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Commission seeks funds to proceed with Calif. rail purchase

(The following appeared on the San Jose Mercury News website on September 4, 2009.)

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. In a step toward public acquisition of the county's privately owned rail line, the Regional Transportation Commission has agreed to ask the state for $20.2 million in state funds.

The money has long been earmarked for the county -- in voter-approved Proposition 116 and annual state transportation allocations -- but a formal application is needed to deliver the funds.

The commission's governing board voted unanimously Thursday to file the funding application with the state.

The Regional Transportation Commission, a government agency that allocates local transportation dollars, hopes to complete the $14.2 million rail deal with the track's owner, Union Pacific Railroad, by the end of the year.

The future of the 32-mile line after the acquisition remains uncertain, though commissioners have discussed building a walking and biking trail along the line and eventually adding passenger trains.

The balance of the $20.2 million from the state will go toward improvements on the line, which runs from Davenport to Watsonville.

The commission remains in negotiation with Union Pacific over final selling points.

Friday, September 4, 2009

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