RTC Approves Contract with Progressive Rail

The Regional Transportation Commission approved the Administration, Coordination and License Agreement with Progressive Rail for rail operations on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line at its June 14 meeting. The agreement will allow Progressive Rail to take over operations from current operator Iowa Pacific and provide freight service to customers in the south county.

With a vote of 8-4, commissioners approved the agreement with two amendments. The first amendment, to section 2.5.1 of the contract, says that rail cars may only be stored in locations approved by the commission. The second amendment was to section 6.3 of the contract and removed language saying the “Railway may store equipment and materials at the location known as Wrigley’s, located between Swift Street and Natural Bridges Drive at or about Milepost 21.5.”

The agreement is structured in two phases. Phase one engages Progressive Rail to provide freight service on the south end of the line to existing freight customers in Watsonville. Winter storm damage and a washout near Harkins Slough prevent access to the remainder of the line until repairs are made.

Phase two of the agreement activates after the RTC completes the Unified Corridor Study and makes a decision on future use of the rail line. If the RTC decides to keep the tracks in place and pursue potential passenger rail service (consistent with existing policy), then the agreement remains in place for 10 more years and will include the entire length of the 32-mile rail line. If the RTC decides to remove the tracks beyond the Watsonville area, then Progressive Rail has the option to pull out of the agreement.