The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) approved an agreement with Progressive Rail to operate on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line.
SCCRTC acquired the line in 2011. The agreement will allow Progressive Rail to take over operations from current operator Iowa Pacific, which has served the line since 2012, and provide freight service to customers in the south county.
Commissioners approved the agreement with two amendments. The first says that rail cars may only be stored in locations approved by the commission. The second amendment removed language saying the “Railway may store equipment and materials at the location known as Wrigley’s, located between Swift Street and Natural Bridges Drive at or about milepost 21.5.”
The agreement is structured in two phases. Phase one engages Progressive Rail to provide freight service on the south end of the line to existing freight customers in Watsonville, Calif. Winter storm damage and a washout near Harkins Slough prevent access to the remainder of the line until repairs are made.
Phase two of the agreement activates after the SCCRTC completes the Unified Corridor Study and makes a decision on future use of the rail line. If the SCCRTC decides to keep the tracks in place and pursue potential passenger rail service (consistent with existing policy), then the agreement remains in place for 10 more years and will include the entire length of the 32-mile rail line. If the SCCRTC decides to remove the tracks beyond the Watsonville area, then Progressive Rail has the option to pull out of the agreement.