More Road Paving Improvements in Eastern Coachella Valley to Begin Construction
RIVERSIDE – Eastern Coachella Valley residents will have cleaner air and healthier lives as the Riverside County Transportation Department commences the second, final phase of paving dirt roads to 35 mobile home parks in Mecca, Thermal and Oasis.
The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 4-0 to award the $1.2 million construction contract to Golden Valley Construction of Palm Springs, which constructed the first $2.2 million phase. Construction is expected to begin in mid-February and last approximately four months.
The 35 mobile home parks that will receive paving improvements in both phases are home to an estimated population of 3,700, approximately 60 percent of whom are children under 18.
“This is a very worthwhile effort to improve the air quality and health of thousands of residents in the eastern Coachella Valley,” said Supervisor John J. Benoit. “I am very proud of the cooperative work between our Transportation Department and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to make a tremendous difference for residents, especially children who wait at bus stops or walk to school every day.”
The clean air project is funded by AB 1318 emission mitigation fees from the Sentinel Energy Project, funds that Supervisor Benoit successfully directed exclusively to the Coachella Valley.
As a state senator in 2009, Benoit coauthored AB 1318, legislation that allowed construction of the Sentinel Energy Project, a natural gas powered electricity plant near Desert Hot Springs. The legislation paved the way for $53 million in mitigation fees to be deposited with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) for clean air projects. As a SCAQMD board member, Benoit convinced his colleagues to direct 100 percent of the funding to projects exclusively in the Coachella Valley.
The Riverside County Transportation Department developed a proposal to pave the roads, applying for the funding on behalf of the mobile home park owners. In January 2013, the SCAQMD’s Governing Board approved the second-largest grant from the Sentinel mitigation fund, nearly $4.1 million, to the paving project.
The project will remove hundreds of tons of fine particulate pollution annually. Fine particulate pollution can pose a health risk to residents. In the Coachella Valley, dust from unpaved roads and other sources is a significant source of fine particulate pollution.
Children under 18 are particularly susceptible to exposure to fine particulates during their growth and development years. Research has linked fine particulate exposure to hospital admissions for acute respiratory ailments in children, school and kindergarten absences, reduced peak air-flow rates in normal children’s lungs and increased medication use by children and adults with asthma.
An added benefit of the paving project is to provide improved accessibility for mobile home park residents and visitors. Unpaved roads become difficult to traverse during storms, isolating the communities at times.
The Riverside County Transportation Department began construction of the first phase in July 2014, which included paving roads at 25 parks and three public road segments connecting to the parks. Construction of the first phase was completed in October 2014.