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California Rails-to-Trails and Roads-to-Trails Projects


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The Governor ordered a statewide study of abandoned rail corridors (and those being contemplated for abandonment) to preserve those corridors intact and evaluate their potential for non-motorized transportation and as links to improve access to public transit. The Governor vetoed the $250,000 that the Legislature had budgeted for the study, and instead directed Caltrans to complete the study, as well as an update to the 1994 general corridor study, with existing resources.

The proposed Railroad Corridor Preservation Study will identify and prioritize those opportunities before the corridors are segmented, and the potential public transportation benefits are permanently lost. The Caltrans Planning group, under the direction of Brian Smith and Joan Sollenberger, will take the lead in preparing the study which will help both state and local agencies to identify and acquire the most promising properties.


On July 26, 2001, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), L.A. County's Regional Transportation Planning Agency, approved $43 million worth of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects countywide for the next three years, including funding for five rail-trail projects. This funding is primarily from federal sources, including the Transportation Enhancements program, and is allocated every other year to the municipalities within L.A. County. To read more about all projects receiving funding, read the electronic newsletter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition at The funded rail-trail projects are (funding amounts below include the local match):

1 - San Fernando Valley east-west bicycle path -- connecting North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Warner Center, Woodland Hills, this 11-mile bike path will run along the Burbank-Chandler rail right-of-way. The project, which was funded for $6 million, is being designed as a joint busway and bikeway, and will connect with a bikeway currently under construction in the City of Burbank.

2 - The Whittier Greenway Trail -- will receive $5.5 million for 2.86 miles of trail. The path connects to the San Gabriel River Bikeway, and then runs from northwest to southeast paralleling Lambert Road in South Whittier. The soon-to-be-funded portion runs from the River to Gunn Avenue. The trail enjoys a great deal of support among local elected officials including Whittier's bicycling mayor. The right-of-way was purchased from Union Pacific railroad for $3.4 million.

3 - San Fernando Road MetroLink bike path -- this 4.75-mile bike path along the MetroLink railroad from Cohasset Street (border of L.A. and Burbank) to Branford Street (near Hansen Dam) will provide com-muter access to the Burbank Airport and MetroLink station, and will connect with a future bike path planned along the Tujunga Wash. The project received $1.1 million for design.

4 - Long Beach Greenbelt Bike/Ped Path - funded for $3.4 million, this 1.2-mile bike and walk path extends from the Blue Line Willow Street Station diagonally to the Long Beach City College PCH Campus. This bike path will be located in the abandoned Pacific Electric rail right-of-way that runs from the Willow Station diagonally northwest to southeast to the Belmont Shore area. Neighborhoods have organized to preserve the r-o-w from development, and to create a community greenbelt.

5 - Exposition Corridor -- $2.87 million was allocated to the 2.5-mile bike and walking path along the abandoned Exposition Rail right-of-way extending from Venice Boulevard (at Robertson) to Sepulveda Boulevard (near Pico). RTC has worked for years with local advocates to retain a bikeway as a portion of this project, which now includes light rail.


You've heard of rails-to-trails, but how about roads-to-trails? The Coast-to-Caves route in Northern California is a 40-mile corridor that was once the old highway 199. No longer used for traffic, this route runs along the wild and scenic Smith River from the coast near Crescent City to Cave Junction in Oregon, and provides stunning views of the river along the way. The new highway 199, which was built on the opposite side of the Smith River, has inadequate shoulders, heavy car traffic, and poor sight lines, and is thus unattractive to bicyclists and pedestrians. The idea of converting the old highway into a trail is very popular with the Forest Service, the local tourism industry, the general community, and is reflected in the Del Norte Transportation Commission's Bicycle Facilities Plan. The trail was originally proposed by the Forest Service in 1997, but there wasn't much activity until recently when there was a petition to the county to abandon part of the ROW and sell it to private interests. The community mobilized against the abandonment, the County decided not to sell, and since then interest in the trail has been growing. If you would like to get involved, contact Brian Morris, District Ranger - Six Rivers National Forest (707) 457-3131 or Susan Morrison, Director - Del Norte Local Transportation Commission (707) 465-3878.


What was once a Union Pacific spur from Ridgecrest to Lone Pine in the Eastern Sierras is now set to become a 70-mile trail through dramatic mountain desert scenery, making it the longest rail-trail in California. Two sections of the trail adding up to 22 miles are now officially open for public use. The two sections are Rademacher to Terese (9 miles) and Little Lake to Haiwee (13 miles). Dave Wash of the Bureau of Land Management, the lead agency on this project, reports that a major challenge has been keeping ATV's and motorcycles off the trail. Due to the length of the trail and the rural nature of the surrounding area, enforcement has proven to be extremely difficult. For more information, contact Dave Wash at


In December, the Bikes Belong Coalition, a bicycle-industry funded foundation, announced a second grant of $10,000 to the MCBC to support their effort to upgrade the North-South Bicycle "Freeway" on the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad that parallels highway 101, the only motorized freeway in the County. This is part of a larger plan to make Marin a model of a bike and pedestrian friendly community. Current efforts focus on re-opening two abandoned tunnels: the Alto Tunnel which would connect Corte Madera and Mill Valley, and the Cal Park Hill Tunnel which runs between Larkspur and San Rafael. Recently, in response to advocacy from Safe Routes Marin, the MCBC, and Rails-to-Trails, both Mill Valley and Corte Madera City Councils passed resolutions in favor of conducting an engineering study of the Alto Tunnel as a first step in determining its suitability as a bicycle/ pedestrian facility. The MCBC and Rails-to-Trails scored another victory last year with a vote by the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board to include a parallel bikeway along the planned rail line between San Rafael and Cloverdale. You can find more information on the North-South Bicycle Freeway project at, or by calling (415) 445-3469. You can contact the Marin County Bicycle Coalition at For more info re Bikes Belong, contact Rich Olken at 617-734-2800, or email


The Coastal Conservancy recently awarded $160,000 to the Annie and Mary Rail-Trail Project, a 10-mile rail-to-trail conversion between Arcata and Blue Lake, for a feasibility study that will evaluate management options for the corridor and create preliminary plans and design recommendations. The funds will also cover the engineering analyses of one bridge and four trestles along the route. The planning process, which will begin in July, will solicit participation from adjacent landowners and the surrounding community. For more information, e-mail Jennifer Rice with the Redwood Community Action Agency at


Marin County received a $3 Million grant from the California Transportation Commission to reopen the Cal Park Hill Railroad Tunnel, a crucial link in the North-South Bicycle Freeway Project. The grant originated from the State Transportation Enhancements fund, a component of TEA-21. Debbie Hubsmith, president of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (, said, "It is an incredible boost forward, and it shows that the North-South bikeway is of statewide importance." MCBC recently received a $10,000 grant from Bikes Belong Coalition ( to support its work on the Bicycle Freeway.

The tunnel will link the cities of San Rafael and Larkspur, reducing travel time for cyclists from 20 to five minutes. The 25-mile Bicycle Freeway will begin at the Golden Gate Bridge and parallel Highway 101 to the Sonoma County line, passing through seven transit centers, two ferry terminals, dozens of shopping centers, and within two miles of 51 schools. Several parts of the Freeway are already completed, and other sections are now underway.

"I am so pleased that Marin County was granted this $3 million to re-open Cal Park Hill Tunnel," said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). "This is an important step in making sustainable transportation improvements for Marin County. Biking is an efficient, healthy, and environmentally friendly way to commute. With this grant, Marin County further cements its reputation as a national model for bicycle transportation."

"Reopening the Cal Park Hill Tunnel will make the bike route to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal safer and much more convenient," said Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). "We must look to alternative modes of transportation, like biking and walking, to reduce the congestion on our roadways. Biking isn't just fun, it's a healthy and environmentally friendly way to travel."


The Trust for Public Land recently announced a deal to acquire the Chinatown Yards from Union Pacific so that they can be developed into Southern California's most significant urban state park. The land had been slated for industrial development by private interests. Community organizations that have been working on restoring the LA River to a more natural state see the proposed park as the crown jewel of a re-invigorated LA River. Because the site is a former rail yard, there are many opportunities for rail-trails connecting to the site. RTC will be working with community stakeholders to identify opportunities to increase access to the LA River Trail and extend the actual spine of the trail itself by using abandoned and active rail lines in the area. For more information on the purchase, see TPL's website at


The Cities of Cupertino, Saratoga, Campbell, and Los Gatos are working on a proposed rail-with-trail along the Union Pacific Railroad line that parallels Highway 85 between Los Gatos and Cupertino. For online information and a survey about the proposed trail, visit:


Recreational opportunities abound in the mountains and desert surrounding the Indian Wells Valley and local folks are hoping to add to those opportunities. Locals, along with the Bureau of Land Management, have put forth a plan to create trails out of old rail lines. A 90-mile section of abandoned railway paralleling Highway 395 from 15 miles south of Searles Station north almost to Lone Pine could become California's longest continuous rail-to-trail project.

"We see it as another recreational asset for the area," said BLM's David Wash, a recreation specialist. What is now Union Pacific saw the 90 miles of track as unnecessary and officially petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission, now the Surface Transportation Board, to abandon the railway in 1982. Although the abandonment was granted, Union Pacific didn't begin to remove any tracks until August, according to Peter Graves, BLM's real estate specialist. "We really didn't look at the issue until last fall when the rails started coming up," Wash said. One local group thought the tracks should be maintained and turned back into a working line to help encourage tourism and growth in the valley.

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