Letter to the Editor: What’s My Line?
Subject: “Traces of trade” (GT2/2): As talk of the Santa Cruz branch line intensifies, it’s important to talk about some new developments regarding the line.
In recent weeks it was revealed that after Sierra Northern pulled out of its contract with Union Pacific in 2011, Roaring Camp wanted to buy the branch. The county told them not to, stating that they would use public funds to preserve the line. This does not happen. The county has very clearly neglected the line, and we should try to get the line run by a local operator.
Environmental Concerns: I did a live stream about this on my YouTube channel, but although commuter rail is not possible due to profit margins and overall costs, freight trains are more than possible if the bridges are repaired. According to the EPA, the average freight locomotive emits 22 grams of CO2 per ton-mile, compared to truck operations that emit about 65 grams per ton-mile. If Roaring Camp takes over the entire cargo operation, it will undoubtedly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Remember, one of Greenway’s arguments is about carbon footprint. If we have fewer trucks carrying goods and more trains on the line, that will lessen the environmental impact.
Roaring Camp’s Defenders: In addition to the thousands of letters sent, California State Senator John Laird and the San Lorenzo Valley Fire both came to the defense of the railroad. Laird said, “It’s hard to imagine that every effort wouldn’t be made to help and preserve an iconic local business that brings thousands of visitors to Santa Cruz County each year. The Roaring Camp Railway is an important part of our local economy and history. For Laird, Roaring Camp is a for-profit business, which means it pays taxes to the county, state and country. Taxpayers’ money would increase if he became the operator. Taxpayers’ money would benefit everyone. A multi-use trail won’t make money; freight does.
Traffic: Greenway argues that a train is creating traffic and blocking the road. However, the math says otherwise. Assuming there is freight service north of Watsonville for 3 days a week with 1 train a day full of timber from Felton to Watsonville, that’s at least 1 train in either direction passing a level crossing between Santa Cruz and Watsonville. It’s not really bothersome. However, if the line was turned into a trail, it would mean that 8,000 people a day would use the trail according to Greenway’s estimates. This produces more traffic than a freight train.
I would settle the situation with the Santa Cruz branch like this: enter into a lease agreement with Roaring Camp, giving them the right to operate the Santa Cruz branch once the bridges are repaired and manage freight services as well as a expansion of tourist trains to Davenport or Capitola. . Regarding capacity issues for a trail, I propose that more permanent bike lanes be built throughout the county on roads that cannot follow the trails. Thus, cyclists are protected by a barrier on the roadway for part of the route and can ride safely near the tracks. The future of transportation in this country is trails and rails, we can have both.
One last thing I want to mention is that I am not affiliated with FORT or Coast Connect.
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