CV-Link in Palm Springs

May 11th, 2015

An Open Letter to Palm Springs City Officials

Dear Mayor Pougnet and City Officials:

     As you surely know there is currently an ongoing debate about the design and maintenance costs of the planned CV-Link bicycle-pedestrian-Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) route planned for portions of the Whitewater River channel embankment. Rancho Mirage city mayor Dana Hobart and his City Council have voiced objections to what they perceive as the high maintenance costs that will be required for the new route and its 30 foot wide width that is planned to occupy portions of their city streets. The originally proposed trail width was increased from 12 to 30 feet in order to accommodate NEVs.

     I too am one of those questioning the future maintenance costs out of concern they will require funds to be diverted from planned bicycle and pedestrian routes within Palm Springs and used for CV-Link maintenance costs. CV-Link, as you may know, mostly skirts our outer city limits and thus may receive limited use from our residential and tourist communities.

     I’ve also questioned the plan to incorporate Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) into the CV-Link design. My concern is whether the additional funds required for the NEV roadbed expansion represents a reasonable investment of taxpayer funds. We don’t have a valley-wide consensus favoring use of NEVs and are lacking the infrastructure that would facilitate their use as a mode of regular transportation. NEVs are limited to a 25 mph maximum speed and are not permitted in traffic lanes marked for speeds greater than 35 mph. I would like to see Palm Springs become an NEV-friendly community but recognize that would require city council support and the expenditure of significant monies. At present if I owned an NEV it would have to remain in my garage for my HOA community fronts on a street with a 40 mph speed limit which legally bars me from using it for any form of transportation. Are there any plans for serious consideration of NEVs and their wide-spread use throughout Palm Springs?

     I support CV-Link and hope all reasonable questions quickly receive official responses so that the project may proceed without concerns and questions remaining unanswered. We’ve never had a public discussion about CV-Link and it’s value, route and costs to Palm Springs. It would seem only right and fair for Palm Springs to host a forum for residents to learn more about CV-Link and its value to our community – and about NEVs and how those vehicles will fit into our city’s General Plan.

     Mayor Hobart has responded online to a story in the Desert Sun based on an email from Supervisor John Benoit. The mayor’s comments are thoughtful and, in my opinion, worthy of consideration and response from CVAG and CV-Link management. I’ve copied Mayor Hobart’s comments and have reproduced them below.

     Thanks very much for your support of the CV-Link concept, bicycling and pedestrian paths in our city and, of course, your continued vigilance over the best use of taxpayer dollars in our community.

Best regards,

Bond Shands

 G Dana Hobart – Rancho Mirage, California
May 8, 2015

I have raised several questions that neither the Supervisor nor the CVAG staff has answered, except to misstate my reasons for having serious doubts about this use of public funds.

1. Are CVAG member cities willing to accept the 8% TOT formula being recommended and commit those TOT funds to paying the future O&M expenses for the proposed project? This must be resolved ASAP. Using CVAG’s figures, in the first 9-years it would cost Rancho Mirage just over $1.4 million.

2. Secure a legal opinion concerning the legality of CVAG�s proposal to use Measure A funds for O&M expenses.

3. If they are determined to be legally used, I suggested that we urge each city to meet and separately decide if they felt Measure A’s sales tax-generated monies should be diverted from needed Coachella Valley road repair and used for CV Link O&M expenses.

4. I suggested that before we vote or lock ourselves into final decisions (as was being RECOMMENDED by CVAG in a 4/6/15 staff report) all cities, their council members, city managers, finance directors et al meet together in a location where we can all listen to and learn each city’s concerns regarding the burden of O&M expenses.

5. I suggested we retain an independent, outside firm, to assess the accuracy of the projected O&M expense of $1.6 million. Hand-picking such a person (as they are currently doing) to make this assessment is yet another version of loaded dice.

6. I suggested that CVAG consider “slowing down” the advancement of the CV Link project and the expenditure of funds until the foregoing objectives and issues have been clarified and settled. It makes no business sense for development to continue at full speed when the most important financial issue remains unresolved: Who pays for the O&M costs and how much? Mr. Kirk responds by asserting that he does not have the discretionary authority to slow down this roaring train. Yea, sure…

In the real world this looseness with investor funds would never get off the starting blocks. Rancho Mirage hopes to instill sanity in a process that has no idea about who will pay the projected $33,000 per mile of Operations and Maintenance expense (in the first year of operations). Yet they continue to hire staff and move forward at full speed. GDH

End of Mayor Hobart’s comments.

Bond Shands
May 11, 2015
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