Coastal Rail Trail
Segments 10 and 11 Project

17th Avenue to State Park Drive

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Notice of Availability of Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

October 16, 2023

The County of Santa Cruz, as Lead Agency, in coordination with the City of Capitola, and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Coastal Rail Trail Segments 10 and 11 Project. 

Project Description: The Project is an approximately 4.5-mile new multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trail proposed to extend along the Santa Cruz Branch Line rail corridor from the eastern side of 17th Avenue at the western limits of the Project to the western side of State Park Drive at the eastern limits of the Project, excluding a 0.5-mile section following surface streets through the incorporated City of Capitola from Opal Street/Cliff Drive Plaza to Monterey Avenue/Park Avenue. The EIR evaluates the Ultimate Trail Configuration (Trail Next to Rail), as well as an Optional Interim Trail (Trail on the Rail Line) whereby the railroad tracks would be removed and the trail would be located on the rail bed, at an equal level of detail.

The goals of this project are to increase the numbers of people biking and walking, improve safety and mobility of non-motorized users, and provide high-quality connections to schools, parks, and community facilities. When constructed, this project will be part of the planned 32-mile Coastal Rail Trail that traverses the entire coastline of Santa Cruz County.

Potential Environmental Impacts:The Draft EIR provides an evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and recommends mitigation measures to reduce impacts to a less-than-significant level where possible.  As known at the time of this notice, anticipated significant and unavoidable impacts (potentially not mitigable to a level below significance) include effects to aesthetics, monarch butterfly habitat, wildlife movement, and greenhouse gas emissions (inconsistency with GHG reduction plans) resulting from tree removal. Additional environmental effects anticipated include impacts to sensitive habitat and wildlife; hazardous materials (due to the presence of contaminated soils); noise and vibration (impacts to sensitive receptors from project construction); and cultural, tribal, and paleontological resources (including potential impacts to unknown resources from ground disturbance).

Public Review Period (60 days): The public review period for the Draft EIR begins Monday, October 16, 2023, and ends Friday, December 15, 2023 at 5:00pm. The County must receive all written comments regarding the adequacy of the Draft EIR within this period.  Comments on the Draft EIR should be submitted in writing to Rob Tidmore at 979 17th Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062 or via email to RailTrail@santacruzcountyca.gov

Public Meeting: The County is scheduled to receive comments on the Draft EIR at a public meeting on Thursday, November 16, 2023, 5:00pm – 7:30pm. The meeting will be held in-person at the County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 701 Ocean Street, Room 525, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Remote participation is also available via Zoom.

For those that were unable to attend the meeting, you can view a recording of the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zyDx5dLwIk.

Lead Agency:
County of Santa Cruz
Departments:
Department of Community Development & Infrastructure Santa Cruz County Parks
Address:
979 17th Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
Contact Person:
Rob Tidmore, Park Planner IV
Email: RailTrail@santacruzcountyca.gov
Phone: 831-454-7947

Address Where Copy of Draft EIR is Available: Copies of the Draft EIR are available for review Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm except on specified holidays, at the County of Santa Cruz, Planning Department, General Information Desk, 701 Ocean St., 4th Floor, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 and at Santa Cruz County Parks Department, 979 17th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. The Draft EIR is also available at the Live Oak Branch Library and Capitola Branch Library, and online, at the link below.

Draft Environmental Impact Report October 2023

Click maps to see full size.

Overview

The Coastal Rail Trail Segments 10 and 11 Project is an approximately 4.5-mile ADA-accessible bicycle/pedestrian path that generally extends along the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line (SCBRL) corridor, from 17th Avenue in Live Oak to State Park Drive in the Seacliff neighborhood (see maps above). The trail will provide a safe and beautiful experience for recreation, active transportation, and environmental and cultural education along the Monterey Bay. Joggers, bicycle commuters, wheelchair users, kids walking/biking to school, families with strollers, and walkers will all be able to enjoy the paved asphalt surface. These two segments of the Coastal Rail Trail connect to 10 schools, 18 parks, 13 public beaches, 2 community centers, and multiple residential neighborhoods and commercial areas through some of the densest portions of Santa Cruz County.

existing rail trail image

Segments 10 and 11 are two segments of the larger Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail, which has been in the works for over 10 years. The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Master Plan was completed in 2013 after extensive public outreach and laid out the plan for a 32-mile trail running the length of Santa Cruz County. Once complete, the trail will be within 1 mile of over half of the County’s population.

This project is being led by the County of Santa Cruz in partnership with the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) as the owner of the rail line, and the City of Capitola. Segments 10 and 11 are currently in the preliminary design and environmental review phase, with a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) scheduled for public review in Fall 2023. Community meetings to review the proposed design were held in Spring 2022. Please check the Documents and Past Public Engagement sections below for information from the meetings. .

existing rail trail image

Segments 10 and 11 Awarded $67.6 million

December 8, 2022

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved $67.6 million in competitive grant funding through its Active Transportation Program (ATP) for Coastal Rail Trail Segments 10 and 11 yesterday, and the project is now fully funded for construction. The $67.6 million in funding that the County received for Segments 10 and 11 is the largest ATP grant ever awarded. The CTC also approved $35.8 million for construction of Segments 8 and 9 (Pacific Ave to 17th Ave). This nearly $105 million in ATP funding is sufficient to build nearly 7 miles of trail through the heart of Santa Cruz County. A total of 18 miles of the Coastal Rail Trail are now fully funded for construction between Davenport and State Park Drive.

Click here to read full press release

Phased Approach for Trail Construction

A phased approach to building the trail is being analyzed as part of the design and environmental review. Under the phased approach, there is a single proposed project with an optional first phase. The proposed project is to build a trail next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration (aka rail with trail). The optional first phase, if implemented, would consist of an interim trail built on the railroad track alignment. The phased approach was chosen because it provides the best analysis of the project’s environmental impacts and allows the project to remain flexible and respond to potential changes to the corridor. With the phased approach, the trail could be developed in two different ways.

The first way in which the trail could be developed is to proceed directly to building the trail next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration. The optional first phase interim trail would not be implemented.

Trail Configuration Image
Trail built next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration

The second way in which the trail could be developed is to implement the optional first phase and remove the railroad tracks and build an interim trail on the railroad track alignment. If this optional first phase is implemented and the rail line is later reactivated, it would be followed by a future phase whereby the interim trail is removed, the railroad tracks are rebuilt, and a new trail is constructed next to the railroad track alignment in the Ultimate Trail Configuration. An interim trail would require removal of the railroad tracks on a federally regulated freight rail line and thus requires railbanking of the SCBRL to be feasible. Railbanking is a complex process that requires approval of the Surface Transportation Board (STB). Railbanking was discussed in detail as part of the February 3, 2022 RTC meeting in Agenda Item #22. See FAQ section below for more information and a link to the agenda. It is currently unknown if railbanking of the SCBRL is feasible.

Trail Configuration Image
Interim Trail on the railroad track alignment in the optional first phase
Trail Configuration Image
Interim Trail is removed, rail line is rebuilt, and trail constructed next to the railroad track alignment
in the Ultimate Trail Configuration as part of a future phase if the rail line is reactivated

Current News

  • Draft schematic plans and information from the April 6 and April 13, 2022 Public Open Houses are available in the Project Documents section.
  • The County of Santa Cruz has released an analysis on the Greenway Initiative. To view or download a copy, click here.
  • An update on Coastal Rail Trail Segments 8 through 12 was provided during the February 17, 2022 Regional Transportation Commission Transportation Policy Workshop meeting. View a recording of the meeting here. The presentation begins at 19:15.

Upcoming Public Engagement

Public Hearing: The County is scheduled to consider the Final EIR at a public hearing during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, at 9:00 a.m. or thereafter, in the Board Chambers, at 701 Ocean Street, Room 525, Santa Cruz, California. Information regarding the timing and public participation of the hearing will be available via the Board of Supervisors website: https://santacruzcountyca.iqm2.com/citizens/default.aspx.

Remote participation is available via Zoom or via Phone. Please visit the website above for more information about remote participation, to view a livestream of the meeting, or to comment on an agenda item.

  • A public meeting will be held on November 16, 2023 from 5:00pm to 7:30pm with an overview of the project and environmental process. The public will have an opportunity to provide comments on the Draft EIR during this meeting. Check back soon for more details on meeting format and location.
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Past Public Engagement

  • In-Person Open House
    held April 13, 2022 at Live Oak Elementary. Go to Project Documents to view the plans and presentation from the meeting.
  • Virtual Open House
    held April 6, 2022. Click here to view a recording of the meeting. Go to Project Documents to view the plans and presentation from the meeting.
  • Scoping Meeting
    held November 17, 2021. Click here to view a recording of the meeting.
  • Draft Environmental Impact Report Public Meeting
    held November 16, 2023. Click here to view a recording of the meeting. Go to Project Documents to view the DEIR and presentation from the meeting.

Timeline

  • Notice of Preparation of an EIR – November 2021
  • Preliminary Design and Technical Studies – Winter 2021 to Summer 2023
  • Community Meetings – Spring 2022
  • Draft EIR – Fall 2023
  • Final EIR – Spring 2024

Project Contact

Rob Tidmore Project Manager

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