Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission Identifies $400k in Storm Damage

Written by Kyra Senese, Managing Editor
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Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission

The Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission Branch Rail line has undergone millions of dollars in damage from recent winter storm events, and officials say details about the areas hit the hardest are still being revealed.

The total damage to the 32-mile rail line has been estimated by Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission staff to be between $1.5 million and $3 million. However, since that figure was released in a recent agenda report, ongoing damage assessments have indicated areas near New Brighton and Manresa that will require emergency repairs, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

At the commission’s Feb. 2 meeting, Sarah Christensen, senior transportation engineer, stated that her team had discovered two slope embankment failures alongside the rail line—one just south of New Brighton State Beach and another south of Manresa State Beach—that “need addressing immediately,” the Sentinel reported

Under the weight of saturated soils, a section of the rail embankment’s side has failed and slid down into a nearby ditch in both locations. A tree estimated at up to five feet in diameter also fell and damaged a cross culvert required for drainage purposes near Manresa.

As of Feb. 2, the rail line had been impacted by approximately 20 mudslides and 40 fallen trees as a result of the consecutive atmospheric river storms, one of which broke off a small peripheral section of the New Brighton Bridge, the commission said. 

Commissioners approved $400,000 in initial repairs, though Deputy Director Luis Mendez of the commission said more will be required as inspections continue. Mendez and his team are working to secure reimbursements from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Mendez.