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June 30, 2022

Guest View: Measure D opens a vital corridor

The following is Trail Now Executive Director Brian Peoples’ rebuttal to the column by Felipe Hernandez and Greg Caput, originally published on the Pajaronian website on May 27 and in this week’s print edition.

Measure D benefits our community by reducing tax dollars spent and expedites the opening of the Santa Cruz Coastal Corridor as a transportation resource. Saving tax dollars while opening a vital transit corridor will benefit Watsonville.

Yes, the old railroad tracks must be removed no matter what transportation system is used on the Santa Cruz Coastal Corridor. Removing the railroad tracks will allow for the use of the corridor as a simple dirt/gravel trail. 

Santa Cruz County does not “study” passenger rail transit. That is the job of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). 

Measure D does not make the Santa Cruz Coastal Corridor exclusive as a “trail.” Other transit options can be studied and implemented through the standard Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) process and funding.

Freight transit from Watsonville is not impacted by Measure D.

The hyperbolic statement by Mr. Hernandez doesn’t recognize that there is not only no plan or funding for passenger rail at present, but the likelihood of having it in 25 years is close to zero.  A wide multi-use trail on the rail corridor will do more for commuters, disabled and seniors than nothing for the next 25 years. There is a time element to any decision, and arguing for nothing does a disservice to the community.

YES Greenway campaign material is accurate. It is supported by statements made by the legal counsel of the Regional Transportation Commission. 

There is no plan for rail. Period. There is no funding for rail. Period. To continue stating there is a plan as if it will be implemented is the worst kind of political pandering.

Measure D saves money and allocates the little money we do have to efficiently move people throughout the county. Any train option will divert money from Metro and ParaCruz, which are already in deficit. Santa Cruz County simply cannot afford any more unrealistic planning and studying of infeasible options. The Regional Transportation Commission voted in April 2021 that passenger rail is financially infeasible.

South County families will get the benefit of free recreation and commuting via Greenway. There are a dearth of recreational opportunities today in South County. To talk about transit solutions that are 25 years away or never as if they are around the corner is irresponsible. In fact, Watsonville gets no trail in the rail and trail plan, since it is diverted onto San Andreas Road and W. Beach Road due to the railbed being unable to accommodate both rail and trail.

We don’t have to learn from outdated and biased studies when there are real world examples of failing light rail transit systems in San Jose, Sonoma/Marin and the Portland suburbs, all of which have at least three times the population of Santa Cruz County.

Measure D will improve Highway 1 traffic by reducing the number of short car trips in South County. If Measure D wins, it will have no effect on the RTC’s ability to attract funding.

Railbanking is a federal process that allows a local community to preserve a railroad right-of-way for future transit, while allowing it to be used as a trail. There have actually been railbanked corridors returned to rail service, but only a limited few because the rail system is not as effective at moving people as a simple trail.

YES Greenway and Measure D are fully supportive of Roaring Camp and the Beach Train. The reality is that Roaring Camp is already disconnected from the national rail network since Capitola and Seascape Trestles are no longer able to support a heavy freight train. More importantly, Roaring Camp operates a privately-owned amusement park train ride. Keeping the old railroad tracks so Roaring Camp may need to move a train for their private business is not in the best interest of Santa Cruz County. To repair the tracks for Roaring Camp’s privately-owned business will require taxpayers to pay $50-$65 million.

We think community leaders like 200 local doctors, CEOs of local businesses, over 13,000 local signatures, moms, etc. are more trusting than the local politicians who have prevented the opening of the Santa Cruz Coastal Corridor as a transportation resource.

Vote Yes on Measure D, but equally important, please vote for anyone but Felipe Hernandez for Fourth District Supervisor.

Brian Peoples is the executive director of Trail Now. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.

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