Construction Ahead! Rail Trail News and Updates
Updated: May 16
Check back here for all of the news and updates about construction on the Rail Trail now!
Bike and Pedestrian Bridge Added to North Coast Rail Trail Segment 5
May 5, 2023
Construction of Segment 5 of the Coastal Rail Trail, stretching 7.5 miles from Wilder Ranch State Park to Davenport, is now fully funded.* This includes a newly-added bike and pedestrian bridge over Highway 1 at Panther Beach, to provide safe passage between the trail and Cotoni Coast Dairies National Monument.
The funding package combines two grants from the Federal Lands Access Program totaling $37.7 million, and $13.8 million in contributions from the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the California Coastal Conservancy, and the 2016 Measure D half-cent sales tax.
Phase I of the project is the 5.4-mile portion from Wilder Ranch to Panther Beach. Phase II includes 2.1 miles of the trail from Panther Beach to Davenport and construction of new parking lots at Panther Beach and in Davenport.
Phases I and II are currently going through the design and permitting process, with construction funding available in 2024.
Phase III is the bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 1 at the Panther Beach Parking lot connecting to the Cotoni Coast Dairies National Monument. The bridge project is scheduled to complete environmental review in 2024, engineering and design in 2025, and construction funding will be available in 2027.
Westside Santa Cruz to the Beach, Segment 7 Phase 2 Construction Underway
On the lower Westside in the City of Santa Cruz, construction is underway now for the Rail Trail from Bay and California to the beach. The trail will go beside the railroad tracks behind Neary Lagoon on a gradual descent to Depot Park and then emerge at the roundabout at the foot of the wharf.
This new section of bike and pedestrian trail will give kids in the Depot Park and Beach Flats neighborhoods a protected and less steep route uphill to the Westside schools, and people on the Westside a safer route to the beach and beyond.
Segment 7b grant funding also includes funding for bicycle and pedestrian education for all grades at Bay View elementary.
Westside Santa Cruz: Bay to Natural Bridges, Segment 7 Phase 1 Open
In December of 2020, 20 years of citizen advocacy finally came to fruition with the opening of the Westside trail in the City of Santa Cruz. If you’ve been on the trail you have probably noticed all the many wonderful features. Wide, flat, level, it is the quickest way to cross the westside of town. Crosswalks and crossbikes make street crossings easy. At busy streets, pushbuttons turn on warning lights for cars to encourage them to yield. There are always friendly people out just enjoying the space or using it to run their errands as many businesses are right along the trail.atsonville Rail Trail Phase 1 Open
Watsonville Trail Open
Segment 18 Phase 1 is open in Watsonville. This is a one-mile continuous paved bicycle and pedestrian trail, with fencing on the side that is next to Watsonville’s active freight line.
This segment is connected to the Watsonville slough trail system. Eventually, Phases 2 and 3 will connect to Walker Street and to Lee Road. The trail will eventually make connections to Pajaro Valley High School on the northwest side of the city, to Santa Cruz County Land Trust’s Watsonville Slough Farm property, and to the rest of the 32-mile Coastal Rail Trail and greater 50-mile Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network that will span the entire Santa Cruz County.
The trail is part of the network of trails the city is currently developing that will extend west toward the ocean and go beyond the highway. On Lee Road part of the trail network will head toward Pajaro Valley High School and cross Struve Slough on a new pedestrian and bike bridge, providing safer access to Pajaro Valley High School students who bike or walk to school. This project was funded as part of the Biden Omnibus bill in 2022.
Santa Cruz to Aptos, Segments 8, 9, 10, and 11 Funded
$103M Awarded for Construction of 8, 9, 10, and 11
We’re so excited to announce that the latest Coastal Rail Trail grant applications have been a huge success. Both the City of Santa Cruz and the County of Santa Cruz recently submitted Rail Trail grant applications to the California Transportation Commission (CTC) and today both were awarded! The CTC granted a total $103.3 million to fund new construction on the Coastal Rail Trail. These new funds will be used to extend the Rail Trail from the Boardwalk all the way to to State Park Drive. The 6.5 miles of newly-funded trail fall into four segments, Segments 8 and 9 in the City of Santa Cruz and Segments 10 and 11 in mid-county. This will be a huge improvement for active transportation in Santa Cruz County.
Segments 8 & 9 Will Connect Santa Cruz To Live Oak
Segment 8 goes from the Santa Cruz Wharf past the Boardwalk and across the San Lorenzo River. In Segment 8, the existing bike way (cycle track) in the roadway from the Municipal Wharf to the San Lorenzo River will be improved by:
Installing raised “curb separators” (around 3-6 inches high) between the bike lane and vehicle travel lane,
Retaining or replacing the existing vulcanized rubber divider adjacent to the on-street parking,
Improving and widening sidewalks,
Adding high-visibility striping and surface improvements to the bike, crosswalk, and mixing zones,
Connecting to Rail Trail Segment 7 Phase 2, currently under construction, which goes from Bay and California on the Westside to the roundabout at the foot of the wharf.
Segment 9 goes from the San Lorenzo River to 17th Avenue. In Segment 9, a new paved bike and pedestrian trail will be built from the San Lorenzo River trestle by the Boardwalk to 17th Avenue in Live Oak. This exciting segment will create a brand new direct route between Santa Cruz and Live Oak for bikes and pedestrians.
Starting at the trestle the trail will continue along the tracks to cross Seabright and then cross the Yacht Harbor with a dedicated new separated bike and pedestrian structure.
It will continue east along the rail corridor, passing behind Twin Lakes State Beach and Simpkin Swim Center.
It will emerge at 17th Ave., next to the swim center driveway and within a few blocks of an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school.
The typical width of the paved trail will be 12 feet with striping in the middle to separate eastbound and westbound.
Wildlife-friendly cable fencing will be installed between the trail and tracks.
We’re so excited to see Segment 9 get funded!
Final 8 & 9 Environmental Impact Report Confirms Trail Alongside Tracks Has Lowest Impacts
The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Segments 8 and 9 Rail Trail from the Boardwalk to 17th Ave has been released and contains good news. The official Proposed Project to build the trail alongside the tracks continues to score the highest among the build alternatives. Because this option, named the Ultimate Trail, is the best alternative for the environment, the planners can continue moving forward with the project.
All of this is great news for construction starting on time. Current estimates put construction starting sometime in 2023 or early in 2024. You can read the whole FEIR here. It’s interesting to look at some of the steps that we take in California to protect the environment.
Segments 10 and 11 will Connect Live Oak to Capitola and Aptos
Segment 10: 17th Avenue to Jade Street Park in Capitola: this trail will give residents and visitors to densely-populated Live Oak a brand new safe and protected way to get around the neighborhood and to get to and from Santa Cruz.
Starting at Simpkin Swim Center, the trail crosses Rodeo Creek Gulch on a new bike and pedestrian bridge,
crosses 38th Avenue just a few blocks from the planned new mixed-use residential and retail development at the Capitola Mall,
continues to Jade Street Park.
Segment 11: Jade Street Park to State Park Drive in Aptos: The grant funds all of Segment 11 except for the Capitola Trestle village overcrossing. The newly-funded trail picks up on the east side of the Capitola Trestle and goes to Park Avenue, then New Brighton State Beach, continuing all the way to State Park Drive in Aptos. Planning for a Capitola Village bike and pedestrian overcrossing bridge is included in the engineering study for Passenger Rail which was approved on December 1st, 2022.