Saturday, January 29, 2011

Right of Way Purchase Derails Argument for Arana Gulch Bike Roads

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission recently approved the purchase of the UP Railroad right of way through Santa Cruz County to Davenport. In addition to commuter and tourist rail, proponents view this as an opportunity to build a bicycle and pedestrian trail along the railroad right of way, from Watsonville to Davenport, cutting through downtown Santa Cruz.

Theodore Meyer of Santa Cruz wrote this Letter to the Editor, summing up the situation:

Scrap Arana plans; build rail-trail instead

I would like to congratulate the county supervisors and Union Pacific executives for favorable negotiations in which the county acquired the old Southern Pacific railroad right of way. There were a number of bureaucratic details that could have derailed this awesome transportation asset. Instead, vision and priority prevailed. Bravo. A town doesn't want to lose its railroad -- it's the town backbone, it defines sectors, it's a landmark. The tracks are as important as City Hall or the Town Clock, and in this case they've been there long before both.

Acquisition of the RR line also negates the city's ill-conceived plan to pave Arana Gulch land with a road and concrete bicycle paths. Of course, with those millions in federal funds still hanging like ripe grapes, the city will likely come up with another angle about how essential the Arana bike road is. However, with the railroad east/west route now available along with the existing space for the bike trail, the Arana plan becomes redundant. Put those federal funds toward the RR bike trail. Again, good job officials in saving our railroad and sparing Arana Gulch.

Theodore Meyer, Santa Cruz