Updated: May 10
We are thrilled to share that Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties have been awarded three state grants to advance our regional sustainable public transportation initiatives. Santa Cruz METRO was host to California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin today as he announced the new grant awards from CALSTA, the California State Transportation Agency. These grants, received as part of the Transportation Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), fund METRO and Rail projects that will greatly benefit our community.
Passenger Rail Service on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, $3.5M. This grant funds much of the needed pre-construction design work for our zero-emission passenger rail project and also funds much of the state and federal environmental clearance work. The grant also includes designing the remaining sections of the Coastal Rail Trail. Zero-emission rail service will bypass traffic congestion on the highway, reduce overflow traffic on local streets, and reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, while providing accessible and reliable transportation options for our residents and visitors. The Coastal Rail Trail segments will provide Mid County and South County bike and pedestrian access.
Pajaro/Watsonville Rail Station in Monterey County, $2.3M. This grant funds environmental and design work for the planned multimodal rail, bike, and bus regional transit hub, just a few blocks from downtown Watsonville on the other side of the Pajaro River. This transit hub will serve as our local regional rail connection, making it possible to travel by rail from Santa Cruz County to the rest of the USA by connecting to the new rail services that Monterey is planning. These new rail services will connect Monterey, Salinas, Castroville, and Pajaro to Gilroy, San Jose, and the rest of the state.
Santa Cruz METRO: Service Improvements, Affordable Housing, and Zero-Emission Buses, $38.6M. This grant will fund increasing the frequency of bus service along HWY1 and HWY 17, adding zero-emission hydrogen-powered buses and hydrogen fueling capacity, and building new affordable housing at both the Watsonville and Santa Cruz METRO centers. This will significantly improve METRO bus service county wide and provide much-needed housing options for our community.
These three projects are deeply interconnected. They exemplify our Coast Connect vision, which is why Friends of the Rail & Trail wrote letters of support for all three of these projects. Together these projects are the keystones to providing a transformed transportation system in Santa Cruz County. By supporting them, the State of California is showing commitment to improving our local transportation options, improving our quality of life, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and improving access to opportunities for everyone.
Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin passed on a message from Governor Newsom in his remarks today, “Our state is placing a high priority on investing in public transportation projects that aim to shift away from fossil fuels while making public travel more rider friendly. Today's announcement not only provides better travel alternatives but also helps to speed up our transition to a cleaner, healthier transportation future for all Californians."
This is fabulous news as we see the State come out with such strong support for public transportation, and of course for our favorite projects. Passenger rail service and the 32-mile Rail Trail are included in the County General Plan, the Regional Transportation Long Range Plan and the California State Rail Plan which puts our projects in a prime position to continue getting state and federal grants. Continuing on this path, the RTC estimates we could have rail service starting in just 10-15 years. Please join us in expressing our deep gratitude to the federal and state agencies for their generous funding support, as well as to the METRO and RTC staff who have been instrumental in making these projects a reality. We look forward to collaborating with everyone on what rail service will look like and being a part of the Reimagine METRO project to bring a new, accessible and affordable transportation system to Santa Cruz County.