On Thursday, February 22 2018, Santa Cruz Greenway held a public presentation of their vision for the Santa Cruz Branch Line Rail Corridor at the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz. The event was well-attended, with a number of people forced to stand as every chair was full. The presentation and questions and answers afterward lasted about an hour.
Santa Cruz Greenway’s vision for the rail corridor is that it should be used as a pedestrian and bicycle path only, and that the existing train tracks should be removed. This is a different vision from the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail (MBSST) plan currently being implemented by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC), which envisions a narrower trail running alongside the train tracks.
Segment 7 of the MBSST is already under construction in the city of Santa Cruz, with the railroad tracks kept in place and the trail being built off to the side. As discussed in the presentation, construction has already hit a significant snag and the cost estimates are three times higher than what was initially forecast – and this is was seen as one of the easiest segments to build.
It is telling that the construction of the MBSST is on-going while the Unified Corridor Investment Study, which is supposed to determine the best use of the rail corridor, has yet to be completed. It is perhaps not surprising that the SCCRTC is pressing forward with rail and trail before the study is finished. As Greenway discussed in their presentation, the SCCRTC is funded by the California Transportation Commission, which is heavily pushing rail systems throughout the state. This helps to explain why staff at the SCCRTC have promoted a pro-rail agenda in the face of widespread popular opposition to it.
The Greenway presentation showed a picture used by the Friends of the Rail and Trail (FORT), which depicts people using the trail alongside a simple wooden fence separating them from the tracks. Greenway called this “fake news,” because what’s being shown in the image is nothing like what the actual rail-with-trail will look like. In the image, the fence is shown being only a foot or so from the edge of the tracks. In reality, the the fence must be eight feet back from he center line of the track, which would put the fence right in the middle of the trail shown on their picture. Additionally, the fence would not be a simple wooden fence – it would be a tall steel fence, such as the one used by the new SMART train system serving Marin and Sonoma.
The presentation was chock full of information that Aptos residents need to know about what’s being proposed for the rail corridor. Please take the time to watch the video – or, if you don’t want to sit in front of an electronic device for an hour, please listen to the audio recording which has been posted to the Bay to Bay Podcast, and is provided here for your listening pleasure.
Courtesy of the Bay to Bay Podcast