Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian The rail trestle runs above Soquel Creek and Capitola Village.

A portion of the Coastal Rail Trail project running through the middle part of the county will now move forward after the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved it.

The supervisors also voted to withdraw an earlier vote that stalled the project, and approved segments 10 and 11 of the project, a 4.5-mile stretch of the project that runs from 17th Avenue in Live Oak, through Capitola to State Park Drive in Aptos.

On March 26, the board approved an environmental impact report for the segment, but did not approve the overall plan. That put a $67 million Active Transportation Program grant from the California Transportation Commission at risk of being taken away. It also drew protest from community members, many of whom voiced their support for a future that includes a trail alongside an electric passenger rail along the county’s rail corridor.

Supervisors Bruce McPherson and Manu Koenig said they were concerned about the project’s environmental impacts and the cost.

In explaining his no-vote after the March 26 meeting, Koenig said he was concerned about the overall cost of the Coastal Rail Trail, which will leave portions in the County unfunded. The stretch through Aptos alone, he said, will leave the county from $20 million to $50 million in the red.

“This is one hell of a project to undertake when our county is in such a perilous financial position, and we can’t contribute any county money ourselves,” he said.

But Koenig acknowledged that the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission—the lead agency overseeing the project—approved it in April. That agency has said it will provide $28 million in funding.

“I cannot and will not stand in the way,” Koenig said.

Santa Cruz County Parks Planner Rob Tidmore told the supervisors that there have been some cost reductions from the original proposal.

Roaring Camp Railroad has said they will re-grade the corridor and realign the existing tracks to make room for the project which will shave off up to $9 million. 

In addition, the RTC will look for ways to reduce costs in segments 8-12, and in the electric rail portion of the project.

Still, segments 8/9 and 10/11 will leave only $15 million from Measure D,  the half-cent sales tax from 2016 that has funded transportation projects countywide. That would leave insufficient funds to cover the remaining $36 million for rail corridor maintenance and $30 million for trail maintenance, Tidmore said. 

Several dozen people spoke during the meeting, most of whom urged the supervisors to recall their earlier vote and move the project forward.

Chuck Goodman pointed to the 73% of voters that rejected Measure D—different from the previous measure of the same name that voters approved in 2022—which would have shifted the county’s focus to a trail-only model.

“In this day and age it’s hard to get 50% of the people to agree that the sky is blue,” he said. “We’ve got 73% of the people that say they want this rail. What’s the problem? Let’s get going.”

Howie Schnieder said he supports the project, which he explained provides a crucial connection between North and South County.

“Some of you have acted in direct opposition to what county voters have voted in favor of,” he said. 

Some speakers asked for the interim trail option, which 

John Danforth said that the proposal approved Tuesday is a “bad choice,” since it has a larger environmental impact.

“It promises—certainly threatens—irreparable harm that is not in the interim plan, and relies on the weakest part of the environmental report that this board has already approved,” he said.

Others expressed concern that it will displace some residents along the right-of-way.

Terri Thomas pointed out that the $28 million cost overrun does not include paying to repair and add trails to the Capitola trestle and the more than 30 other bridges, or to add trails to them. 

“Who will pay for these repairs,” she said. “There are so many unestimated expenses, and proponents say we will eventually cover them. But I say let’s estimate first, and it won’t be chump change.”

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


  1. Thanks for the great reporting, Tarmo!
    Watsonville doesn’t get heard nearly as well as it deserves to be.
    Maybe the Board will keep up with the needs of Watsonville and complete Segment 18 of the trail and make other improvements on the rail corridor that have only benefitted the City of Santa Cruz up til now.
    I love our RTC and our Supervisors, and Watsonville needs to get rail and trail.

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