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Eyes on the Street: New Coastal Rail Trail Segment in Santa Cruz

The new stretch of Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail opened last December. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

In December 2020, the city of Santa Cruz opened a new segment of rail trail. It's not news today to Santa Cruz residents, but Streetsblog recently visited the new bike/walk path and offers this short piece celebrating the bikeway, and exploring a few features that may be applicable to facilities everywhere.

Santa Cruz Rail Trail map
Santa Cruz Rail Trail map - via city of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Rail Trail map

The new 1.2-mile stretch of Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail walk/bike path extends 1.2-mile - from Natural Bridges Drive to Bay Street. It is located just west of downtown Santa Cruz, extending through a residential neighborhood and a commercial/industrial one.

Trail project design and construction cost $9 million.

Concept map of xxx
Concept map of Monterey Bay Sanctuary Trail Network
Concept map of xxx

The new path is a small portion (officially phase 1 of segment 7) of a larger proposed Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network.

The recently-opened walk/bike path runs along rail tracks
The recently-opened walk/bike path runs along existing rail tracks
The recently-opened walk/bike path runs along rail tracks

The newly opened section runs alongside part of a 32-mile stretch of train track which extends from Watsonville to Davenport. The right-of-way had been under consideration for possible passenger rail; the bikeway does not preclude future rail in the corridor.

The new path has all at-grade crossings - ten in just over a mile. Through the commercial area and at several residential cross streets, the Rail Trail features "crossbikes" - essentially bright green-striped crosswalks that allow cyclists to continue riding without interruption. The ten at-grade crossings come fairly frequently, so cyclists need to negotiate with car traffic on perpendicular streets. For the most part, these are very low volume residential streets.

"Crossbike" at xxxx
Santa Cruz Rail Trail "Crossbike" at Younglove Avenue
"Crossbike" at xxxx

At one residential street that sees less car traffic and where the tracks cross at a narrow angle, there is one sharrow-ed crossing.

Green-backed sharrow where the Santa Cruz Rail Trail crosses Lennox Street
Green-backed sharrow where the Santa Cruz Rail Trail crosses Lennox Street
Green-backed sharrow where the Santa Cruz Rail Trail crosses Lennox Street

At Bay Street, the end of the facility near to downtown, the facility includes two blocks of two-way protected bike lane.

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The Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail two-way protected bike lane at Bay Street
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Another view of the Rail Trail at Bay Street.
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The city has plans to extend the trail further into its beachfront area next to its downtown.

The western portion (left two circled areas) is open, with the remaining downtown connection (right) planned.
The Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail's western portion (left two circled areas) is open, with the remaining downtown connection (right) planned - via city of Santa Cruz
The western portion (left two circled areas) is open, with the remaining downtown connection (right) planned.

In the beachfront area, the trail will connect with existing protected bike lanes on Beach Street. From there, the bikeway extends over the existing San Lorenzo River rail bridge, which is already converted to a rail trail for walking and bicycling.

Santa Cruz Beach Street protected bike lane
Santa Cruz Beach Street protected bike lane
Santa Cruz Beach Street protected bike lane. More of this, sooner.

Via a block of bike lanes, the west end of the new Coastal Rail Trail connects to an additional mile and a half long bike path, parallel to Highway 1, into Wilder Ranch State Park.

Bike path in Wilder Ranch State Park
Bike path in Wilder Ranch State Park, just west of Santa Cruz
Bike path in Wilder Ranch State Park

Below is the video of the December 10, 2020, ribbon-cutting for the new portion of the Santa Cruz Coastal Rail Trail.

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