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Passenger rail service planned for Santa Cruz County Rail line
Efforts to have passenger rail service along the former Union Pacific rail line this year have been put on hold pending repairs to bridges along the 32-mile route. Santa Cruz County's Regional Transportation Commission and Iowa Pacific Holdings, which does business locally and Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Railway, announced Thursday that part of the purchase deal was to set aside $5.3 million to pay for bridge and trestle upgrades along the rail line. This summer, work will begin on the steel and timber structures along the line. No freight or rail service will be allowed on the La Selva trestle while upgrades are performed, thus freight service operations will be concentrated in the south county area. Freight service on the rail line provides commodities to several local businesses. Those products include lumber, biofuels and agricultural products. The rail freight traffic, plus tax revenue collected, supplement the county's tax base and contribute to services for residents. In other rail news, during the weekend of May 4 and 5th, owners of "shorties," or refurbished rail motorcars, from all over the country will descend on Santa Cruz County to ride on the rail line from Davenport to Watsonville. View examples of shorties at http://www.narcoa.org/newsite/faqimages/NARCOABrochure.pdf. Meanwhile, planning is underway to build a bicycle and pedestrian trail -- also known as rail trail -- alongside the railroad tracks in areas large enough to support use by rail services, as well as the cyclists and pedestrians. A draft master plan for the 50-mile Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network was released in late 2012 for public comment. This spring, an environmental report will be released. Next, the final master plan is to be adopted this fall. The trail will be build as funding is found. Learn more about the project and the commission at www.sccrtc.org. For information about Iowa Pacific, visit www.iowapacific.com.
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