CV Link will be a paved roadway linking valley cities from Palm Springs to Coachella. Most of the route will be constructed on one of the Whitewater River embankments. Its intended use is for slower motorized forms of transportation, such as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), that operate at speeds ranging from 20 to 25 mph. The roadway will also include an adjacent path suitable for pedestrians and slow-moving bicycles. The route’s design will accommodate faster bicycles able to share the roadway’s concrete pavement surface with motorized vehicles.
The following descriptions are from a recent draft copy of the CVAG Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) plan.
“A Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) is a type of Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) that can travel up to 25 mph. NEVs can travel on any public street in the general traffic lane as long as the speed limit is 35mph or less. NEVs can travel on a public street with a speed limit of 40mph or greater if there is a separate lane or path provided. Although this plan focuses on NEVs, dedicated lanes and paths may also benefit golf car operators.”
“According to California State Vehicle Code Section 385.5, NEVs are defined as “low-speed vehicles” and:
a) Having four wheels,
b) Attaining a maximum speed of 20-25 mph on a paved level surface, and
c) Having a maximum gross vehicle weight of 3,000 pounds.”
“NEV drivers must be licensed as motor vehicle drivers and abide by the California State Vehicle Code when operating on street. AB-61 authorizes the County of Riverside or any of its jurisdictions to develop an NEV Transportation plan for a designated plan area. The California Streets and Highway Code sections 1962-1962.8 were established to implement the bill.”
NEVs are included in the ZEV (Zero-Emissions Vehicles) broad range of electric plug-in vehicles (PEVs) that include Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. CVAG estimates there are currently about 148 PHEVs, 76 BEVs and 440 NEVs in the Coachella Valley and the number is expected to reach 13,000 PEVs by the year 2025. It’s assumed their use will replace short passenger vehicle trips and encompass a “wide range of trip purposes, including commute trips, school, shopping, errands and recreation.”
The decision to build a new roadway for electric vehicle use was made when it was learned that substantial federal, state and local grant monies would be available for that purpose. The CV Link roadway design will require at least $100 million dollars and a substantial portion of that sum is reportedly available. Public interest in creating and using a NEV roadway network in Coachella Valley has never been independently assessed. There’s been no demonstrable community support for NEV ownership and it’s believed the less than 700 vehicles currently in use are owned by those with wealth sufficient to allow their purchase as an addition to a stable of personal recreation vehicles.
The original CV Link plan was for a bicycle and pedestrian path – that would NOT require local funding – to be constructed along the Whitewater River embankment. It was touted as a desirably healthy exercise alternative and one expected to produce tourism-related benefits. Claims have been made that it will serve as “a tourist magnet”, “recreational marvel”, benefit “impoverished neighborhoods” and generate tourist dollars. One aspect of these claims that remains unclear is which ones are related to bicycle and pedestrian use and whether any are claimed as benefits from use of NEVs. Some of the benefit claims being made appear farfetched and their credibility cry out for substantiation.
The latest controversy surrounding CV Link resulted from recently released information about its design and costs. The roadway is planned as a thirty foot wide avenue of pavement and buffer strips necessary to accommodate four-wheel vehicle use together with a separate pedestrian path. Portions of the river embankment have been found not available for CV Link use and the roadway will need to detour onto city streets and communities. Much of the roadway though the City of Rancho Mirage is planned for city streets where it is expected to significantly impact the community areas through which it will go. Another recently released information concern is the revelation that the “will not require local funding” claim is no longer the case. Significant annual funding to be paid by the local communities will be needed in order to cover CV Link operations and maintenance costs. After learning the full extent of the CV Link roadway plans and need for annual funding, the City of Rancho Mirage has taken the lead by insisting the entire project be “slowed down” and that a comprehensive review is made of its design, funding and ways to improve the project’s transparency in order to avoid future surprises of significance.
There are many who would prefer to see the CV Link electric vehicle roadway plan abandoned in favor of a return to the original bicycle and pedestrian path that has community support. It’s clearly a waste, and perhaps abuse, of public funds to throw $100 million into a roadway that’s unneeded, mostly unwanted and one that has little chance of receiving substantial use from the 700+ battery-operated vehicles currently in the community. It’s a black mark on our entire public financial system that so much in the way of taxpayer funds are available for arcane projects like the CV Link roadway and yet other infrastructure and human existence needs are allowed to remain untended. The completion of the CV Link electric vehicle roadway should not be a cause for general celebration. Despite the elation over a new bicycle path, it will still carry the stigma of a shameful public funding boondoggle.
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