- A GOP Congressman has sought $5 million for a train to Coachella Valley, California, where a pop music festival draws hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
- The request would be used to satisfy an “environmental review” of the project, which would build a railway line to ferry thousands to the valley, with Calvert describing the funds as being necessary to boost tourism.
- The request was made as an “earmark,” a controversial budget proposal of the type that Calvert has opposed in the past.
A Republican congressman has earmarked $5 million to build a train in California that would connect Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley, where the titular music festival draws hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
Republican Rep. Ken Calvert of California, a 15-term incumbent who represents the 41st district, submitted the request for the earmark to the Coachella Valley Rail Project to the House Appropriations Committee, amounting to $5 million. The funds, he says, will be used “to complete environmental documentation” regarding the addition of a third main track to the line between Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley, per his website.
Coachella, the pop music festival, draws hundreds of thousands of tourists in attendance and several leading music performers, with this year’s edition featuring Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, Korean K-pop performers “Blackpink,” actor Idris Elba and DJ Calvin Harris, among others. The city, located in the Mojave Desert, is 132 miles from Los Angeles, the closest metropolitan center where fans often arrive by air en route to the festival.
Several of letters of support for the project, which Calvert posted on his website, espouse “music festivals” as well as “restaurants, resorts, sports facilities, and commercial and retail centers” as reasons for the project’s importance. Many of the letters appear to have been copied from each other per a standard text.
Sarah Palin 9/3/2008 RNC:
"We suspended the state fuel tax and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress, Thanks, but no thanks, on that Bridge to Nowhere. If our state wanted to build a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves." pic.twitter.com/1W1tvXToDu
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) April 2, 2022
The project is estimated to cost over $1 billion and is a long-term construction project, according to the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), which is overseeing the work. The project has been in progress since 1993, when feasibility studies were first conducted, with $67 million already being spent on it, per an RCTC fact sheet.
California has seen recent controversy regarding rail projects facing cost overruns and late deliveries. Currently, the California High-Speed Rail Project, which California voters approved in 2008 to build a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles, is estimated to cost over $100 billion and is scheduled to be opened, at the earliest, by 2030, according to CalMatters, a state-based investigative group.
That project has been strongly criticized by Republicans and former President Donald Trump, who wrote in 2019 on Twitter that “The failed Fast Train project in California, where the cost overruns are becoming world record-setting, is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!” State Democrats and Gov. Gavin Newsom have defended the project, with Newsom writing that “The train is leaving the station — better get on board!”
The request was one of many earmarks submitted by Calvert, who did so despite having previously supported their abolition in 2010 under the House’s then-Republican majority led by then-Speaker John Boehner. Calvert previously wrote that the “decision to remove ourselves from the earmark process…is a statement to the American people that House Republicans are ready to lead the fight for lower spending, more transparency and responsibility in Washington,” according to a press release on his website.
The ban on earmarks was lifted in 2021 by House Democrats in the majority, with Republicans voting to override internal party rules that prohibited them from requesting them. They have been criticized by conservatives, who have suggested they lead to “pork-barrel spending” and political corruption.
“’Twas the week before Christmas, and through the Senate and House, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The earmarks were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there,” said Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in December, adding that “The senators were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of pork danced in their heads. No budget was found, just mischief and debt. While the taxpayers hung their poor heads and wept.”
Calvert and the RCTC have been contacted for comment.
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