Over one thousand people joined county transportation officials and local leaders in ribbon cutting ceremonies throughout Santa Cruz County on Saturday, November 17 to celebrate the public ownership of the Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway.
A train operated by Iowa Pacific Railroad traveled from Watsonville to Santa Cruz. A group of a dozen cyclists joined People Power director Amelia Conlen and shadowed the train from Watsonville and at stops in Aptos, Capitola, Live Oak, and Westside. At Swift Street, the train gave free rides as it made short excursions to Wilder Ranch and back.
Currently, the county-owned railway will run recreational excursions for special events, such as the holiday-themed Train To Christmas Town, which begins on Friday, November 23. The excursion trains are operated by Iowa Pacific, which has a contract with the county transportation commission to conduct freight and passenger rail service as well as maintain the line.
Monterey Bay Sanctuary Trail
An important aspect of the railroad purchase is the planned use of a portion of the railroad right-of-way to construct part of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail network. The county plans to build a multi-use trail across Santa Cruz County from the San Mateo County line to the Monterey County Line. The portion from Davenport south to the Pajaro River will mostly run alongsize the railroad tracks.
The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission have created a draft master plan for the proposed rail trail. Public workshops will take place in various communities from November 26 through November 29.
The draft environmental impact review (EIR) is expected to be complete in the Spring of 2013, with RTC plan adoption anticipated for sometime in 2013. Of the $50 million cost of this project, $7 million in funding has already been secured. Detailed planning and construction will take place on a segment by segment basis as funding becomes available.