Watsonville residents speak out on rail trail


WATSONVILLE, Calif. - The future of the Santa Cruz rail corridor continues to be controversial. Monday a group working towards an alternative to a commuter train spoke to Watsonville residents about that plan and heard their concerns.

Instead of a commuter train on the rail corridor, Santa Cruz County Greenway wants a plan that accommodates cyclists and pedestrians only called Greenway. Something they say many Santa Cruz County residents including some in Watsonville already want.

Railroad tracks cover miles of ground in Santa Cruz County. The Regional Transportation Commission has plans to put a commuter train on them but Santa Cruz County Greenway is pushing another idea.

"That is a safe affordable and connected pathway where people could transport between Santa Cruz and Watsonville by bike by foot," said Santa Cruz County Greenway board member Bud Colligan, "Not just for transit but also for recreation."

Santa Cruz County Greenway has already got key supporters in the community like the Santa Cruz County Business Council but its not just organizations behind the rail corridor alternative.

Watsonville resident Christopher Lucas says a plan like Greenway would open up opportunities for him to use his bicycle instead of his car.

"I'd like to actually be able to bicycle to work right now. I feel that it's unsafe to bicycle on the regular streets," said Watsonville resident Christopher Lucas.

Bud Colligan from Greenway says Christopher isn't the only Watsonville resident looking for changes to local transportation. 

"The people of Watsonville are very upset about the traffic on Highway 1 and they want alternatives," said Colligan.

Not everyone at Monday night's meeting is for the Greenway alternative.

"I understand the desire for a better bigger trail but I don't think it's the right thing to do at the cost of rail transit," said Barry Scott  with the Santa Cruz County Friends of the Rail and Trail.

Greenway is still getting signatures on a petition they hope will send a message to the RTC.

"We're already up to about 4,200 signatures so there's been about a thousand people who have signed the petition in the last month and our support seems to be accelerating," said Colligan.

A study looking at major corridors in Santa Cruz County is expected to be finished in early 2019 including the rail corridor. Santa Cruz County Greenway says it hopes to influence that study by showing the number of supporters for an alternative.

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