Coastal Rail Trail
Segments 10 and 11 Project

17th Avenue to State Park Drive

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Overview

The Coastal Rail Trail Segments 10 and 11 Project is an approximately 4.5-mile ADA-accessible bicycle/pedestrian path that generally extends along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line (SCBRL) corridor, from 17th Avenue in Live Oak to State Park Drive in the Seacliff neighborhood (see maps above). The trail will provide a safe and beautiful experience for recreation, active transportation, and environmental and cultural education along the Monterey Bay. Joggers, bicycle commuters, wheelchair users, kids walking/biking to school, families with strollers, and walkers will all be able to enjoy the paved asphalt surface. These two segments of the Coastal Rail Trail connect to 10 schools, 18 parks, 13 public beaches, 2 community centers, and multiple residential neighborhoods and commercial areas through some of the densest portions of Santa Cruz County.

existing rail trail image

Segments 10 and 11 are two segments of the larger Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, which has been in the works for over 10 years. The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Master Plan was completed in 2013 after extensive public outreach and laid out the plan for a 32-mile trail running the length of Santa Cruz County. Once complete, the trail will be within 1 mile of over half of the County’s population.

This project is being led by the County of Santa Cruz in partnership with the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) as the owner of the rail line, and the City of Capitola. Segments 10 and 11 are currently in the preliminary design and environmental review phase, with an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) scheduled for completion in Spring 2023. Community meetings to review the proposed design were held in Spring 2022. Please check the Documents and Past Public Engagement sections below for information from the meetings. .

existing rail trail image

Phased Approach for Trail Construction

A phased approach to building the trail is being analyzed as part of the design and environmental review. Under the phased approach, there is a single proposed project with an optional first phase. The proposed project is to build a trail next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration (aka rail with trail). The optional first phase, if implemented, would consist of an interim trail built on the railroad track alignment. The phased approach was chosen because it provides the best analysis of the project’s environmental impacts and allows the project to remain flexible and respond to potential changes to the corridor. With the phased approach, the trail could be developed in two different ways.

The first way in which the trail could be developed is to proceed directly to building the trail next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration. The optional first phase interim trail would not be implemented.

Trail Configuration Image
Trail built next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration

The second way in which the trail could be developed is to implement the optional first phase and remove the railroad tracks and build an interim trail on the railroad track alignment. If this optional first phase is implemented and the rail line is later reactivated, it would be followed by a future phase whereby the interim trail is removed, the railroad tracks are rebuilt, and a new trail is constructed next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration. An interim trail would require removal of the railroad tracks on a federally regulated freight rail line and thus requires railbanking of the SCBRL to be feasible. Railbanking is a complex process that requires approval of the Surface Transportation Board (STB). Railbanking was discussed in detail as part of the February 3, 2022 RTC meeting in Agenda Item #22. See FAQ section below for more information and a link to the agenda. It is currently unknown if railbanking of the SCBRL is feasible.

Trail Configuration Image
Interim Trail on the railroad track alignment in the optional first phase
Trail Configuration Image
Interim Trail is removed, rail line is rebuilt, and trail constructed next to the railroad track alignment
in the Ultimate Trail Configuration as part of a future phase if the rail line is reactivated

Current News

  • Missed the Open Houses? Tell us what you think via this online survey (available April 19th).
  • Draft schematic plans and information from the April 6 and April 13, 2022 Public Open Houses are available in the Project Documents section.
  • The County of Santa Cruz has released an analysis on the Greenway Initiative. To view or download a copy, click here.
  • An update on Coastal Rail Trail Segments 8 through 12 was provided during the February 17, 2022 Regional Transportation Commission Transportation Policy Workshop meeting. View a recording of the meeting here. The presentation begins at 19:15.

Upcoming Public Engagement

  • Missed the Open Houses? Provide feedback on the design via this online survey (available April 19th).
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Past Public Engagement

  • In-Person Open House
    held April 13, 2022 at Live Oak Elementary. Go to Project Documents to view the plans and presentation from the meeting.
  • Virtual Open House
    held April 6, 2022. Click here to view a recording of the meeting. Go to Project Documents to view the plans and presentation from the meeting.
  • Scoping Meeting
    held November 17, 2021. Click here to view a recording of the meeting.

Timeline

  • Notice of Preparation of an EIR - November 2021
  • Preliminary Design and Technical Studies - Winter 2021 to Summer 2022
  • Community Meetings - Spring 2022
  • Draft EIR - Winter 2022/Early 2023
  • Final EIR - Spring 2023

Project Contact

Rob Tidmore Project Manager

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Frequently Asked Questions

The project currently has $4 million in Measure D trail money. This funding is sufficient to complete preliminary design and environmental review. Additional funding will be required for final design and construction. The County is planning to apply for grant funding in Summer 2022 for final design and construction.

High level cost information for both the Ultimate Trail and Interim Trail is shown on slide 12 of the Segments 10 & 11 Open House Presentation, available in the Project Documents section. The costs are for the 4.5 miles of Segment 10 and 11. The cost summary includes only the costs required to build the trail. Construction of passenger rail transit is not part of this project, and those costs are therefore not included.

No. This project scope is to build Segments 10 and 11 of the Coastal Rail Trail. Planning and design for future rail transit are not included as part of this project. Passenger rail transit on the SCBRL has been studied previously by the RTC. For more information, please visit the RTC's website for the Transit Corridor Alternatives Analysis.

Draft schematic plans were shared during two open houses on the evenings of April 6 and April 13, 2022. Those plans are now available in the Documents section of this website.

The NOP was released November 5, 2021. A copy can be found under Project Documents. The Scoping Meeting was held November 17, 2021. A recording of the meeting is viewable under Past Public Engagement.

Removal of the existing railroad tracks on a federally regulated freight rail line (such as the SCBRL) requires that the line is railbanked. Thus, an Interim Trail, where the trail is built on the railroad track alignment, requires railbanking to be feasible. Railbanking is a complex process that requires approval of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the federal agency with regulatory jurisdiction over the interstate freight railroad network. A brief summary is provided below. A full discussion of railbanking on the SCBRL was provided during the September 2, 2021 and February 3, 2022 RTC meetings.

The SCBRL is a 32-mile long federally regulated freight railroad between Davenport and Watsonville. SCCRTC purchased the SCBRL land and assets from Union Pacific in 2012 but did not purchase the freight easement. Since the SCCRTC's purchase of the SCBRL, the freight easement has been held by the contracted freight operator on the line. SCCRTC is currently contracted with Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad (SPPR). Therefore, use of the SCBRL right-of-way is shared between the SCCRTC as the landowner and SPPR as the holder of the freight easement.

Railbanking is a legal mechanism created by the federal government as part of the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983 that allows for the preservation of a railroad right-of-way where a railroad might otherwise be fully abandoned. Railbanking is a voluntary process governed by the STB in which a railroad operator and a trail agency agree to enter into a legal agreement to use a freight railroad corridor as a trail (or other interim use, including passenger rail transit) until an unspecified future time when the railroad returns to freight service. Railbanking preserves the integrity of the continuous railroad right-of-way for the future reactivation of freight service and prevents any easements from reverting to the underlying property owner. Preserving easements would facilitate SCCRTC's preservation of the continuous 32-mile corridor. Construction of an interim trail on the existing railroad track alignment, a trail next to the railroad track alignment (trail with rail), passenger rail transit, or a combination of uses would all be allowable should the SCBRL be railbanked.

Although railbanking defines a process through which an interim trail on the existing railbed could be constructed, it is unknown if railbanking will be feasible. The SCCRTC does not have complete control over the process. For railbanking to occur, a Notice of Abandonment would need to be filed with the STB. The holder of the freight easement is the entity that would typically file the Notice of Abandonment. Although the holder of the freight easement, SPPR, provided a notice of intent to abandon the line, they have not moved forward, due to potential objections. Railbanking would be more feasible and simplified if affected parties could reach a mutual agreement. If not, SCCRTC could file with the STB to attempt to force abandonment. If the Corridor is unable to be railbanked, any interim trail that requires the removal of the railroad tracks would be infeasible.

Yes, several.

The City of Santa Cruz has already built Segment 7 - Phase 1 (Natural Bridges to Bay St). Segment 7 - Phase 2 (Bay St to Pacific Ave) will start construction Summer 2022. The City is the lead agency for Segments 8 and 9 (Pacific Ave to 17th Ave), which is currently in preliminary design and environmental review. Further information about the City of Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail projects can be found here.

The RTC is developing several Coastal Rail Trail projects. Segment 5 - Phase 1 (Wilder Ranch to Panther Beach) has completed design and environmental review. The project is fully funded and will likely start construction in 2024. Segment 5 - Phase 2 (Panther Beach to Davenport) has also completed design and environmental review. The RTC is looking for state and federal opportunities to fund construction. Further information about Segment 5 can be found here. Segment 12 (State Park Dr to Rio Del Mar Blvd) is combined with the Hwy 1 Aux Lanes State Park to Freedom project. It is currently in preliminary design and environmental review. Further information about Segment 12 and the Hwy 1 project can be found here.

Completion of the project is contingent upon securing funding for final design and construction. The County of Santa Cruz is applying for grant funding in Summer 2022. If the project is selected for a grant and fully funded, a timeline for project completion will be provided to the public in early 2023.

Segment 9 is partially within the City's jurisdiction and partially within the County's jurisdiction. The City of Santa Cruz is the lead agency for this project and the County of Santa Cruz is a partner agency. Project info and plans can be found on the City's Coastal Rail Trail website.