Moving Forward with Rail Planning
- Updated December 5th 2022
Thanks to community support for expanding our transportation system to include both a trail AND electric rail, the ‘Greenway’ trail-only idea was defeated by a landslide in June of 2022. In August of 2022 the RTC unanimously approved putting out a Request for Proposals for the preliminary Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Electric Passenger Rail. Click here to read about the elements included in the EIR..
On December 1st 2022, thanks to this overwhelming community support, the RTC voted to move forward with the next step to bringing rail service to Santa Cruz County! This is another historic moment! With an 11-1 vote, the Commissioners approved a contract with HDR Engineering, Inc. for professional engineering and environmental services for the electric passenger rail transit & trail project. The first phase will produce a Project Concept Report which will clearly define our Electric Rail Transit project for the next steps in the EIR.
The RTC is pursuing grants to fund the full EIR. This final document will provide the Regional Transportation Commission with the engineering, design, and environmental review needed to apply for grants and build a passenger rail service on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line. In addition to the rail service design, the rest of the Coastal Rail Trail planning will be completed in this step as well. This brings all 32 miles of the Coastal Rail Trail into design and construction mode. This is a clear win for both the Rail and the Trail projects!
In brief, up until now, the RTC has only studied whether or not to implement rail transit. Now the RTC is taking the first step in building our rail transit system.
What Can We Expect Next for Implementing Rail Service?
We took a deep dive into the Draft TCAA Business Plan and Proposed Scope of Work to see what's included in these next steps. These engineering and environmental services will need to be completed in phases over the next couple of years. Like the blueprints for building a house, these important engineering documents will include the plans for implementing electric passenger rail transit between the Pajaro Junction and Santa Cruz along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line. This will involve community outreach and important decisions like where the rail stops be, how many passing sidings there will be, and how we will connect to the state rail network at Pajaro Junction. Click here to read our blog post with more details of what will be included.
Trail Planning Included in New Rail Project
The Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Documentation for the rail transit project will now also include designing Coastal Rail Trail segments 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 20, from Rio Del Mar Boulevard to Pajaro. This means that the full 32-mile Coastal Rail Trail is now in progress.
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Friends of the Rail & Trail is a grassroots transportation advocacy organization.