Nov. 10: Santa Cruz City Council Resolution in Support of Rail With Trail

November 10, 2015, Santa Cruz City Council Resolution:
“Resolution Reaffirming Support for the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network Master Plan and the Preservation of the Rail Option”

DISCUSSION:  There has been ongoing debate about the utility of preserving the rail line as part of current efforts to initiate construction of the multi-use bicycle and pedestrian rail trail.  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.  While continued analysis will take place in regards to instituting passenger rail service in Santa Cruz County, it is important to preserve the rail option to encourage objective long-range transportation planning and to continue the immediate development of trail segments within our community.


WHEREAS, the Regional Transportation Commission’s (RTC) Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network (Trail Network) Master Plan was adopted February 6, 2014, after a three-year long public and stakeholder engagement process; and

WHEREAS, the Trail Network Master Plan defines a 50-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and a32-mile rail right-of-way that serves as the system’s spine; and

WHEREAS, the City also adopted the Trail Network Master Plan in December 2014 in a show of endorsement and commitment to implementation of the City’s rail trail segments; and

WHEREAS, this resolution of the governing body of the City shall reaffirm its support for multi-modal, long-range transportation planning along the rail corridor as outlined in the Trail Network Master Plan; and

WHEREAS, the Rail Trail Master Plan and its review process involved thousands of community members and public agencies, including the California Coastal Commission, California Coastal Conservancy, California State Parks, and local cities within Santa Cruz County; and

WHEREAS, more than $14.5 million in local, State, and Federal funds, and $3.6 million in private funds have already been committed to the construction of eight miles of rail trail segments; and

WHEREAS, the City has received $4,060,000 in Federal earmarks from the RTC to construct a 2.1 mile segment from Natural Bridges Drive to Pacific Avenue/Wharf and has initiated design; and

WHEREAS, the City also committed $1,090,000 of local funds, and the Friends of the Rail and Trail, along with Bike Santa Cruz County, committed $100,000 in private funds; and

WHEREAS, the preservation of the rail line at this time is essential to continue the process to construct segments of the planned rail trail segments; and

WHEREAS,  any attempt to abandon the rail line at this time will hinder long-range planning of a sustainable integrated transportation plan and impede efforts to construct future segments of the rail trail in the near term; and

WHEREAS, a commitment to the perseveration of the rail line at this time will allow the RTC, local jurisdictions, and the Land Trust, which has already committed millions in funding, to submit grant requests in an effort to construct the rail trail at the earliest date possible; and

WHEREAS, it is in the community’s best interest to encourage sustainable long-range transportation planning along this important transportation corridor.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AND ORDERED by the City Council of the City of Santa Cruzthat it reaffirms support for the RTC’s Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network Master Plan and the preservation of the rail option.

PASSED AND ADOPTED this 10th day of November, 2015 by the following vote: (Unanimous)

Removing train tracks would hurt, not help, rail trail

By Amelia Conlen, Director of Bike Santa Cruz County

Bike Santa Cruz County (formerly People Power) has advocated for the Coastal Rail Trail project since our inception in 1991. The trail will connect our county, providing a safe place to bike and walk and making riding a bike for daily trips a viable option for more county residents. The trail is our top priority project and has tremendous community support, and we are thrilled to see it moving forward.

So far, three Coastal Rail Trail segments have been funded; a 4,000-foot segment in Watsonville near West Beach Street, a 2.4-mile segment on the Westside of Santa Cruz, and a 5-mile segment on the North Coast that will run from the Wilder Ranch parking lot to just past Laguna Road. These projects should all be completed in the next three to four years.

Concurrently, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission has been studying options for passenger rail service, and recently released the Passenger Rail Feasibility Study. The release of the study has given rise to vocal opposition to passenger rail, with many claiming that removing the train tracks will ultimately benefit the trail project.

While the Transportation Commission has yet to determine whether passenger rail is economically feasible, Bike Santa Cruz County believes that removing the tracks would be bad for the trail and for people who ride bikes in Santa Cruz County.

Removing the tracks puts the trail on hold: Abandoning the train tracks, or even studying the option to do so, puts our relationship with the California Transportation Commission at risk.

The CTC provided funds to purchase the rail line specifically to provide rail service, and abandoning the tracks would likely mean having to return the funds. Abandoning a rail line also requires federal approval. This process could lead to years of bureaucratic wrangling, which would delay trail funding and construction.

Studying the option to abandon the tracks also raises questions about the RTC’s commitment to the Rail Trail Master Plan, since the plan is built around maintaining the option for rail service. Without an agreed-upon plan, how can we move forward with building the next segments of trail? The Coastal Rail Trail has great momentum right now, with more than 25 percent of the 32 miles of trail funded, another grant application pending and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County committed to raising millions of dollars for the project. Let’s move forward, not backward, and put our collective energy toward getting the rest of the trail built.

Preserving transportation options for the future: Whether or not passenger rail is feasible in the short term, we should keep this option open. One-third of Santa Cruz County residents do not drive, due to age, disability, income level or choice. These folks need convenient, safe and low-cost ways to get around. Traffic on Highway 1 will only get worse as our population grows, and eliminating an alternative option will make traveling across the county even more difficult. Bikes and passenger rail are complementary; rail service can extend the trips of people on bikes, and bikes make it quick and easy to travel between your home or workplace and the nearest train station. Giving people an alternative to driving will take cars off the road, encourage biking and walking trips, and reduce the headaches of people stuck in traffic on Highway 1.

Bike Santa Cruz County, together with Friends of the Rail & Trail, continues to work with local leaders to ensure the trail remains a top-priority project. The two groups raised $42,000 to support the Westside trail segment, and continue to support grant applications and advocate for additional trail funding.

This is your chance to get involved. Provide your input on the Passenger Rail Feasibility Study to the RTC by July 31 at, and stay tuned for discussions of this issue at upcoming commission meetings.

Originally published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 27, 2015