Decades of development and growth in the number of daily commuters who pass through our coastal communities have brought congestion to a crisis point for Highway One and surface streets.
Our unique geography prevents building additional roads, and adding lanes to existing streets and highways is an expensive solution that will not provide significant relief.
The recently purchased 32-mile long Santa Cruz Branch Line rail corridor passes through the most heavily populated communities in our county and ends in Watsonville, where it can connect to other passenger services like Amtrak and CalTrain. Additionally, passenger rail service can take us shopping, to work and home, and will be a boon to tourists while reducing the number of vehicles on our roads and highways.
A brief history of the public acquisition of our corridor:
Our 32-mile long rail corridor extending from the Pajaro Junction adjacent to Watsonville (where it connects with the coastal main line used by Union Pacific and Amtrak—see the map) northward to Davenport, was acquired from the Union Pacific Railroad by our Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) in October 2012. The $14.2 million purchase—unanimously recommended by the RTC in May 2010—was made primarily using the $22.5 million dollars available through (a) the passage of State Proposition 116 in 1990 by California voters—including a majority of Santa Cruz County voters ($11 million), (b) State Transportation Improvement Program funds ($10 million), and (c) a Federal grant obtained by Congressman Sam Farr ($1.5 million). Additional details, including conditions of purchase, are available from the RTC's website by clicking here.
The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network is a 50-mile bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the coast of Santa Cruz County, from the San Mateo County line in the north to the Monterey County line at Pajaro. The system’s “spine” will be within the 32-mile Santa Cruz Branch rail right-of-way, adjacent to the train tracks. The rail trail will coexist with existing and potential future train service, and abide by conditions set forth as part of the rail purchase. Many successful rail-with-trail projects can be found across the nation. This configuration has proven to be successful in many other communities and provides safety features to train operations as well as active transportation options for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network (Trail Network) merges plans for a bicycle/pedestrian trail along the rail line – including coastal alignments and neighborhood spurs – into a connected network that will overlap and converge to provide safe and convenient route choices. The trail will serve transportation, recreation and interpretive uses for walkers, joggers, bicyclists, people with mobility impairments, and families. The rail right of way passes within 1 mile of half of the County’s population and will provide access to 44 schools and 92 parks.