Updated information and discussions about the fate of the Santa Cruz Branch Line, including news and Explainers about the rail-and-trail plan, and the Greenway proposal to eliminate the rail element.
A map of the Santa Cruz County stretch of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, known commonly as the Coastal Rail Trail, or the Santa Cruz Rail Trail. Courtesy SCCRTC Public
The Santa Cruz County stretch of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, better known locally as the Rail Trail, has been in the works for decades. It was envisioned as a pedestrian/bicycle pathway running the length of the county alongside the Santa Cruz Branch Line tracks—from just north of Davenport to Watsonville. Unlike some rail-trail projects that replace tracks with a trail, the Santa Cruz Rail Trail project envisioned a passenger train from the outset.
The Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission purchased the Santa Cruz Branch Line from Union Pacific in 2012. RTC secured money for the purchase from funds raised through 1990’s Proposition 116, the Rail Transportation Bond Initiative. While the groups who spearheaded the creation of the Rail Trail remain committed to the rail element, some individuals and organizations in the community question the viability of rail service on the corridor.
Phase 1 construction of some segments of the pedestrian/bicycle trail have been completed in the West Side of Santa Cruz and in Watsonville.
Santa Cruz County voters will effectively decide whether to continue pursuing rail service via a ballot initiative on June 7, 2022. The Greenway Initiative removes all mention of rail planning with regards to the Santa Cruz Branch Line from the county's General Plan, and calls for a wider trail to be built.
The initiative calls for “preserving the option for future rail use through railbanking, a federal program that allows an existing rail corridor to be used as a trail and leaves certain infrastructure, including bridges and trestles.” Opponents point out that it does not call for preserving the railroad track itself, and that once that track is removed, it is unlikely to be replaced.
Check out the articles below and/or click on the tabs above to learn more about this project and voice your opinion.
Use the links in the right column to connect with local stakeholder organizations, and consider contacting the officials with oversight of this project to let them know your thoughts.
If you see any missing relevant information about the Santa Cruz Rail Trail, or errors, let us know using the Keep It Fresh form on the right.
UPDATED In which we ponder the things around which humans self organize.
At its Oct. 6 meeting, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission will analyze costs and funding strategies for continued construction and maintenance on 32-mile Coastal Rail Trail.(Oct. 3, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz County Sentinel report
Through Nov. 4, the public can review and comment on a Draft Environmental Impact Report for two more segments of the Coastal Rail Trail. Segments 8 and 9 stretch from Beach Street/Pacific Avenue in the city of Santa Cruz to the eastern side of 17th Avenue in Live Oak.(Sept. 27, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz County Sentinel report
Redevelopment of a Capitola home will move forward after the Capitola City Council approved the design permit and an appeal from the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission was withdrawn after the property owner modified the design with its concerns in mind.(Sept. 26, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz County Sentinel report
The city of Santa Cruz will start construction on the second phase of Segment 7 of the multiuse Coast Rail Trail. According to transportation planner Claire Gallogly, the project will add “a great option for those of all ages and abilities to travel without a car.”(June 30, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz County Sentinel report
Leaders of both Yes Greenway and No Way Greenway provided Lookout Santa Cruz with detailed answers to a range of questions on core issues in the rail-trail debate.(June 1, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
Civic leader Mark Mesiti-Miller and Roaring Camp president Melani Clark are working to defeat Measure D. Who are they, and what led to their high-profile involvement?(May 29, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
The leader of the Measure D campaign is a philanthropist on big projects in housing, health care, science, education and the arts. As point man for a trail-only option on Santa Cruz County’s coastal rail corridor, he’s also a lightning rod in one of the most polarizing votes in memory.(May 28, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
Measure D—the rail-trail dispute—isn’t only the most contentious issue to come before Santa Cruz County voters in a while. It’s also become one of the most expensive—with almost $800,000 raised through May 21.(May 26, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
With the June 7 election around the corner, former California Gov. Jerry Brown has weighed in on the Measure D Greenway Initiative in Santa Cruz County.(May 24, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz County Sentinel report
Measure D is giving us all a headache. Part of the problem is perspective, 1st District Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manu Koenig writes. Our views are shaped by where we live.(May 21, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
Peggy Dolgenos of Cruzio writes that her walk from downtown to the Westside recently improved. “I get to walk on the newly built rail trail! Lots of people use the trail, biking, walking, in wheelchairs, pushing strollers. And next to the trail, there’s room for a train. I hope to ride that train someday.”(May 18, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read this guest commentary on the Santa Cruz Works
Four Measure D proponents write in Lookout Santa Cruz’s Community Voices section: “Those against Measure D say they started the work to acquire the corridor and build a trail in 1987—35 years ago!”(May 18, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
What’s wrong with the rail trail debate is what’s wrong with American democracy in 2022, Wallace Baine writes. Why isn’t “Maybe,” or “It’s Complicated,” or “This Is Not My Field,” or “Whatever, Dude” one of the answers to a profound question of how we live our lives, recreate and commute in Santa Cruz County?(May 15, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
Elaborating on its opposition to Measure D, Ecology Action explains that public planning processes aim to include diverse voices in local decision-making, whereas voter referendums sidestep planning and minimize a complex issue into a simple “yes” or “no” vote.(May 15, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Ecology Action
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County has supported the Rail Trail project since 2015. A piece on the group’s stance on Measure D explains, “Another long public planning and vetting process would be repeated with the passage of the 2022 Measure D, further delaying the trail’s completion.”(May 15, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
Writing for Lookout Santa Cruz’s Community Voices, 3rd District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty says the intensity of debate around Measure D is pointless given one stark political reality: No matter how the vote goes, without compromises, Santa Cruz County won’t build anything for decades.(May 14, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
Up and down Santa Cruz County and across the political spectrum, organizations and elected officials are taking a stand against the measure.(May 9, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Times Publishing Group report
The Greenway plan to build a 32-mile trail, accessible to all, is fully funded and can be built now. The trail will preserve the natural landscape and showcase the beauty of our coastline.(May 9, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Times Publishing Group report
Local train history blog SantaCruzTrains.com provides a fascinating and detailed history of commuter and excursion train service in the county, ending with their take on upcoming Measure D.(May 7, 2022, 5 p.m.) → SantaCruzTrains.com blog post
After a presentation from RTC staff and an extended period of public comment, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Committee voted to adopt an “alternative” programming resolution that stated no preference for either of the two possible Highway 1 and Coast Rail Trail project scenarios.(May 5, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz County Sentinel report
Tensions between the two groups—one for a pedestrian greenway, with the other for rail and trail—heated up when YES Greenway accused its opponents of vandalism. No Way Greenway says there is no proof and it’s the group’s latest “dirty trick.”(April 18, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Lookout Local report
Members of the public are invited to a Zoom presentation on Coastal Rail Trail Segments 8 and 9, which will extend along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line corridor, from Beach Street/Pacific Avenue to the east side of 17th Avenue.(March 23, 2022, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz County Sentinel report
Bill Buchanan, writing on SF Gate, speculates on whether leaving rail in place on the Santa Cruz Branch Line might allow for the return of the train that ran from San Francisco to Santa Cruz from the 1930s to the 1950s.(Feb. 28, 2022, 4 p.m.) → SF Gate
In this newsletter, Supervisor Koenig addresses community concerns around the issue of freight on the Santa Cruz Branch Line.(Jan. 31, 2022, 4 p.m.) → Supervisor Manu Koenig's Newsletter
Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission Director Guy Preston has recommended that the agency not pursue a partnership with a company that wants to provide electric passenger rail service from Capitola to Santa Cruz.(Nov. 4, 2021, 5 p.m.) → Read the full Good Times report
This weekend, members of Coast Futura are working with Roaring Camp Railroads to give people the chance to ride on a clean-energy, accessible streetcar—a demonstration of how travel between Watsonville and Davenport could be in the future.(Oct. 14, 2021, 5 p.m.) → Read the full The Pajaronian report
Hearing calls from fellow commissioners to take a “timeout,” a push to reconsider the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s recent split vote on the passenger rail line business plan was shelved.(May 6, 2021, 5 p.m.) → Read the full The Pajaronian report
The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission voted 9-3 for staff to explore a business plan for a train or light rail service along the 32 mile rail trail.(Feb. 3, 2021, 4 p.m.) → Read the full Santa Cruz Local report
UPDATED In which we ponder the things around which humans self organize.
A transcript of a presentation by SCCRTC Executive Director Guy Preston explaining why he recommends railbanking the Santa Cruz Branch Line.
Santa Cruz Regional Transit Commission Alternate Andy Schiffrin argues against a proposal that would banish freight rail service, and kill rail on the rail trail.
Thousands of miles of railroad track, including some in Santa Cruz County, now sit idle. The fate of those largely abandoned tracks has become a burning controversy.
The history of transportation in California has shaped the state, from the railroads to today’s highways, making the need for planning increasingly urgent. Here’s how it all happened, and where we stand today.
A June ballot initiative, Measure D, would kill nearly three decades of work to buy and repair a 32-mile existing rail line from Davenport, through Santa Cruz, all the way to Watsonville.
The two most prominent voices on either side of this heated issue face off on KSCO-AM radio 1080, hosted by station owner Michael Zwerling.
The founder of local tech company Looker explains why he supports Measure D, the Greenway Initiative.
Measure D, the Greenway Initiative, has generated more dialog than any measure in the history of Santa Cruz County. Why all the attention and unfortunate vitriol? Both sides of the issue believe strongly that their approach to dealing with our …
In January, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that thanks to surplus budget revenues and a massive federal infrastructure investment package, our state would make more than $2 billion in funding available for rail and transportation projects. This seems like a less-than-ideal …
By Jayme Ackemann A private excursion train operator is hosting a demonstration project for one vision of rail service using a “ZEMU,” or zero-emission multiple unit, that could operate on tracks between Watsonville and Santa Cruz. The Coast Futura, operated …
Business plan to detail potential money sources
January 26, 2022 Dear Supervisor McPherson and members of the SCCRTC: We write you today to urge you not to proceed with any efforts to abandon freight service on the Felton Branch Rail Line or the Santa Cruz Branch Rail …
Recent information circulating in our community regarding both rail lines within Santa Cruz County has caused quite a stir. As many members of the public are aware, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) owns the rail corridor stretching …
The paperwork from both contingents were revealing.
It’s just after noon on Jan. 28, and a Roaring Camp train is getting ready to leave the station to wind its way up the Santa Cruz Mountains. “We’re two minutes late now, but that’s OK,” says the announcer on …
In June, voters will decide whether to prioritize the development of a bike and pedestrian trail running from Watsonville to Santa Cruz.
County leaders say approval would not rule out future rail.
Answers to readers’ questions about Measure D
By Jayme Ackemann I’m supporting No on Measure D. If you frequent this space, you’re probably already clear that this column has a point of view. Each month I voluntarily break down some of the complicated infrastructure challenges we are …
Planners ask for feedback through early June.
WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council on Tuesday night approved a resolution in opposition to Measure D, the divisive June 7 ballot measure that, if approved, would remove language from Santa Cruz County’s guiding planning document that relates to rail services, both …
Unless the governor and Legislature address flaws in the way the state plans for and develops public transit and rail projects, California’s ambitious climate-related goals cannot be realized.
A map of the 20 individual segments of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, also known as the Santa Cruz Rail Trail, which traverses the length of Santa Cruz County from Davenport to Watsonville.
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Article that acts as a portal for information about an ongoing process, tracking it and adding and updating information over time.
A timeline of past and upcoming milestones as the rail trail project moves forward in segments and phases.