Palm Desert, Calif. - An $80 million dollar transportation project is being talked about across the Coachella Valley.
Residents from Palm Springs to Coachella have questions about the CV Link.
It's the proposed trail for pedestrians, bicyclists, and low-speed electric vehicles that will run along the Whitewater Wash.
The CV Link is one of the most ambitious transportation projects not involving fast moving motorized vehicles in the country.
"The project is approximately 50 miles long," Coachella Valley Association of Governments Executive Director, Tom Kirk, said. "It runs from Palm Springs to Coachella. It's really the biggest project of its kind in the nation."
Kirk says CV Link will provide a safe path to walk, bike, or drive electric vehicles like golf carts with restricted speeds, from one end of the valley to the other without worrying about cars driving by at 50 miles per hour.
"The idea is that there would be, in fact, no interaction between pedestrians and bikes between SUV's and cars on Highway 111," Kirk said. "The idea is the path on the Whitewater River would go over major streets like Fred Waring and Cook and Date Palm. Or under them, where you have bridges, the path would dip under the bridge."
Kirk says pedestrians will have their own space on the trail. He acknowledges that bicyclists and drivers of golf carts will need to share their portion of the trail.
"I'm sure that there could be, and may even will be, accidents between a bike and a golf cart," Kirk said. "However, as a biker I would rather deal with a golf cart at 20 mph than an SUV at 60 mph."
The first piece of the CV Link was built at the same time as the new Adams Street overpass in La Quinta, which was formally dedicated December 4th. It cuts underneath the bridge, and runs alongside the wash. The paved path (pictured) spans about 100 yards.
"I think there are a lot of people that assume the project is going to be running down in the bottom of the wash, and that anytime there is a rainstorm the project would be washed out, and that's not the case," Kirk said. "The project is designed to be up on the levy.
"It's not that dissimilar to being on a path at the beach," Kirk continued. "For those that have been on a bike path at the beach, you're riding along in Newport Beach and you get to a hotel or an apartment that's been there for 70 years, and you go around it. These paths aren't always perfect, and this one won't be perfect either. There'll be a couple of detours. In each case those detours are going to be designed in a way that connects the path back to the Whitewater River channel itself."
Kirk says more than 40 of CV Link's 50 miles will run along the river levy. He says six or seven miles will be on sidewalks or bike lanes near streets.
Kirk says the most challenging portion of the trail to map out is through Rancho Mirage where golf courses and homes in the Rancho Las Palms Country Club sit inside, and atop the wash, respectively. Kirk says he has heard resident's concerns and CVAG is taking a hard look at creating an alternate route around the golf course community.
"There are a lot of legitimate questions, concerns, and constructive criticism out there," Kirk said. "We're just starting this process. The environmental review period is just starting, and we are looking for people to tell us what to look for in terms of the projects environmental impacts."
The next community meeting about CV Link is December 5 at Coachella City Council chambers from 5:30 to 7:30. Public comment is also being accepted on the CV Link website at http://www.coachellavalleylink.com/
The CV Link design is not yet finalized, but $65 million dollars in funding has been secured for the project, which is expected to cost $80 million.
CVAG hopes to begin construction within three years.