Railway construction to resume in Santa Cruz


Construction is slated to begin this summer on a paved path parallel to the railroad tracks along Bay Street near California Street in Santa Cruz. (representation of the city of Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz >> Construction is scheduled to resume this month on a paved path along the railroad tracks from Bay Street to Beach Street in Santa Cruz.

The $11.4 million, 0.8-mile, year-long project continues progress on the rail line that is now paved from Natural Bridges Drive to Bay and California streets. The goal of the project is to increase safety and mobility “so that the next generation of young people can walk or bike better in our community,” said Claire Gallogly, transportation planner for the city of Santa Cruz.

Segment 7 of the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line runs from Natural Bridges Drive to Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. Phase 2 construction is expected to begin this month and finish in July 2023. (City of Santa Cruz)

Work, expected to begin this month, is the second phase of Segment 7 of the Coastal Rail Trail. The first phase from Natural Bridges Drive to California Street was completed in December 2020. The entire segment is 2.1 miles long.

A state Active Transportation Grant funded $9 million of the $11,395,667 contract for the new construction, city leaders said. The money also came from sales tax receipts from Measure D, which was approved by Santa Cruz County voters in 2016. The outcome of a separate Measure D in the June 7 elections did not affect this project.

Traffic flow and stop signs on Bay Street, California Street and California Avenue are not expected to change, city leaders said. The new path will follow the train tracks at Bay Street and then along Neary Lagoon Park to Pacific Avenue and Beach Street near the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf.

Segment 7 Santa Cruz Rail Trail July 2022 City of Santa Cruz

Artist’s rendering of a paved path for hikers and cyclists on the second phase of segment 7 of the railway in Santa Cruz. (Rendering by RRM Design Group)

From mid-July, construction will begin on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No road closures are planned, said Miguel Lizarraga, associate professional engineer for the city of Santa Cruz. Residents should “plan for slight delays in material shipments in Bay and California,” Lizarraga said. “As for noise and dust, we have a plan to mitigate that,” Lizarraga said.

There is already a dirt road along Bay Street. A small section of the dirt road will become part of the paved road, but most of the dirt road will remain, Lizarraga said. A paved path avoiding West Cliff Drive provides faster access from Bay Street to Beach Street.

“It’s going to be great to have easy off-road access to bike lanes,” Lizarraga said.

Segment 7 Phase 2 Coastal Rail Trail City of Santa Cruz July 2022 retaining walls

Retaining walls are expected to be built along a paved path near Neary Lagoon Park and Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Plant in Santa Cruz. (Rendering by RRM Design Group)

Bay View Elementary Access

Because many students use Bay Street to get to Bay View Elementary School at 1231 Bay St. in Santa Cruz, the new route could provide a safer way to walk or bike to school.

Executives at Ecology Action, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit group, plan to encourage walking and cycling to school.

“At Bay View Elementary, we operate a vertical program model where students of all grade levels and their families receive both education and encouragement to promote the use of active transportation,” said Kira Ticus, senior program specialist at Ecology Action.

City guides are now training second through fifth graders on safe walking and cycling to school. A pilot program at Bay View Elementary aims to expand this program to additional grade levels.

“We’re excited because we’ve never done this program before,” said Gallogly, the city’s transportation planner.

The ecology action programming was funded by a government grant from Active Transportation Programs. It also includes adult public bike presentations, safety training, mechanical checks, some free bike maintenance and community rides.

“Our goal is to educate, empower and change the habits of Bay View elementary school families and the community along Segment 7 so that active transportation can skyrocket and become the norm,” said Ticus.

Although construction is expected to begin in July, an official, public groundbreaking and ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, August 11 at 12:15 p.m. at La Barranca Park, 700 Bay St. near California Avenue. More details on the event are expected in August.

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