Construction will begin on routes in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella as well as unincorporated Riverside County.
Sherry BarkasPalm Springs Desert Sun
Construction is expected to begin in December on another 20 miles of the CV Link biking and jogging path now that $52.733 million worth of contracts has been authorized.
The Coachella Valley Association of Governments executive and transportation committees on Monday authorized CVAG Executive Director Tom Kirk to negotiate construction contracts with Ames Construction Inc., the lowest qualified bidder. Contracts also were authorized for Alta Planning & Design and Terra Nova Planning and Research.
CVAG is the lead agency for creation of the CV Link, a cross-valley pathway for walkers, joggers, cyclists and small electric vehicle operators, which runs mostly along the Whitewater channel.
CV Link ultimately will span more than 40 miles at an estimated cost of $100 million. The project is being funded through various grants and Measure A transportation funds and a $10 grant from the Desert Healthcare District.
Initially planned as a 50-plus-mile long path, connecting the valley’s nine cities and unincorporated areas of Riverside County from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea, the cities of Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells have opted out of the project based on guidance from voters. Desert Hot Springs is still undecided.
“This has been a long time coming and construction of this magnitude frankly couldn’t come at a better time,” CVAG Executive Director Tom Kirk said of the project that has been planned since 2011.
“The COVID-19 crisis has shown how vital it is for a community to have access to safe routes for walking, biking or riding in low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles. CV Link, and active transportation projects like it are wide enough to allow for social distancing while encouraging people stay active and stay healthy,” he said.
A start date for the new construction will depend on how quickly the contractor can get the crews mobilized, CVAG spokesperson Erica Felci said.
“We’re hoping for December,” she said. “Multiple segments will be under construction at the same time so sections will be done at various stages.
“We expect the buildout of the work under this contract will be around 18 to 24 months,” Felci said.
“As we acquire more right of way, we will pursue construction contracts for the remaining segments so there could be additional work starting in that timeframe as well,” she said.Get the News Alerts newsletter in your inbox.
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Running adjacent to or near commercial and retail centers and schools, the project is viewed by supporters as offering an alternative transportation route while also offering a safe path to walk, jog, bike or use low-speed electric vehicles, such as golf carts.
To date, 3.5 miles of CV Link has been built in Cathedral City and Palm Springs.
Palm Desert recently started construction on a portion of its 3.5- to 4-mile path, along Park View Drive, at an estimated cost of $5.5 million that will ultimately be reimbursed by CVAG.
George Frank was out riding his bike along the Cathedral City-built stretch of CV Link on Tuesday morning.
An avid user of the path, Frank said he has biked the 2-mile stretch every day since March 16, clocking about 3,500 miles.
“I can’t wait till they add more,” Frank said.
The contract approved with Ames Construction on Monday will build CV Link paths in the cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella as well as unincorporated Riverside County.
This stage of construction includes bridges and undercrossings, which are a key safety feature that will allow the CV Link users to go under major roadways in order to avoid traditional vehicular traffic, but are more expensive to build than straight stretches of CV Link that get built on the top of the stormwater levee, Felci said.
The project will provide jobs and an economic boost needed in the Coachella Valley and surrounding region, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that every dollar spent on infrastructure produced an economic benefit of up to $2.20, and the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers has calculated that $1 billion of transportation infrastructure investment supports 13,000 jobs for a year, Kirk said.
Based on these calculations, the $52.7 million investment into CV Link will produce an economic benefit of over $116 million, and support more than 685 jobs for a year, Kirk said.
For more on CV Link, go online to coachellavalleylink.com.
Lake Cahuilla is a popular area for fishing and recreation use by residents of the Coachella Valley and outside visitors, but now that could be in jeopardy as Riverside County’s lease nears its end.
“This is a gem. It’s nice to have a natural water source here in the desert other than pools and it’s a very quiet, very peaceful place,” Ventura County resident, Catherine Schurman said.
“I think it’s something where people can relax and take a breath,” Ventura County resident, Diane Markus said.ADVERTISING
Both Schurman and Markus visited the lake for the first time on Monday by taking a bike ride through the area. The lake has become a prime location for people wanting to get outdoors and have fun.
“We understand what an amenity it has not only for our residents, but the valley residents. It has a key element in the triathlons that take place in the desert, which there are 3,” said La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans.
Mayor Evans has been in contact with Desert Valley Outdoors, a nonprofit recreation group based out of the Coachella Valley. The group has rallied behind the effort to keep the lake open to the public. That’s because the county’s lease will be up in less than 6 months. Riverside County released a statement to News Channel 3:
The county has leased Lake Cahuilla Veterans Regional Park since 1971 and has operated the lake as a campground and recreational park during that time. The lease is set to expire in March 2021. The county desires the park to remain open to the public past March and is exploring ways to keep it open.
It’s still unclear how the county intends to keep it open.
A Desert Valley Outdoors organizer sent News Channel 3 the photo below and said it’s possible that the lake could become gated off in the coming months.
“We were aware that the county was not going to renew their lease with Coachella Valley Water District, who operate Lake Cahuilla,” said Desert Recreation District General Manager, Kevin Kalman.
The district is now considering whether it will step in if the county does not renew its lease.
“We’re doing our due diligence to find out what the potential risks are for the district and over the long term with assuming the park,” said Kalman.
Kalman said one of their biggest concerns is being able to mitigate invasive species which could potentially lead to costly damages.
“There’s some concern with regard to invasive species and how that limits the programmability of the property. When I say invasive species I’m talking about the Quagga and Zebra Mussels, which we know have been brought to the west coast from the midwest in the late 80s and are throughout the Colorado River System, which Lake Cahuilla is fed from,” said Kalman.
Aside from recreation, Lake Cahuilla plays an integral role in the Coachella Valley Water District’s system.
“Our agricultural distribution system ends at Lake Cahuilla, and lake Cahuilla is a reservoir for that system. It’s very important that we’re able to operate it and operate it well,” said Katie Evans, Director of Communications and Conservation at Coachella Valley Water District.
The district operates the lake, which is owned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation.
“We have to ensure that the water in that reservoir is of the quality that we need. We have to protect it from invasive species and any liability that’s recreational would have to be incurred by whatever entity is running the recreational component of it,” said Evans.
Evans said the water district is willing to work with the county or whatever entity opts to take it over.
If the county does not renew its lease, DRD has begun evaluating the risk.
“The invasive species is not something that one can insure for. It’s basically an uninsurable risk. In this particular case it’s not the drinking water that it’s affecting, but you have the entire downstream infrastructure from CVWD which feeds the agricultural community in the east valley. Potential risk is not just replacing water lines, but also potential crop loss and the ripple effect of having that water shut off for any other period of time,” said Kalman.
The future of the lake will likely be decided in the next 5 months.
“We have to just find a balance of how to respect and understand theimportance of what the water district’s role is in maintaining the quality of water in that lake and throughout the canal system, but also find that balance for recreation so that people can enjoy it,” said Mayor Evans.
Desert Valley Outdoors Administrator Brad Schwilk also released a statement:
Desert Valley Outdoors was founded in 2017. We are a nonprofit organization. We work within the community to provide learning clinics to the youth and families about fishing, hunting and many other outdoor activities. We focus on safety and getting the family out to have fun. The community, including the members of Desert Valley Outdoors, will be affected by the closing of Lake Cahuilla. This closure will take away a recreation area that has been a staple to the local community since it was built many years ago. Desert Valley Outdoors will work with whoever resumes management of the lake to provide a safe family environment to our Coachella Valley residents and visitors.