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SunLine Transit gets $6.1 million grant for new admin building

CalTrans money part of $350 million given to statewide projects

THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - Caltrans announced Thursday that Thousand Palms-based SunLine Transit Agency will receive a $6.1 million grant to construct an administrative building.

The grant was part of $350 million doled out by Caltrans for more than 80 public transit improvements throughout the state. The grants are funded through Proposition 1B, a transportation bond approved by voters in 2006, according to Caltrans.

"These projects are a direct investment in our state's public transit system and will help energize California's economy," Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said in a written statement. "Not only will these projects help create jobs, they will also reduce traffic congestion, clean the air, and provide Californians with more viable alternatives to rising gas prices."

Caltrans' District 8, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties, received about $16.5 million for transit projects. SunLine Transit Agency has bus routes that cover the Coachella Valley.

According to SunLine's website, any new facility would probably remain in Thousand Palms.  In the company's short-range transit plan for 2011, the company addressed the cramped conditions workers were exposed to.

"SunLine staff is currently housed in a number of mobile homes that have passed their usual life. SunLine continues to work with the Riverside County Departments of Planning and Transportation to obtain necessary permits for construction of the Administrative Offices," the report read.

Where the mobile homes usually have an expected life of 20 years, the average age of the trailers used for SunLine are 24 years, 4 years past their useful life, according to budget justification form.

"These facilities have a high repair and maintenance cost, with little possibility of any appreciation in value."

The amount requested for the new facility was $10.7 million, $4 million more than the Caltrans grant but already covered by funds from Proposition 1B, approved by California voters in 2008.

SunLine leaders also hold close to a plan to build a transit hub.  Their plans call for one place commuters traveling from the Coachella Valley to the Pass Area could depart from, as well as connect to services provided by the Riverside Transit Agency to MetroLink stations.

They are also looking at the possibility of using a satellite location in Indio.

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