June 2018

June 2018 Editors Note

Dear Readers,

Santa Cruz has an amazing opportunity to do something special for families, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs and the environment— but it appears that those in our government are asleep at the wheel.

The county could turn the 32 miles of dilapidated tracks and crumbling trestles into a bike and pedestrian path between Watsonville and davenport, making a safe eco- friendly route not only for local families to spend off time, but for commuters and tourists to enjoy the blissful coastline without fear of traffic, noise or giant diesel trains plowing by.

Other places in the country have done this to huge success. in Missouri, the 240-mile long Katy trail reclaimed tracks and brought out cyclists, wheelchairs and equestrians. Tourists come from all over the world to ride on it and inns and restaurants have been built to accommodate them.

The city of Spokane reclaimed 40 miles of a rail line and turned it into a paved path that caters to thousands of commuters and tourists. You don’t have to travel further than Monterey to see the beauty of a bike path, as that city paved a rail into an 18-mile bike path beloved by visitors and lo- cals.

So what’s wrong with Santa Cruz? The county’s regional transportation Commission is looking at putting freight trains back on the tracks. The trains would be run by a Minnesota company, ironically named Progressive rail, which does business transporting fossil fuels, oil, gas, resins and chemicals, among other consumable goods.

Is that really what you want on the rail line along beach communities? To us it’s as unsightly as putting oil derricks in the Monterey Bay. Just imagine the waits on cross streets in the new Aptos development or on all those West Santa Cruz cross streets, not to mention the noise and pollution of freight haulers. The RTC is holding a public hearing on accepting a 32-page proposal by the company at Watsonville City Hall at 9 a.m. June 14. The company says it will start with freight trains, then move to a tourist train and then, possibly, commuter trains.

If you are against having freight trains on the line, you better get to the meeting or email local elected officials including John Leopold ([email protected]), the RTC’s chairman. For a list of all members, search Santa Cruz RTC commissioners.

We say the RTC should send them on the first train back to Minnesota. Unfortunately, not enough people even know about the proposal. If you want to learn more about the proposal for a bike path only, check sccgreenway.org.

There is a second proposal for the tracks that we are against, but that sounds a bit more eco-friendly. Some are calling for the county to build a bike path alongside the train tracks and put a commuter train on them. That sounds great in theory, but anyone who has spent time on those tracks knows there isn’t room for both. Not only wouldn’t the path be safe, but riders would have to get off at the trestles, like the one in Capitola, because they won’t fit both. You’d be right back in traffic, in a county that already is a leader in bicycle and pedestrian accidents and fatalities.

This is a real chance to do something positive for the county, environmentally and aesthetically. We urge you not to let it slip away.

(Please send your opinions to [email protected] and we will print as many as we can.)

Brad Kava and Jennifer Ford


  • Barry Scott

    We already have a trail designed, funded, and under way. The now active rail line can serve to transport passengers between Watsonville and Santa Cruz safely for generations to come with modest improvements.

    The bridges are being surveyed now and the county is studying different options for the rail corridor. Progressive rail will continue the current freight operations in Watsonville only, operations that keep people there employed and that keep big trucks off the highways.

    Progressive Rail was deemed the strongest candidate to serve the county and negotiations with a legal team representing our interests resulted in a safe and smart contract that serves both parties and our present and future needs.

    Build the trail as planned and approved by the board of supervisors and three city councils, and keep the tracks for future transit. Our children will thank us.

  • Karen Kefauver

    Greenway is like the Trump campaign in that it has a very simple message, Build The Trail (without the rail). People get excited because it provides a simple vision and is easy to rally around with a romanticized vision. In opposition is the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation commission, which, like Hillary, had a far more nuanced and complex message paired with deep experience and knowledge of how to do it right. Greenway has thousands of dollars (if not a million) to spend on promotion and marketing. A nonprofit organization, comprised, in part, of talented publicists, Greenway has very successfully persuaded people with its message, not of all which are accurate. Like Trump’s statements, all of Greenway’s assertions should be fact-checked. Legal requirements around rail are complex. They have had excellent outreach to business which the SCCRTC hasn’t been able to replicate.

    I imagine that many Greenway supporters are not aware that 96% of the SCCRT’s trail project will be 12 feet or wider which includes the trail and usable shoulder. The minimum width in other places would be 8 feet. A typical bike lane is 4-5 feet.

    The SCCRTC has been slow to respond to this newcomers group and has failed to explain all the benefits and rebut Greenway in an effective manner. In part, that’s because a public agency is hampered in its marketing and funding for it. Where was Greenway during years of public input as the plan was developed? The best way to get fully educated to make a decision is to read — and track — SCCRT’c plan here: https://sccrtc.org and FAQ’s https://sccrtc.org/projects/rail/passenger-rail/13082-2/.

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