Administrator Shailen Bhatt
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
August 11, 2023
Subject: Letter of Support for the Palm Springs Station Wind-Blown Sand Resiliency Project FY 2022-2023 Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Grant Funding
Dear Administrator Bhatt,
The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (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 strongly supports the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and Amtrak’s application for $3 million in funding under the FY 2022-2023 PROTECT Program for the Palm Springs Station Wind-Blown Sand Resiliency Project.
Sandstorms have increased in intensity over recent decades in the Palm Springs, California area. Amtrak service to Palm Springs, California has been suspended for over two months, with the Palm Springs Station closed since June 2023 as a result of shifting sand covering the tracks and platform. Sand blown onto the tracks, switches, and platform not only makes the route impassable, but also causes a danger to passengers (particularly those with mobility issues) disembarking at Palm Springs onto a sand-covered platform. Amtrak’s long-distance Sunset Limited (Los Angeles – New Orleans) and Texas Eagle (Los Angeles – Chicago) services both stop in Palm Springs. It is the only passenger rail station in the Coachella Valley, which has a population of a half million people.
When conditions are such that scheduled stops are not possible, trains bypass the station and passengers are bused back instead, a solution that is neither cost effective nor convenient for travelers. Protection of the station is also critical for the regional Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Project under development, for which tens of millions of Federal, state, and local dollars have already been committed.
Although there are some mitigation measures currently in place to prevent sand blowing onto the tracks, switches, and platform, recurring service interruptions indicate that they are not achieving the desired outcome. RCTC and Amtrak are therefore seeking a $3 million planning grant to study and analyze conditions at Palm Springs to develop a plan for a long-term solution to the wind-blown sand issue and ensure resiliency to more frequent, greater intensity sandstorms.
RailPAC encourages your strong consideration of RCTC and Amtrak’s FY 2022-2023 PROTECT Program grant application for this critical project.
Vice President- South and Board Member, RailPAC
Palm Springs, CA
President, Southwest Rail Passenger Association
Board Member, RailPAC
Below photos taken by RailPAC at Palm Springs station, on January 30, 2022: