March 2013

Passenger rail services to be pursued following completion of bridge work

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) for Santa Cruz County and Iowa Pacific Holdings, doing business locally as the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Railway, announced that new passenger rail operations in the area will be pursued following completion of work on bridge structures along the 32-mile rail line, deferring planned 2013 passenger rail service.

As part of the purchase agreement between the RTC and the previous property owner, Union Pacific, $5.3 million in funding was set aside to upgrade a number of structures on the line.  The California Transportation Commission approved the purchase agreement and use of the state Proposition 116 funds for both the purchase and the upgrades. The RTC will proceed with work on both timber and steel trestles beginning this summer.  Neither freight nor passenger rail service will be able to pass the La Selva trestle while the structure is upgraded.  Due to this constraint, the railway will concentrate on freight service operations in south county during that period.

Rail freight service is currently provided to a number of companies for commodities such as lumber, agricultural products, and biofuels. Rail freight traffic and the tax revenue collected augment the county’s tax base thereby contributing toward vital services for residents.

Other activity on the rail line in the near future includes a rail motorcar excursion event to be held over the weekend of May 4th and 5th. Owners of refurbished personal rail motorcars or “shorties” from all over the country will convene in Santa Cruz to ride on portions of the rail line between Davenport and Watsonville. Examples of these railcars can be seen on this website: http://www.narcoa.org/newsite/faqimages/NARCOABrochure.pdf.

Future passenger rail operations may include seasonal, commuter and special event service.

In addition, planning is underway to build a bicycle and pedestrian trail (“rail trail”) alongside the tracks, where it can be accommodated safely within the corridor and in conjunction with freight/passenger rail services.  A draft Master Plan for planned 50-mile Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail (MBSST) Network was released for public comment in late 2012.  The rail trail will form the backbone of the broader MBSST project. Next steps include the release of the environmental document in the spring of this year and final Master Plan adoption in fall.  The trail will be constructed in segments as funding becomes available.

The Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway’s operator, Iowa Pacific Holdings, is based in Chicago and has eight other short line railroads with operations in Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York State.  Through affiliates, Iowa Pacific also has railway and related operations in the United Kingdom and Peru.

The 32-mile Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line is a continuous transportation corridor spanning the county and running parallel to the Highway 1 corridor, offering tremendous potential for new mobility options for residents and visitors alike.

For more information about the Regional Transportation Commission or Iowa Pacific, please see the following websites:

Regional Transportation Commission – www.sccrtc.org

Iowa Pacific – www.iowapacific.com

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