Plans to bring back to life an old transportation corridor that stretches from Folsom to Placerville were discussed at a workshop on July 10.
Held at the Cameron Park Community Center, some 140 residents, property owners and trails and rails people showed up to listen and ask questions.
Aimed at kicking off a year-long planning process, the workshop gave the audience a big picture view of what the organizers want to accomplish. The end result of the project will be a rail and trail plan that offers different scenarios for how the corridor can be used and what those uses will cost.
The 39-mile track segment was originally laid in the mid-1860s for use by the Placerville and Sacramento Valley Railroad and connected Folsom to Latrobe, Shingle Springs and finally Placerville.
Passengers as well as freight rode the rails as agricultural, mineral and timber resources were shipped from El Dorado County to other parts of the state. In 1898 the rail line became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad but by 1986 operations ended because of declining traffic.
After Southern Pacific filed to abandon the corridor, the Sacramento Placerville Transportation Corridor Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was formed and purchased the corridor for interim trail use. The JPA includes representatives from the city of Folsom and the counties of Sacramento and El Dorado.
While parts of the corridor are currently being used by train enthusiasts, equestrians, cyclists and hikers, the uses are not continuous.
There to discuss the new plans for the corridor were staff from different agencies and firms involved in the project including Dan Bolster, the senior transportation planner with the El Dorado County Transportation Commission; Adrian Engel, a principal of Echelon Transportation Group; Gladys Cornell of AIM Consulting; Barry Bergman of Rails-To-Trails Conservancy and Jim Konopka with the city of Folsom.
Echelon Transportation Group will be preparing much of the plan. Engel, who is an engineer and principal with the firm, discussed all the possible uses of the corridor including hauling freight, light rail, excursion trains, road cycling, mountain biking, horse back riding, hiking, walking and jogging.
Engel said one of the initial steps will be to integrate the plan with the El Dorado County Natural Trail Baseline Study. The plan will also take into consideration environmental, social and economic impacts as well as constraints on multiple uses such as places where there is a tunnel cut or the tracks cross a stream. Called pinch points, the goal is to have the entirety of the trail open to all uses as much as possible.
Engel told the audience that going forward there would be additional meetings with different stakeholder groups and the public with the final analysis expected to be completed sometime in 2015. The end result would be a plan that includes different options for putting the corridor to multiple uses, he said.
A different part of the workshop included a presentation by Barry Bergman, manager of trail development of the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, who discussed railbanking.
Established in 1983 as an amendment to the National Trails System Act, railbanking allows corridors that would otherwise be abandoned by rail companies to be preserved for future rail use through interim conversion to a trail. However, the rail company always has the option of reactivating the line if they choose.
California has the most rails to trails projects of any state, according to Bergman, with the entire 39-mile corridor from Folsom to Placerville being railbanked.
Bergman went on to discuss the potential economic benefits of developing the corridor with the Great Alleghany Passage in Pennsylvania/Maryland and the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, North Carolina serving as just a few examples of successful rail and trails projects that bring in millions in revenue annually and add to property values.
However, not everyone in the audience was convinced with one woman complaining about a recent bicycle event that left in its wake plastic bottles and other refuse. Another resident said he objected to excursion trains crossing his property and worried the project could depress the value of his property.
However, the planners said all those issues would be addressed in the process of preparing the plan with the goal being to have as many uses as possible on the corridor.
The cost of the study is $262,500 including a $210,000 Caltrans Partnership Planning Grant which pays for the consulting contract and a $52,000 local match provided by the El Dorado County Transportation Commission. However, the grant only covers the cost of the study and not any improvements to the corridor.
Those interested in learning more about the project are encouraged to go to the El Dorado County Transportation Commission’s Website for additional information and for times and dates of future public meetings. The specific URL for the project is edctc.org/3/SPTC_Analysis.html
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.