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The Coastal Rail Trail is Being Built Now

Eighteen miles are in development, below is the status of all twenty segments spanning 36 miles from Davenport to Pajaro

Trail Segment Status 040223.png

Segment 5 – Davenport to Wilder Ranch

Status: Phase I funding complete, Phase II in funding acquisition, construction estimated to start in 2025

Also called the "North Coast" segment, when complete, this path will stretch 7.5 miles between Davenport and Wilder Ranch with stunning coastal views and connections to bluffs, beaches and miles of mountain trails.

  • Will provide access to the 19 miles of new hiking, biking, horseback riding, and ADA-accessible trails currently being built in the Coast-Cotoni Dairies National Monument.

  • This project includes new parking lots in Davenport and at Panther / Yellowbank Beach, restrooms, improved access to the parking lot at Bonny Doon Beach and a pedestrian crossing in Davenport

  • Project webpage

  • Project Fact Sheet

Segment 7 – Natural Bridges Drive to Santa Cruz Wharf

Status: Phase I complete, Phase II under construction for completion in early 2024

Phase I: Completed in December 2020 the trail provides access to numerous businesses and attractions on the West Side while connecting the Wilder Path paved trail to Bay and California Streets.

Phase II: Running from Bay and California streets to the roundabout in front of the Santa Cruz wharf, this section of trail will give students in the Depot Park and Beach Flats neighborhoods a protected and less steep route uphill to Westside schools, and people on the Westside a safer route to the beach and beyond.

 

Segment 8 – Santa Cruz Wharf to San Lorenzo River

Status: San Lorenzo Bridge section completed in 2019. Safety and flow improvements funded

Segment 8 is complete and in use in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and includes the new, award winning, cantilevered bike and pedestrian bridge across the San Lorenzo River.

 

Funding for this segment will improve on the existing bike and walking pathway and sidewalk along Beach Street. The redesign of this segment increases the width of the current pedestrian sidewalk and removes some parking currently adjacent to the bike path.

 

Segment 9 – San Lorenzo River to 17th Avenue

Status: Construction funded

Segment 9 goes from the San Lorenzo River to 17th Avenue. It passes through the Seabright neighborhood, crosses the Yacht Harbor with a new bike and pedestrian bridge bypassing the Murray Street bridge, and continues along the rail corridor behind Twin Lakes State Beach and Simpkins Swim Center, emerging at the corner of the Simpkins Swim Center driveway and 17th Avenue.

This exciting segment will create a brand new, direct route between Santa Cruz and Live Oak for bikes and pedestrians. Dramatically shorter and safer than the existing on-street infrastructure, the trail will be about 1.6 miles, in comparison with the 2 mile on-street route. Even better, it will safely bypass the Murray Street car bridge and the narrow, steep section of road around the ocean side of Twin Lakes State Beach, which has minimal bike lanes and no sidewalk.

Image by RRM Design Group

Segment 10 – 17th Avenue to Capitola

Status: Construction funded

Segment 10 reaches from 17th Avenue to Jade Street Park in Capitola. Starting at Simpkins Swim Center, the trail will cross Rodeo Creek Gulch on a new bike and pedestrian bridge, cross 38th Avenue just a few blocks from the planned new mixed-use residential and retail development at the Capitola Mall and continue to Jade Street Park. It will give residents and visitors a brand new, safe and protected way to get between densely-populated Live Oak and busy Capitola.

Segment 11 – Capitola to State Park Drive

Status: Construction funded

Segment 11 stretches from Jade Street Park in Capitola all the way to State Park Drive in Aptos. Recent grants fund all of Segment 11 except for the Capitola Trestle village overcrossing. The newly-funded trail picks back up on the other 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, approved December of 2022.

Segment 12 – State Park Drive to Rio Del Mar Blvd

Status: Construction funded??

Beginning at State Park Drive, this segment will include two new pedestrian and biking bridges over Highway 1 allowing easy, car free travel from Aptos Village to the ocean and nearby Seacliff and New Brighton State beaches and Rio Del Mar.

 

Environmental, right of way, and design work is scheduled to be completed soon, and pending funding availability, could go to construction by 2025.

Segments 13 to 17 – Rio Del Mar Blvd to Lee Road

Status: Design phase

A consulting firm has been hired to design these segments which will cross through the open space and farmland between Aptos and Watsonville. These trail segments will provide access to Seascape resort, La Selva Beach, Manresa State Beach and provide stunning views of Monterey Bay.

Segment 18 – Watsonville, Lee Road to Walker Street

Status: Phase I complete, Phase II awaiting funding

 

Construction on Phase 1 was completed in the Spring  of 2021 and spans a one mile segment between Ohlone Parkway and a trail entrance to the Watsonville Slough wetlands offering seven miles of scenic trails over 800 acres.

Phase II will extend the existing trail to Lee Road to the South and Walker Road to the North terminating one block from the Watsonville Transit Center.

Vision & Plan for Rail

Electric Light Rail Service Planning Happening Now

Options for electric light rail transit, a key backbone to existing transit services in the county, are currently being explored between Santa Cruz and Watsonville.

Planning for Electric Rail Service

Get Involved in Designing Our Electric Rail Service

On December 1st 2022, thanks to overwhelming community support, the Regional Transportation Committee voted to move forward with the next step to bringing rail service to Santa Cruz County! 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.

 

Santa Cruz County purchased the Santa Cruz Branch Line in 2012 with the vision to provide passenger rail service from Watsonville to Santa Cruz with a walking and biking trail alongside. This new public transportation service is a part of the state rail plan vision and will connect to around the bay service to Monterey as well as the entire state and national rail network through a new link from Pajaro to Gilroy. In addition to reducing local traffic and improving neighborhood safety, this service will offer greatly reduced commute times at a fraction of the cost of car ownership for the 70,000 people who commute within our county.

 

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.


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.

Benefits to our Community

1. Rail and Trail are Better Together.

 Rail and trail together will provide both active transportation and public transportation. A win-win for all. The award-winning and approved Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network (MBSST) plan maps out a rail trail next to the tracks. This plan shows we can have both an improved transportation system with electric rail and a fantastic new rail trail that goes around the bay. The rail and trail project has already gone through extensive legal and environmental review with rail alongside, and portions of the rail trail have already been completed. Lets keep the momentum going!

2. Adding Rail is about Investing in Public Transportation.

Clean light rail will cut commute times nearly in half by providing commuters with an alternative to Highway 1, allowing commuters more time with their families. Those who live in South County communities in and around Watsonville spend up to 90 minutes or more each way getting to and from work. These mostly essential workers need a better way to their North County jobs. In fact, we all need an alternative to being stuck in traffic, regardless of the reason.

3. Adding Rail is a Climate Action.

Historically, 60% of our county’s GHG emissions are transportation-related. Adding zero emission light rail is the most effective thing we can do to reduce them. The most recent study by the RTC indicated that adding rail in addition to the rail trail will reduce GHG emissions by 1482 metric tons annually, the equivalent of planting 24,500 trees and growing them for 10 years every year, year after year. That’s a huge reduction in GHG emissions that we can achieve with just this one project! There are no other transportation projects in Santa Cruz County that come close to this number.

4. Rail Enhances our METRO Service and Provides Car-free Options for All.

About one third of our county residents, including seniors, youth, and people with disabilities, cannot easily get around our community because they do not drive. These people rely on public transportation. Whether you are unable to drive or prefer not to drive, adding passenger rail will make car-free travel faster, easier and less expensive. In fact, adding clean light rail next to the rail trail is projected to increase county-wide public transportation use to 250% of pre-pandemic levels which helps the long term health of METRO (more riders on every bus!). With easy roll on & off convenience, light rail provides better options than the walking and biking rail trail alone, enabling independent travel for errands, shopping, medical appointments and moreº. As an added bonus, rail transit will be free of traffic congestion even during rush hour.

5. Rail Transit with the Rail Trail will create Safer Walkable Neighborhoods.

The traffic reduction achieved by adding electric rail transit is projected to reduce vehicle, bike and pedestrian accidents by 346 collisions every year. That’s almost one less collision every day! Plus, local businesses will enjoy more foot traffic, increased visibility and traffic-free transportation options during festivals and events. For a county with one of the worst pedestrian and cycling safety records in the state, making our neighborhoods safer will have a positive impact now and for generations to come.

6. This is a Regional Project.

Zero-emissions rail will seamlessly connect us to regional, state and national rail networks at the Watsonville Junction. Imagine “Around-the-Bay” car-free rail transit between Santa Cruz and Monterey and points in between. Imagine traveling stress free and car free between where you live and San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles or anywhere else in CA or the USA.

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Testimonials

"I'm very excited about Coast Connect. Transportation options will give my employees and customers a stress free and stable commute."

- Emily Thomas

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery

"I believe that building a sustainable future, which includes public transportation, is our only choice if we are to have a future. Our end goal is simple: to ensure a livable planet for my generation and future generations to come; a planet for everybody."

- Tamarah

Youth for Climate Justice

"I think that this would be a great benefit to out community. When we think about how we want to reduce our carbon emissions, and how we want to try and meet our climate action goals, this is one of the tools that can help use get there."

- Justin Cummings

 

"A trail is such a nice place to walk, just safe and comfortable, saying 'hi' to others and not worrying about cars. In terms of the train: boarding a train is such an easy thing for so many of us, whether a blind person trying to find a doorway or being able to have several passengers who use wheelchairs."

- Veroinca Elsea

Disability Advocate

"The United States used to have the best transit system in the world. What happened? Various industry interests worked with the government to put huge slabs of highways that cut communities. All of a sudden, the wealthy people could get to work and school, but people without access to cars also lost access to public transportation."

- Lani Faulkner

Director of Equity Transit

"The RTC identified electric passenger rail as the preferred option transit for the rail corridor. Coast Futura presents a great example of what this could look like for our future. For me, this is about the importance of addressing climate change and transportation equity for our commuters."

- Sandy Brown

RTC Chair

"The rail corridor exists, and we have a duty to future generations that high quality transit along it is possible."

- Michael Wool, Slugs for Coast Connect

"Access to mobility is the #1 determinant in an individual's ability to escape poverty. We need to provide transit options for those pushed outside of the city to ensure access to the higher paying jobs in Santa Cruz."

- Zennon Ulyat-Crow, Slugs for Coast Connect

"Public transit is the veins of cities, that connect and deliver the lifeblood of society. Transit is not only vital in terms of infrastructure, it is also vital in providing equity and access to all people, it is the main form of transport used around the world, and finally it is within our reach to have more sustainable and equitable public transit here in Santa Cruz County"

- Vanessa

Watsonville City Council Member

Frequently Asked Questions