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Funding in place to get it built

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Landmarks, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County’s newsletter.

When the Regional Transportation Commission completed their Master Plan for the Coastal Rail Trail in 2013, probably no one dreamed that the first segments would be built and open just five years later – but that is what is happening.  The Rail Trail from the Wharf in Santa Cruz to Natural Bridges is scheduled to be built by next year. Design is nearly complete, bids will go out in the fall, construction will begin later this year, and we’ll be walking and biking on the trail in 2018!

That’s full speed ahead for projects like this, and there are more to come. Thanks to $4.3 million in Land Trust matching funds, design work is underway on the North Coast segment from Wilder Ranch to Davenport and in Watsonville. Another Land Trust match commitment of $1.5 million helped secure a grant to design the trail from the Boardwalk to 17th Avenue. That’s 13 miles of the 32-mile trail with design and/or construction funding in place.

And it keeps getting better. The voters in November approved Measure D, which provides $85 million for the Rail Trail – meaning we have, in hand, enough funding to build most of the trail. (The Land Trust still needs to raise more than $2.5 million to meet our $5.9 million in matching commitments.)

It has been surprising to find opposition emerging long after these plans were adopted and after so much progress has been made to implement them. The public debate will continue over the next two years (while the trail is being built!) as part of the Regional Transportation Commission’s Unified Corridor Investment Study, which looks at the three major North-South transportation routes in our county: Highway 1, Soquel Avenue/Drive, and the rail corridor.

As this debate, and the building of the trail, continues, we will provide updates and information on our website at www.landtrustsantacruz.org.   

Rail Trail Facts

  • 32 miles long, within a mile of half the county’s population, 92 parks, and 44 schools.
  • 96% of the rail corridor is wide enough for a 12-foot walking/biking trail (the width of a lane of freeway).
  • Building the Rail Trail is the adopted public policy of the Regional Transportation Commission, the County of
    Santa Cruz, and the cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Watsonville, and has received state and federal funding.
  • RTC staff estimates it would take 8-10 years to undo all these commitments if a “trail only,” no rail
    option was adopted – delaying the building of the trail for at least that long.
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