January’s storms have delayed work on Highway 1 and the Coastal Rail Trail, while roads, walkways, bridges and more Santa Cruz County infrastructure got hit hard. It could cost nearly $60 million in total, the Regional Transportation Commission estimates.
January’s storms have delayed a few of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s major projects, including a segment of the Coastal Rail Trail and a variety of improvements and add-ons to Highway 1.
Santa Cruz County builds back, prepares for an uncertain future
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Completion of the rail trail segment between Bay and California streets and the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf roundabout, totaling eight-tenths of a mile, has been pushed back because of downed trees, damaged fencing and the loss of existing survey work done to determine land boundaries. The project, currently under construction, was set to be finished in July; it will now take longer because of storm damage.
“We already pushed it back to August, but there will probably be additional delays,” said senior engineer Ricardo Valdes. “There is still a lot of water at the construction site, so trucks can’t get through there, and even walking is difficult sometimes.”
Segments 8 and 9 of the 32-mile rail trail plan received funding in December, but those are under development and have not broken ground yet, so their timelines remain the same. Expected to break ground in 2025, Segments 8 and 9 will run from the Santa Cruz wharf roundabout to 17th Avenue in Live Oak.
Also pushed back, to April, is work on Highway 1 between 41st Avenue and Soquel Avenue. The project includes creating auxiliary lanes — ramp-to-ramp connections that allow more space and time to merge — and bus-on-shoulder improvements that allow buses to use the shoulder to bypass traffic. The goal is to reduce congestion and cut-through traffic on side streets and in neighborhoods by improving freeway efficiency.
The project also involves installing a bicycle/pedestrian bridge that would start at Chanticleer Avenue and span the freeway.
“That was scheduled to begin mid-January-ish, but obviously, because of the storms it got pushed back,” said SCCRTC spokesperson Shannon Munz. “Now we’re doing some tree removal and brush clearing so we can get it started up by April.”
The SCCRTC’s preliminary estimates also show wide-ranging damages to roads, walkways, bridges and other transportation infrastructure across the county that could cost nearly $60 million.
Munz said the 32-mile Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line — which runs through the county and is still used by Roaring Camp Railroads for its regular Felton-to-wharf trips — was affected in various locations, including at the New Brighton Bridge, near Rio Del Mar Boulevard and a few places within Santa Cruz and Capitola due to downed trees, slides and debris.
“We know there is some damage, but not a lot,” she said. “This week, we have a team out there removing trees that fell across the rail line and clearing debris. But we don’t know of any major damage to the rail line at this point.”