By Jayme Ackemann
I’m supporting No on Measure D. If you frequent this space, you’re probably already clear that this column has a point of view. Each month I voluntarily break down some of the complicated infrastructure challenges we are facing in the San Lorenzo Valley.
The campaign to oppose Greenway’s Measure D kicked off in April with a speech by Bay Area rail luminary and public transportation champion Rod Diridon, Sr. In his remarks to a No on Measure D crowd of around 150 supporters hosted by former California State Assemblyman Fred Keeley and his wife Barbara, Diridon sounded the alarm about “railbanking” reminding the crowd that rails, once banked, don’t often get restored.
One thing that seems clear as the campaign heats up, is that it is going to take a lot of repetition to cut through some of the confusion that surrounds the Rail-Trail Debate.
Let’s start with the unfortunate ballot designation, “Measure D.” It’s a remarkable coincidence that the 2016 ballot Measure, which provided funding to pursue rail, now shares the same designation as the proposal that would support railbanking (removal of tracks for conversion to a bike and pedestrian path) and would eliminate all reference to rail from the County’s General Plan.
The average Santa Cruz County resident probably still sees frequent references to the 2016 Measure D program if they happen to use the bus or paratransit systems in the county, or follow the projects that are being funded by the ½-cent sales tax. So the news of a new “Measure D” that suggests it has something to do with environmental protections and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure might sound confusingly similar to the measure voted on six years ago.
If Santa Cruz County voters are unsure of what to do this June, consider this: A “no” vote on Measure D, doesn’t mean you are voting against a bike path. In fact, the path is already in use in the City of Santa Cruz, and planning for additional segments is already underway. A “no” vote on Measure D means that Santa Cruz County is saying it wants to have BOTH rail AND trail in our future.
Some San Lorenzo Valley voters might be primarily interested in protecting our local institution, Roaring Camp. Those voters might be hearing from Greenway supporters that railbanking won’t hurt the local excursion train operator. The truth is anyone stating unequivocally that railbanking and the forced abandonment that must precede that action won’t hurt Roaring Camp is speaking out of turn.
Unless Greenway supporters have a crystal ball, once Roaring Camp loses the federal protections that are removed by forced abandonment, their continued access to the rails between Felton and Santa Cruz can be renegotiated by each of the property owners. Those who suggest that a contract will address that concern forget that contract terms end and must be renegotiated. The next generation of RTC leadership may have different ideas about what to do with Roaring Camp’s use of the rails and that’s not a sustainable business model long term.
So what does a “No” on Measure D vote do?
- It protects the tracks for future improvements and operations.
- It allows work to proceed on the bike and pedestrian trail already being constructed along the existing rail corridor.
- It protects Roaring Camp’s long-term future.
Voting “No” on Measure D won’t resolve the Rail-Trail debate. There are still many questions to be answered about what type of rail configuration makes the most sense for Santa Cruz County and in turn, how that system will be funded. Voting “Yes” on Greenway doesn’t resolve the Rail-Trail debate either, it just complicates it and opens the door to concerns about future litigation.
So in the absence of a clear solution, voting “no” rejects those complications and allows the rail planning Santa Cruz County voters already supported by a more than ⅔ majority in 2016 to proceed.
Reject the complications. Vote no to support both Rail AND Trail.
Read about the measures on the ballot for the June 7, 2022 election at https://www.votescount.us/Home/Elections/June2022CaliforniaPrimaryElection/LocalMeasuresJune2022.aspx
Jayme Ackemann is a public affairs consultant and freelance writer. She has worked on major capital investments and water infrastructure construction projects in the Bay Area. Jayme is a resident of Ben Lomond.
Featured photo: No on D sign at the entrance to Roaring Camp Railroads by Marielle Martin