Whitewater Multi Use Parkway Brings Outdoor Excitement! Notes from the monthly meeting of the Downtown/Uptown Merchants Association.
If the movers and shakers have their way, and we hope they do, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley will soon rank amongst the top cities in the world of recreation via the Whitewater Multi Use Parkway. And the area will secure its place as a mecca for the best outdoor lifestyle.
The Parkway 1e11 will bring a new level of outdoor excitement and here’s why.
On Tuesday while attending the Downtown/Uptown Merchants Association meeting, Tom Kirk from the CVAG gave a presentation on the new multi use parkway. The project is being proposed to be built along the Whitewater Riverbed that extends the Coachella Valley. Tom has been working very closely with Assemblyman John Benoit on the project now named “Parkway 1e11”.
The plan is to to build a cross-valley highway specifically designed for bikes, electric carts, hikers, walkers and joggers. When completed, The Whitewater Multi Use Parkway will make the area very competitive in the tourism market with the cities who already have these great facilities in place such as Austin and Portland .
So what is it?
It’s a trail, a parkway; a bike path and a multi use roadway. Call it what you like it’s all the same. The plan is for it to be futuristic. The concept began decades ago then in 2009 a study was completed by the Desert Recreation District and the Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District. The goal was to determine the feasibility and cost of a cross valley multi use non-automobile parkway spanning the 45 mile length of the valley. The Whitewater riverbed is the focus of the study and the Parkway which will be built on the levies along this long since dry “wash”. The project could take up to 10 years to complete in phases with some links already in place.
The parkway will feature staging areas for groups and individuals, rest areas and charging areas. The extra features and amenities to accommodate EV’s will add to the cost and may double the original price though it is still in proportion to other transportation infrastructure projects for autos. From all indications, the added cost and traffic mitigation benefits are well worth it.
Parkway 1e11 will span roads, maybe go under some and will accommodate bikes and carts; pedestrians, hikers and joggers. It will be located along the urban core with links to downtown areas across the valley. The idea is accessibility so that it will be used by many.
Another main goal will be to lessen the congestion along the Hwy 111 corridor. By allowing EV’s, many people will be able to use their electric golf cart to get around town and from city to city.
How will we pay for it and how much will it cost?
Well there’s the controversy. First the cost. The original concept did not include electric carts and would have cost about $40 million dollars. With the added features of EV and the effort to span roads, the cost will assuredly rise to over $80 million.
If the project is designed correctly, a mix of environmental mitigation funds, conventional transportation dollars and other funding sources could be used to build and maintain such a system.
Some money hopefully will come from the Sentinel Electric Power generating plant mitigation funds. How much of those funds will be used is still a point of debate. Other funds will come from Measure A funds; The Desert Health Care Organizations are on board and will hopefully contribute to the cost as a way to encourage people to exercise. Also, state and federal agencies may have funds as well and are being considered.
Because of air quality and health improvements, its a part of Regional Transportation Plan in SoCal and Riverside County giving it high priority and visibility.
What are the benefits?
JOBS. The project will create jobs here and development along the parkway will create even more jobs.
Tourism and will grow adding jobs. Other cites who have this type of parkway have seen their tourist business grow measurably. Of note, there are many cities with similar projects underway or under consideration. A Big advantage we have is our weather. Many other cities can’t compete there. A study is available if you are interested that was done by The Outer Banks of North Carolina. The results are impressive!
How quickly can it happen?
Part is happening now by building bridges and freeway interchanges with the right of way already in place. Parts are being planned in cities like Palm Springs (Palm Springs has it in their master plan). Palm Springs is working hard as are other desert cities with its sustainability initiative which has biking as a number one priority. And parts of this parkway already exist is some communities and just needs upgrading. The community of developers is on board as is a list of over 50 organizations, education facilities, commissions. clubs, agencies utilities and governments.
Photos courtesy of Coachella Valley Association of Governments. Their mission is about transportation improvements, financing various projects such as Multiple Species program. (Buying property to protect rare species.) and uses various funding sources including sales tax.