With $115 million in state funding secured, 7 miles of Coastal Rail Trail to break ground in 2025

On the Westside Santa Cruz segment of the rail trail.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

A big $115 million grant from the California Transportation Commission’s Active Transportation Program covers the funding gap for nearly 7 miles of the Coastal Rail Trail across Santa Cruz County. Construction can begin as soon as 2025.

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The Coastal Rail Trail project got a huge boost in Santa Cruz County on Wednesday, with the California Transportation Commission approving $115.8 million in grant funding through its Active Transportation Program (ATP) for six projects in the county.

Of the total funding, $105 million will be split between two rail trail projects — $35.7 million for 2.2 miles of trail (Segments 8 and 9; see map below) stretching from the municipal wharf roundabout to 17th Avenue in Live Oak, and $67.6 million for 4.5 miles of trail (Segments 10 and 11) that runs from 17th Avenue to State Park Drive in the Seacliff neighborhood in Aptos. Per Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission spokesperson Shannon Munz, the latter is the largest ATP grant ever awarded in the state.

In total, the segments make up close to 7 miles of the total trail length, which will ultimately span 32 miles from Davenport to Watsonville. The project aims to create a continuous and separated bicycle and pedestrian path running the entire length of the Santa Cruz County coast.

Munz said that with this grant money, that 7 miles of rail trail is now fully funded and can be officially scheduled for construction. The segments from the wharf roundabout to 17th Avenue will have their final design and environmental study finished by 2024, and construction can begin in 2025. The segments from 17th Avenue to State Park Drive will have their preliminary work done by 2025, with construction to start in 2026.

Further, with this funding, 18 miles of the rail trail are now fully funded, said Munz.

The current segments under study by the Regional Transportation Commission.
(Via Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission)

Munz said this grant covers the gap left by 2016’s Measure D — a sales tax used to fund transportation infrastructure improvements and maintenance.

“You need to put in some of your own money for leverage, so we were able to take the Measure D funds that we have and secure other grants like this one,” she said.

It’s a huge step forward for the county’s vision of active transportation, Munz added.

“Those projects make up a really big chunk through the community, and we’re so excited about that,” she said. “That is really going to provide a lot of connectivity for people.”

Faina Segal, board chair of Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail & Trail, said the development is a long time coming.

“We’ve been working for 20 years to make this project happen and it’s amazing to see this come through,” she said. “Since we announced this, people have been reaching out incredibly excited to see this happen.”

Segal said construction of the funded rail trail will take her commute from 4 miles to under 2, and that she’s eager for completion.

“This shows that this project can happen and that it’s going to happen,” she said. “To everyone that said we can’t do it, I’ll see you in two years!”

Munz said the Regional Transportation Commission is continuing to pursue funding for other segments of the trail, most notably for the segments that will run from Davenport to Wilder Ranch State Park and from State Park Drive to Rio Del Mar Boulevard in Aptos.

In addition to the rail trail, four other county projects received California Transportation Commission funding:

  • $6.9 million to Watsonville’s Safe Routes to Downtown Watsonville project, which seeks to construct pedestrian and bicycle improvements at a number of schools;
  • $2.9 million to the City of Santa Cruz for a multiuse path on Swanton Boulevard near Natural Bridges State Beach, as well as sidewalk, bike lane and intersection improvements on Delaware Avenue;
  • $1.8 million to the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency’s Safe Routes for Watsonville School Families and Community program, which will offer pedestrian and bicycle safety education;
  • $700,000 to UC Santa Cruz’s Slug Bike Life bike safety and education program.

The California Transportation Commission allocated $1.02 billion for 93 unique active transportation across the state. Santa Cruz County received more than 13% of that total funding.

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