April 06, 2011

EDC BOS Reverses Historic Rails Policy


Board of Supervisors Approve Conditional Removal of Oldest Railway West of Mississippi to Make way for New Trails.
El Dorado County Supervisors reversed a historical policy on "Priority for Rails" after five months of deliberations and lobbying by both Trail and Rail advocates. Historically, El Dorado County has given priority to Rails over Trails since the 1880’s, and even as an excursion Train is becoming established, a majority of the Board has decided it is time for change in that policy. On Monday, the Board voted 4 to 1 to change policy with Supervisor Jack Sweeney holding out to preserve the historic rails. Although it is possible to save the rails for a train and build trails adjacent to the rails within the existing easements, it would take much longer to build the trails as money is short for non-essential government services. In order to facilitate a faster build out of the trail system, it is proposed that money will come from the dismantling and sale of the rails and ties as salvage. 
Supervisors Knight and Nutting recommending the Board consider the El Dorado Trail Subcommittee recommendations and adopt the following: 
1) Approve those segments of the trail that have been designated as: 
  • Segment 1 (Western county line to the West end of Motherlode Drive) - A priority use for hiking, biking and equestrian; 
  • Segment 2 (West end of Motherlode Drive to the Missouri Flat road) - A segment designated for joint use which will include railroad usage along with trail uses; and 
  • Segment 3 (Missouri Flat Road to Placerville) – An existing trail made of Class 1 Bike Path, bike lanes and bike route. 
2) Instruct staff to prepare a request for proposal for the construction of a multiuse trail from the western El Dorado County line east to where the railroad tracks intersect the western end of Motherlode Drive (Segment 1). The construction of the trail shall be at no cost to the County of El Dorado. The proposal shall include, but not be limited to, having the completed rail bed ready for the installation of a Class I Bike Path, proper insurance, complete cost breakdown and salvage value and approval by County of El Dorado County Counsel; and 
3) Prior to the removal of any track, there shall be a plan in place to maintain the entire trail free of all vegetation and trash. This plan shall include hours needed to keep the entire trail in useable condition and a financial plan to cover any and all costs. 
Supervisor Santiago acknowledged that she iss a strong Trail advocate but also expressed interest in preserving the rails. She was interested in the concept that the rails could be encased and the trail built upon the existing rail grade without removal of the tracks. She asked that an addition was added to the motion instructing that alternatives to the removal be examined. 
Supervisor Sweeney noted that the cost of the 8 miles of new trail from Placerville to Missouri Flat road was over $8,000,000, or a million dollars a mile. By reducing the Rail portion of the corridor by 2/3rds and increasing the Trail portion by 2/3rds, it adds 16 miles to the 8 mile Class 1 Bike Path, bike lanes, and bike route existing within that corridor today. Although the Board did approve the removal and sale for savage value, it is with conditions. Those conditions are burdensome and whether the conditions can be met is yet to be seen. 
Additionally, there are a number of outstanding legal questions that cannot be answered until an actual proposal is brought forward. Another outstanding question is whether the rails and ties belong to the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor Joint Powers Authority and their position on selling them to fund building of the trails. 
The county staff will return with research on the legal issues, feasibility, and any alternatives to pulling the tracks for the Board to consider at the second meeting in May. 

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