​The 91/PVL Borders Wildlife Linkage Connecting Box Springs Reserve and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park

May 22, 2024 | Infrastructure, MSHCP, Species

“All aboard the 91/Perris Valley Line with stops in Perris, Riverside, Corona, Fullerton, Buena Park, Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs, and L.A. Union Station!” Commuter and weekend riders on Metrolink’s 91/Perris Valley Line may hear this announcement while riding this 84-mile passenger rail corridor, which offers a convenient alternative to driving on southern California’s congested highways.

In June 2016, the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and project partners extended the line 24 miles from the Riverside-Downtown Station to the Perris-South Station, the first Metrolink extension in more than 20 years. A significant portion of the extension occurred on the San Jacinto Branch tracks that have been in place for more than 100 years. Numerous environmental approvals and permits were needed, and the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) helped assist the approval process, allowing the project to move forward to construction and protecting the region’s habitat.

Like many transportation projects in western Riverside County, the 91/Perris Valley Line – or 91/PVL – is near natural habitat identified for conservation or protected by the MSHCP. Located near Box Springs Mountain Reserve, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, and crossing the San Jacinto River, the rail line traverses rugged and beautiful land that Riverside County has long depended upon to move goods.

Sycamore Canyon Wildlife Area

​The 91/PVL is near an important wildlife linkage that connects Box Springs Reserve and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park. This corridor is vital to species, including the Bell’s Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza belli belli), Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus), Coastal California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), and Bobcat (Lynx rufus). With the San Jacinto River beneath the tracks and identified as a linkage, environmental studies for the 91/PVL considered water flow and wildlife movement.

During construction, mitigation strategies were used, including limiting work near the San Jacinto River to only the dry season while preserving narrow endemic plants identified for protection under the MSHCP. Permits issued by wildlife agencies required RCTC to follow the Endangered Species Act and MSHCP provisions while also mandating training on these provisions for team members and construction crews before ground-disturbing activities.

The 91/PVL is another example of how infrastructure development and habitat conservation can work together to benefit our communities.