“Interim” railway path? The Commission could open the next chapter of the saga on Thursday
With plans for electric passenger rail transport effectively in a “waiting period,” the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission will meet on Thursday to consider another option in the ever-changing picture of the rail trail: a so called “provisional track” which could temporarily see railroad tracks. deleted.
Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to study a new option for at least some segments of the rail corridor: a provisional trail that would create a path for cyclists and pedestrians while more permanent options continue to be evaluated.
A plan to move forward with a business plan for electric passenger rail transport – previously identified as the locally preferred alternative – failed in April in a tie vote among 12 commissioners.
Subsequently, Sarah Christensen, senior transport engineer at RTC, said rail transport “is not happening at the moment” and “is seen more as a long-term investment”.
Thursday’s vote will decide whether RTC staff can begin evaluating the interim trail alternative for two segments of the rail corridor. The first is segment 12 of the Coastal Rail Trail, which spans State Park Drive to Rio Del Mar Boulevard in Aptos along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line. The second segment runs along the Capitola Trestle Bridge.
Passionate voices from both sides of the debate contributed to public comments ahead of Thursday’s meeting – with railbanking, the process by which rail tracks are temporarily phased out, particularly concerning.
Friends of the Rail Trail, a railroad advocacy group, requested through Board Chair Faina Segal that RTC staff consider “the full costs and the possibility of funding the temporary withdrawal of the railway line, construction of the temporary path, restoration of the railway line and reconstruction of a permanent path. His statement also alleged that railbanking often leads to the removal and restoration of tracks.
Meanwhile, Aptos’ Jack Brown was among several residents of Aptos and Capitola who expressed their support for the provisional trail.
“I fully support the decision to donate the appropriate research to an interim trail,” Brown wrote. “Since the funding just doesn’t exist to create a train system over the next few decades, we really need to focus on revitalizing the metro, elevator and Paracruz, looking for more solutions to eliminate the journeys between southern county and northern points (eg, more county offices being located in southern county) and opening up the unused rail corridor to active internal and intercommunal transportation.