By TOM HONIG
Is anyone else confused about everything involved with the future of rail in Santa Cruz County?
The point of this blog is to explain things so that people can understand it. But I'm unable to do that when it comes to these issues: a rail trail, the purchase of 31 (or is it 32?) miles of track by the Regional Transportation Commission, what the RTC will do with it, whether the purpose is tourism or commuting and on and on.
The latest confusion is perfectly described in reporter Jason Hoppin's account in this week's Sentinel about the latest delay in the RTC's rail acquisition.
You have to sympathize with Jason. A clear and clever writer, he's trying to explain an unexplainable series of events that have been unfolding for years -- and he's only been covering the story for only a short time. Add to that the problem that the RTC board has had to meet in private to respond to funding questions asked by the federal government. No one is talking, so the reporter has had to put together the pieces of an already mixed-up situation.
OK, so read his story and see if you have some of the same questions I do. Like:
1. Why is the RTC so intent on buying the rail line? Is it to provide transportation, to continue freight service to Davenport or is it to buy the land for an eventual hiking/biking path? What actually is being proposed here?
2. Is there any freight service left now that Cemex in Davenport has shut down? What freight shipping is even happening?
3. Would any of this be pursued on its own merit -- or is it because the county qualified years ago for an $11 million federal grant for rail funding?
4. Are there funds available to establish the infrastructure -- stations and parking lots, primarily -- along the rail line?
5. What kind of rail service is envisioned? A commuter train? A tourist train? Something else?
6. Will opponents of train service on the tracks throw up roadblocks to any development of a rail line? After all, this is Santa Cruz, where nearly every major project faces neighborhood opposition.
7. What is the advantage of owning the rail line?
There are many more questions, but it would be great if just these seven were answered with any clarity. Maybe someone knows the answer. If you do -- I'd love to have it all cleared up.