In July, Santa Cruz County experienced a complete traffic standstill due to an emergency on Highway 1. Traffic was stopped for hours. We all know that when the highway is blocked it causes massive disruption to our ability to move around the county. We lack an alternative means to travel north-south.
On the same day traffic came to a standstill, local organization Greenway began collecting signatures for a countywide ballot initiative to block rail transit, thus blocking the only project in the county that will let us bypass traffic to travel north-south across Santa Cruz County.
Hidden in the Greenway ballot measure* is language that would delay our Coastal Rail Trail, demolish our publicly-owned rail infrastructure, and prevent rail transit from even being planned.
The 18 miles of Rail Trail currently under construction are in danger.
In our analysis, Greenway’s ballot initiative is deceptive. The initiative claims to build a trail, but actually would delay trail construction:
- It would put the existing railroad right-of-way easements at risk of litigation.
- It would force us to start over from the beginning with a new trail design, costing at least 8 years and millions of dollars for new environmental review and engineering work.
- It would incur millions of new expenses in rail demolition and environmental remediation work.
- It would remove the Multi-Modal Transportation designation from the project, causing the loss of grant funding opportunities.
Who benefits from stopping the Rail and Trail project?
Why would someone want to delay such an important community trail project? What is there to be gained by stopping planning for our transportation future? Bicyclists, drivers, walkers, and our neighborhoods all benefit from both the Rail and Trail.
The only people who would benefit from the Greenway initiative are a few landowners along the easement. Under railbanking, the Rail Easement would convert to a Trail Easement, paving the way for landowners to sue for compensation for a new federal ‘taking.’
In much the same way as the auto industry dismantled public transportation in LA, at heart this initiative is a deceptive attempt to prevent Santa Cruz County from using our rail line for public transportation.
- It claims to preserve rail transit as an option but actually delivers a one-two punch to dismantle the tracks and remove planning for rail transit from the county plan, both taking away the existing rail line and also preventing the county from planning to bring it back.
- It claims to protect Roaring Camp Railroads but actually cuts it off from the regional rail network and devastates its business.
- It claims to build a wider trail faster, but would actually delay and defund trail construction.
We need both Rail and Trail to beat traffic
Everyone agrees that we need the Rail Trail to provides critical active transportation infrastructure. And all data points show that we also need to use our publicly-owned rail line to provide an affordable and traffic-free way for essential workers and students to travel across Santa Cruz County. Investing in public transportation on the rail line is the only way to relieve the 90-minute commutes we currently experience.
Connecting our county with zero-emission light rail is also a vital tool for us to address climate change and social justice. The Greenway ballot measure would destroy our opportunity to make these positive changes.
The choice is clear, we must prevent this ballot measure from passing. Our county values the environment, essential workers, and social justice. We want better transportation options that will save us time, money, and emissions. We do not support this deceptive initiative. If you care about the environment, about social justice, about public transportation, and about combating special interests in our political processes, please donate now.
If you can’t donate right now, please consider spreading the word and letting your friends and neighbors know about the negative impacts of this ballot measure.
It will take all of us to defeat this deceptive measure in the next election. We need your help to ensure we can compete with Greenway’s well-funded messaging machine.
Faina Segal, Board Chair, Friends of the Rail & Trail.
*You can read the full text of the initiative here: Greenway Ballot Initiative.
Friends of the Rail & Trail has a policy of being factual always. As an all-volunteer organization, it will be difficult to compete against a well-funded organization that is known for using misinformation in its messaging. Please check back here for updates as we work to get third-party fact-checkers to review the ballot language and Greenway’s messaging.