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Where’s my Stop? Planning the Next Step for Electric Rail!

Updated: May 10, 2023


Have you ever wanted to know ‘where will my rail stop be?’ or ‘How often will the trains run?’ or even ‘Who is going to be in charge of the rail system?’ To move forward with the rail project, the RTC needs to answer these kinds of questions. That means doing a Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Documentation project. This large and detailed study and design project explores the nitty gritty of how the rail service would be built and how it would work.


The RTC staff previously shared a discussion of the Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Documentation project as part of the Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis and Rail Network Integration Business Plan (‘Rail Business Plan’). In a nutshell, the project includes doing a detailed study of the existing rail infrastructure, developing initial plans for design, operation, and governance of the electric rail service, and doing full environmental studies. The last delivery from the project would be a Final Environmental Impact Report which would include all of the design plans, all the environmental studies, and a few other bits and pieces.


Heart of the Project: Design, Operation, and Governance

​Creating the initial design, operation and governance plans gives the starting place for deciding what rail service will actually look like in Santa Cruz County. We anticipate there will be lots of opportunities for public comments as the plans are developed! If you would like to be kept informed, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.


Initial Conceptual Design

Design covers things like station location, train speeds, vehicle types, travel times, and ridership. It includes assessing first and last mile solutions to provide passenger rail users the ability to get to and from the rail stations. Initial design also helps identify which infrastructure investments, such as track curve realignment or upgraded bridges, yield the most benefits.


Initial Operating Plan

An operating plan includes the headways (how often trains run), passing times (when trains meet and pass at siding locations), and span of service (starting and ending service times). Part of the operating plan includes looking at rail vehicle types and ruling out those which cannot provide a reasonable running time on the corridor. The operating plan also includes how local rail service will be integrated with both the local bus service and the regional rail service.


Governance Strategy Recommendation

The Governance model will determine who runs the rail system. The TCAA Business Plan includes an explanation of different possible governance models (such as Public Private Partnerships, as just one of several possibilities.) Developing a governance recommendation will involve state, regional, and local agency communication, coordination, and analysis. Agencies such as Caltrans, the Transit Agency of Monterey County, the Santa Cruz METRO, and the Santa Cruz RTC would all participate.


Environmental Studies

A California Environmental Quality Act Environmental Impact Report (CEQA EIR) and National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Impact Statement (NEPA EIS) will be developed to comply with federal and state guidelines and funding requirements. These studies will also determine the environmental mitigation that will be part of the project. Mitigation can include simple actions like preventing construction runoff from entering the watershed, and larger efforts such as wildlife habitat restoration that might even be located elsewhere in the county, far from the tracks. The environmental review process also provides lots of opportunities for the public to give feedback on the proposed project.


Final Report

At the end of the process, the information prepared in all the previous steps is used to prepare the full environmental review, documentation, and preliminary design documentation to meet federal and state requirements. The final EIR is built from the environmental studies, a ‘30% Preliminary Design Document’ developed using the Initial Design, Operation, and Governance Plans, and the cost estimates.


See page 5.2 of the TCAA & RNIS Business Plan for more details on what will likely be included in the Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Documentation.


The Inside Track

Do you want to stay updated as the design unfolds? Want to know when you can make your voice heard about design details or project impacts? Friends of the Rail & Trail will keep you updated and in the know! Stay on the Inside Track and make sure you’re signed up for our emails.


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