will also result in identification of key capital projects necessary to support proposed new passenger services, advancing these projects towards final design and completion.
RailPAC is a 501c3 volunteer group of railroad professionals and advocates that has campaigned for improved personal mobility in California and the west since 1978. RailPAC applauds this effort to advance additional intercity rail service between Los Angeles Union Station and the Coachella Valley. This new passenger rail service has long been a goal of our organization, the California State Rail Plan, and Riverside County, and has been studied at least seven times by public agencies since the early 1990s. The time for action is now.
Caltrans’ application will fulfill several of the Corridor ID Program’s goals of guiding the development of intercity passenger rail and of creating a pipeline of intercity passenger rail projects for implementation. The application will also support national and state goals of improving safety, fostering infrastructure investment and job creation, providing economic opportunity, promoting equity, and prioritizing environmentally friendly forms of transport.
RailPAC wants to emphasize the variety of benefits to passenger and freight rail that are possible with this investment in the CVR Corridor. Any proposed new service in the CVR Corridor, and the capital improvements associated with it, is a building block for future service improvements and expansion. Laying the foundation for future expansion adds significant public value to the -CVR Corridor. Examples of this expansion include:
- Greater frequency and speed of CVR passenger trains, and extension south to the Imperial Valley
- Increasing the frequency of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited first to daily, then twice a day
- Benefits to Union Pacific freight rail service
- New California-Arizona regional passenger services
The SDP and National Environmental Policy Act/California Environmental Quality Act (NEPA/CEQA) Tier I environmental clearance for the CVR Corridor was completed and unanimously approved in July 2022 by the RCTC. This clears the way for the NEPA/CEQA Tier II environmental study process and engineering design needed to ready CVR Corridor capital projects for construction, and the start of new passenger train services.
The State of California and RCTC are investing in regional mobility and transportation infrastructure, as well as in sustainable freight and goods movement, and are committed to matching funds for the CVR Corridor. This is a game-changing economic opportunity with environmental benefit to all communities along the route from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley, and beyond to Arizona and the Sunset corridor to New Orleans.
RailPAC thanks FRA for its consideration of the CVR Corridor application by Caltrans for the Corridor ID Program.
Vice President- South and Board Member,
Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)
President, Southwest Rail Passenger Association
Board Member, Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)
Palm Springs, California