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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Iowa Pacific to operate Santa Cruz branch line


Last week, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) authorized the selection of Iowa Pacific Holdings L.L.C. to operate freight- and passenger-rail services on the 32-mile Santa Cruz branch line between Pajaro and Davenport, Calif. The RTC purchased the line from Union Pacific Railroad for $14.2 million in 2010, and secured approval and funding for the purchase from the California Transportation Commission in 2011.

RTC now will enter into an administration, coordination and license agreement with Iowa Pacific to conduct freight- and passenger-rail services, as well as maintain the line and provide general commercial insurance.

The commission had sought proposals because the line’s previous operator, Sierra Northern Railway, had revoked its operating agreement “at the eleventh hour,” RTC officials said in a prepared statement. Iowa Pacific was unanimously selected because they offer the “most balanced proposal” and have expertise in both freight and passenger operations in various parts of the United States, Great Britain and Peru, they said.

Iowa Pacific plans to take a phased approach to operations. The first phase would focus on freight transportation, the second on passenger services from Santa Cruz north, and the third on passenger services south of Santa Cruz and beyond, potentially connecting to San Jose, the Bay Area and/or Monterey County, RTC officials said. Polar Express service would be included in the initial passenger operations.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/21/2012