Progressive Rail Inc. Begins Operations on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line

St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Co. LLC, a subsidiary of Progressive Rail Incorporated, began operating on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line on Aug. 16 to serve local businesses that depend on good reliable freight service by rail.

“We are happy to welcome St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Co. as the new carrier on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line,” said George Dondero, executive director for the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). “They have a strong and dedicated team that is eager to become an integral part of the community while providing the highest quality of service to local rail customers.”

St. Paul & Pacific took over operations from Iowa Pacific Holdings who has been operating on line since 2012 and they will immediately begin providing freight service to existing customers on the line. Currently, there are four companies that ship and/or receive via rail on the line, Del Mar Food Products, Lineage Logistics, Agron Bioenergy, and Big Creek Lumber.

“Railroads have a proud tradition serving Watsonville. On behalf of the entire Progressive Rail team, we’re honored to be Santa Cruz County’s new connection to the North American rail network. With that comes a great degree of responsibility to be the safest, cleanest, and most financially-efficient mode of transportation to both domestic and foreign markets,” said Dave Fellon, president of Progressive Rail Inc. “We look forward to the many partnerships we will create as the operator of the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line.”

Providing freight service to existing customers in Watsonville is part of Phase I of the operating agreement that the RTC has with St. Paul & Pacific Railroad parent company Progressive Rail. The agreement is broken up into two phases. Phase I allows Progressive Rail to provide freight service on the south end of the line to existing freight customers in Watsonville. Phase two of the agreement activates after the RTC completes the Unified Corridor Study, expected to be released in the fall, and makes a decision on the future use of the rail line. If the RTC makes the decision to keep the tracks in place and pursue potential passenger rail service, which is consistent with its existing policy and its decisions over more than two decades, then the agreement will remain in place for 10 more years and will include the entire length of the rail line. If the RTC makes the decision to remove the tracks beyond the Watsonville area, then Progressive Rail can opt out of the agreement.