Final Unified Corridor Investment Study Accepted by RTC

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) adopted a resolution accepting the Final Unified Corridor Investment Study (UCS) and Preferred Scenario today. The UCS provides a rigorous analysis of how various groups of projects or scenarios advance the transportation goals of Santa Cruz County.

Developed by Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. and Strategic Economics, Inc. with input from RTC staff, the UCS report identifies multimodal transportation investments that would provide the most effective use of Highway 1, Soquel Avenue/Soquel Drive/Freedom Boulevard, and the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line (SCBRL) while best serving the community’s transportation needs. The UCS studied existing conditions data and 2035 forecasts for 16 performance measures, including safety, travel time, mode share, vehicle miles traveled, cost estimates and potential funding, and greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am pleased that the Commission provided me with the clear direction needed to prioritize and deliver transportation improvements consistent with the goals of our community,” said RTC Executive Director Guy Preston.

The package of projects in the Preferred Scenario included in the UCS and accepted by the RTC advances safety, reliability and efficiency, and the economic, environmental and equity goals of the Santa Cruz County transportation network. The Preferred Scenario emphasizes the protection of the rail right-of-way for high-capacity public transit service, freight service, and a bike and pedestrian trail. It also emphasizes regional projects that improve the connection between Watsonville and Santa Cruz, while providing guidance for the RTC to implement a range of multi-modal transportation options with auto, transit, bike and pedestrian improvements that are integrated together as part of an overall transportation system.

Additionally, the Preferred Scenario establishes a vision of an integrated transit network that includes bus transit services via Bus on Shoulder on Highway 1 and high-capacity public transit services on a dedicated transit facility within the rail right-of-way. The RTC will work with the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District to develop a scope of work for additional analysis of high-capacity public transit alternatives on the SCBRL, including cost, operations, and a funding plan.

In recognition of the timing and availability of funding, project development requirements, and the desire, to the extent possible, to begin immediately addressing the communities’ transportation needs, the Preferred Scenario is structured into Near Term (through 2027), Mid-Term (through 2035), and Long-Term (beyond 2035) time frames for project delivery. In the near term, regional projects like Highway 1 Bus on Shoulder and auxiliary lanes from Soquel Drive to State Park Drive, protected bike lanes and intersection improvements for bikes/pedestrians on Soquel Avenue/Drive and Freedom boulevard, and a bike and pedestrian trail and freight/excursion train service on the rail right-of-way, will be advanced. The focus will be on first delivering the projects that have lower costs or that are further along in their development. By prioritizing a mix of projects and being “shovel ready” with projects that have environmental review and project design completed, Santa Cruz County can be more competitive for funding.

In addition to the acceptance of the UCS, the RTC granted St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, a subsidiary of Progressive Rail Incorporated (PGR), a non-exclusive license to use the SCBRL to provide excursion service. The granting of this license is Phase II of the 10-year Administration, Coordination, and License Agreement the RTC entered into with PGR in July 2018. PGR will have one year to present a plan to the RTC detailing excursion services. The plan must be approved by the RTC before any excursion train operations can begin.

Phase II of the agreement also requires the RTC to bring the rail line up to Class I track from milepost 7.0 to milepost 31.39 within three years. Once repairs are completed, PGR will be able to resume common carrier freight service beyond milepost 7.0 and commence new excursion service with the approval of an excursion service plan.

The UCS planning effort was funded through a Caltrans’ Sustainable Communities Transportation Planning Grant and local voter-approved Measure D funds. The Final Unified Corridor Investment Study is available on the RTC website at https://sccrtc.org/ucs.