April 2015

Coastal Rail Trail – Grant Finalist

A 4.6-mile segment of the coastal rail trail project is one of the finalists for funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Federal Lands Access Program. The north coast rail trail segment will provide access to the California Coast National Monument, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Coast Dairies property and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The rail trail segment from Wilder Ranch State Park to Laguna Road is part of a $5 million (M) grant application submitted by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) earlier this year. FHWA’s Central Federal Lands Highway Division will notify the RTC of a final decision following an on-site assessment. The RTC is very optimistic of a positive outcome. Should this grant be successful, close to 25% of the 32 miles of rail trail will be funded.

“Extending the rail trail from Wilder Ranch State Park to Laguna Road will provide exceptional recreational opportunities on the North Coast and will also provide an alternative transportation method for visitors who want to access the recently acquired BLM Coast Dairies property.  I have been working hard in partnership with the RTC to advocate for this grant and am thrilled this project has been chosen as one of the finalists”, said Ryan Coonerty, County Supervisor and Regional Transportation Commissioner.

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County pledged an unprecedented $3M match towards the $9M total project cost and is conducting large scale fundraising to build the trail. The California Coastal Conservancy also pledged $950,000 given the project’s coastal access elements. These matching funds enabled the RTC to submit a very competitive grant application with a high local match.

Multi-party collaborations that also include Friends of the Rail and Trail (FORT), Bike Santa Cruz County (formerly People Power) and the County of Santa Cruz are helping ensure trail implementation, and broaden community support.

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is the agency that owns the rail right-of-way, is evaluating passenger rail operations, and manages the bicycle and pedestrian trail project. The RTC adopted an award winning master plan for the 50-mile Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail (MBSST) Network in 2014. The network is a bicycle and pedestrian trail system using the “rail trail” as the system’s spine. The rail trail will connect Davenport to Watsonville and passes within one mile of half of the county’s population. The trail will also serve wheelchair users, and other non-motorized, active transportation needs. The trail network will provide connectivity to activity centers, coastal access points and other key destinations.