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Getting to the Facts: Rail & Trail Together are both Feasible and Fundable.

Updated: May 1

Former Greenway Executive Director Manu Koenig continues to use delay tactics, half-truths, and misinformation to try and stop the Rail & Trail projects.



With 50% of the Rail Trail in Santa Cruz County now in final design or construction, you would think that the self-proclaimed trail advocates at Greenway would be celebrating. After all, their loudly-proclaimed fears that a trail can't fit beside the rail have turned out to be groundless. You can see the engineering plans for trail beside the rail here. Public works projects do take a long time, but 14 miles of Rail Trail will be starting construction in the next two years. That’s coming up pretty fast for a project they claimed was impossible and could never be built. 


When the Mid-county Rail Trail project won an unprecedented $67.6M construction grant from Caltrans, it was a giant step for construction on the widest and longest active transportation corridor in Santa Cruz County. It should have been a moment for everyone who wants to see fully-protected trails to come together to celebrate. 


Unfortunately, instead of celebrating the project success and the efforts of the staff who wrote the winning grant proposal, Supervisor Koenig is continuing the same tired Greenway tactics from the past 6 years. After failing to turn the voters against the project, he's trying to stop it by causing delay after delay, while attempting to justify his actions using half truths and misinformation.


The Truth Is: We have all the funding we need to move forward with Mid-county trail segments 10 and 11


We all know that construction costs across the state and nation have increased since the project was awarded 67.6 Million by the State of California. Fortunately, the staff proposal to the Board of Supervisors on March 26 provided a sensible plan for covering any additional construction costs that beyond the original budget.


Lead project staff at the County and Regional Transportation Commission have identified several options, including applying for federal grants and making interim use of a small part of the Rail Trail maintenance fund. The maintenance fund has been steadily increasing ever since the 2016 Measure D sales tax passed. These funds will not be needed in the next 4 years. In fact, if the trail isn't built, the maintenance funds will never be needed at all.


Using a small portion of the maintenance fund in this way still leaves the total fund with full capacity to act as the local match for all the remaining segments of the Rail Trail. It's clear that Supervisor Koenig's crying over costs has no basis in fact. It's an excuse to delay the project. 


The Truth Is: Delay is a common tactic used by opponents to ensure a project can't ever get built.


Delay is an effective tactic because the longer a project takes, the more money it costs. Delay at any point makes a project more expensive and more likely to be cancelled or downsized. In the case of Rail Trail Segments 10 and 11, delay puts the project at risk of losing funding entirely. If our elected officials can't move the project forward within the expected timeline, Caltrans will have no choice but to re-allocate the $67.6M Active Transportation grant to some other project, located in some other county. The people of Santa Cruz County expect and deserve better than this from our elected officials.


The Truth Is: Delaying Construction on Mid-county Segments 10 & 11 Would Also Endanger the South County Rail Trail Projects


Failing to move forward with the Segment 10 and 11 project would send a message to our funding partners at the California Transportation Commission that we can not deliver on our projects, even after being awarded a record-breaking grant. This would make us extremely uncompetitive in future grant cycles. If we close the door on future California Active Transportation grants, the South County Rail Trail projects will be left without access to the largest bucket of trail funding.


The Truth Is: Roaring Camp Railroads has demonstrated their commitment to our community AGAIN


Roaring Camp Railroads in the San Lorenzo Valley is well known for their family and community values. From emergency rescues to fire fighting assistance, they can be counted on to show up when it really matters. In a recent letter, Roaring Camp has offered to partner with the RTC in shifting the track alignment in multiple places on segments 10 and 11 to make room for the trail, saving the project millions of dollars.


The Truth Is: Railbanking Proposals are just delay tactics. They can't save us time OR money


A recent update (pg. 24-5) from the zero emission passenger rail design team concluded that building the Rail & Trail projects to meet freight rail standards will cost slightly more than building them for lighter passenger rail vehicles, but will end up being more financially feasible. This is because although building for higher weight capability can mean some structures need better quality materials, materials are only about 30% of the costs of a project. Cost saving from using cheaper materials can only reach about 5-10% at best.


On the other hand, freight capable infrastructure has better funding eligibility. For example, the report explained that if new bridges are needed, building them to freight standard would qualify them for more and larger grant funding opportunities. This means there is no cost saving for the community from pursuing railbanking just to avoid meeting freight rail standards. After receiving the report, the RTC Commissioners voted unanimously to use the freight standard if and when any rail bridges need to be replaced.


Now let's take a look at the true costs that would come with railbanking. Due to inflation, every year a project is delayed is projected to cost an additional 6-11% of the total project. We know that the process of adverse abandonment and railbanking would take between two and ten years to be decided, since there are local objections to abandonment. That means pursuing railbanking would cost the project between 12% and 100% extra. The total cost of segments 10 & 11 is coming in around $111.7 M today. We can calculate that any attempts to pursue railbanking would cause cost increases of $13M at the least, and possibly as much as $200M, depending on how many years the project is paused for the legal battle at the Surface Transportation Board. At the end of that project, the trail would need to be re-engineered and staff would have to start over from scratch to seek funding. The only ones to benefit from this scenario would be the project opponents and the lawyers.


The Truth Is: The Rail Trail projects are well-placed now for additional grant funding, IF we keep things moving


Our local staff successes in winning state grant funding make our projects great prospects for federal grants, since we now have such high percentages of matching funding available. When it comes to grant applications, success begets success. Staff has earned the right to our trust in their grant-writing capabilities. With a proven track record of success, and matching funds to show, staff is clearly capable of continuing to win funding over the next four years. Our elected officials should be supporting their efforts, not undermining them by creating unnecessary project roadblocks and delays. 


Manu Myth:  Funding segments 10 and 11 would take money away from South County projects.


Fact:  As discussed earlier, the staff proposal is to use a small percentage of trail maintenance budget, not additional trail projects budget.  This will not impact South County projects.



Manu Myth:  There is uncertainty about the ability to win future grants to support these projects.


Fact:  Our local staff from the RTC, the City of Santa Cruz, the City of Capitola, and the County of Santa Cruz have been extremely successful in winning grants for projects in our county.  The staff won $103M in combined grant funding for Segments 8, 9,10, and 11 of the Coastal Rail Trail. We should trust and believe in our staff; and support them as they apply for additional funding.  Every major project, be it a road, a bridge or a trail, faces challenges in budget and funding.  This is not the time to step down, it is the time to step up.



Manu Myth:  There is a concern about the cost of shifting the rail line to the side of the corridor to accommodate the trail in Segment 10,


Fact: In a recent letter, Roaring Camp offered to partner with the RTC in shifting the track alignment in multiple places on segments 10 to make room for the trail, saving the project millions of dollars. We should all be grateful that they have made this generous offer.



Manu Myth: We can save trees and time by going with the interim trail


Fact: The Interim trail would actually take more time (because it would require railbanking, which would delay construction) and it would not save trees. According to the project EIR, the interim-trail alternative would actually require more trees to be cut down. The environmental benefits of having both rail & trail will far outweigh the cost of the trees, which will be replaced at a minimum rate of 10:1 for trees with larger than 24” trunks, and 3:1 for those with trunks between 8” and 24”.

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Marcia White
Marcia White
4月20日

Am I missing something? Please tell me what percentage is completed (i.e. being used) and which percentage is actually under construction. Living in aLive Oak, I only know about the Westside bike and walking trail.

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rmbl2010
4月20日

This is a very informative article. I have been suspicious of Manus motivations for quite some time. It is time to reconsider having Manu as a "representative" of the folks that put him on office. Recall?

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