Keep the rails

By From page A4 | December 10, 2012

If an excursion railroad can share the right of way with bicyclists and pedestrians between El Dorado and Shingle Springs what is so different about the remaining distance between Shingle Springs and Folsom that the same arrangement can’t apply?

Once again, the Board of Supervisors, on a 3-2 vote erred by denying a Folsom nonprofit association railroad from using the tracks. There is no reason the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad can’t fix up the tracks and meet the El Dorado Western Railroad at Shingle Springs.

Trail advocates seem stuck on the belief that ripping up the rails and selling them for scrap will pay for the trail construction. Not even close, Class 1 trails with aggregate base — rather than railroad ballast —and asphalt, along with signage and portable potties cost far in excess of scrap steel, especially now with a worldwide recession leading to a glut of steel.

Furthermore, taking up the rails endangers the right of way. The lawyer who helped create the Milton Ranch subdivision in Shingle Springs confirmed that at a recent Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County meeting. Remove the rails and the property owners take over the easement. At the very least there will be 15 years of litigation.

Finally, attempting to dissolve the joint powers authority that owns the railroad right of way from Placerville to Rancho Cordova is just plain nutty. That’s a lot of right of way that can be used for utility purposes as well as rail and hiking-bicycling. The supervisor who helped write the JPA is pretty confident it’s not dissolvable by one fickle JPA member.

If the El Dorado Community Foundation can come up with a joint use agreement — as promised — between the trail advocates and the El Dorado railroad group, there is no reason this model can’t be used for the rest of the right of way, providing a trail connection to the American River Parkway and maybe eventually to South Lake Tahoe.

We continue to urge joint use. Bringing an excursion train into El Dorado County will be an economic boon for the county, with bus connections to Apple Hill and local wineries, especially those near the railroad.

Mountain Democrat

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