the bay [t]rail plan
At the height of the railroad industry in 1916, there was a network of 275,000 miles of rail lines across the United States built with public funds. By the 1970s, the national highway system had matured and the trucking industry became increasingly competitive. Many rail lines were no longer needed. Today about two-thirds of those lines remain. Because rail lines were being abandoned at an increasingly alarming rate and the nation was losing these transportation corridors, in 1983 Congress amended Section 8(d) of the National Trails System Act. The amendment created railbanking, a method by which corridors that would otherwise be abandoned could be preserved for future rail use through interim conversion to a trail.
Trains have not run on tracks in Humboldt County in 15 years — since 1997. In 2007 The Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) contracted with Alta Planning + Design to prepare the Humboldt Bay Trail Feasibility Study. Option 4 calls for railbanking and the construction of a multi-modal trail between the two cities on the North Coast Railroad Authority’s right-of-way. Until the return of freight service, we ask that the right-of-way be used for a paved multi-modal path to create a critical link in the California Coastal Trail.
• To improve community connectivity, mobility and quality of life for the northern Humboldt Bay region with trail and rail improvements.
• To enhance and increase transportation options between the two largest population centers of the county.
• To enhance and increase recreational opportunities for residents, and tourism activities for visitors to the North Coast.
1. Railbank. Using the 1983 Federal law to protect the railroad right of way, request that the North Coast Railroad Authority railbank the rail line from Eureka north through Arcata to Samoa/Fairhaven, the end of the line.
2. Trails. Using the rail-to-trail option, design and build a multimodal trail from Eureka to Arcata (see Option 4, 2007 Alta/Planwest report). Using the rail-with-trail option, design and build a multimodal trail from Arcata to Samoa.
3. Tourist train infrastructure. Bring the rail line from Arcata to Samoa/Fairhaven up to standards needed to operate a tourist train on existing tracks in support of the Timber Heritage Association’s proposed Redwood Heritage Museum at the Historic Samoa Shops site in Samoa.
1. Enhanced transportation options. Currently, there is no safe method of transportation for non-motorized traffic between Arcata/McKinleyville and Eureka, A paved, multimodal trail would provide an intercity link for pedestrians and bicyclists and greatly enhance public safety for up to 75,000 residents.
2. Increased recreation opportunities. Bay trail access would provide new options for exploring the North Bay region, including handicapped access, and would encourage residents to increase outdoor activity to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Access to hunting sites would be improved.
3. Economic benefits are numerous. The completed trails would be a new major draw for the tourism industry, attracting touring bicyclists. Better inter-city access would also attract even more local recreational bicyclists, commuter bicyclists, birders, hikers and other recreationalists. THA’s proposed Redwood Heritage Museum would become a major addition to the existing cluster of county museums, one that recognizes and celebrates the importance of redwoods, logging and railroad history, natural resources and science. Completion of both rail-to-trail and rail-with-trail projects – along with the existing Madaket boat service between Eureka and Samoa — would create a triathlon of excursions around the North Bay.
4. Educational benefits. Students and visitors would have additional opportunities to learn about the North Coast history and natural resources by visiting the THA museum and the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary linked by historic and operational train equipment.
5. Completion of the rail and trail projects would result in the creation of a critically important link in the California Coastal Trail.
(Attached “Frequently Asked Questions on Railbanking.”)
Revised: June 15, 2012