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SURF Project proposal may lead to shutdown of Marina Handcar Tours program

MARINA, Calif. (KION-TV) -- Marina's Handcar Tour program could be impacted by a proposal to remove two miles of railroad track and replace it with elements of the county's SURF Project.

If the Transportation Agency for Monterey County moves forward with the proposal, it could spell the end for the Marina Handcar Tours program.

Staff at Handcar Tours say Prop 116 "specifically prohibits funds to be used for busways but the agency chose to ignore that."

The SURF Project aims to offer a rapid transit busway system from one side of the Monterey Peninsula to the other.

The thought of trading tracks for a bus transit project does not sit right for people like Monterey resident, Brian Jacobson.

"It's disappointing. I think there are other ways to solve the traffic problems. I don't think it'll help, particularly to build a bus lane on top of the railroad bit. I think this railroad bridge should be preserved," said Jacobson.

Staff at Handcar Tours say thousands of people have been able to "ride the rails" as part of their program.

But plans for the mass transit "SURF project" system could soon force the rails to be removed.

Todd Clark with Handcar Tours says the removal of the track is not ethical and has brought legal concerns up to the California Department of Transportation.

"They purchased it with state Proposition 116 rail bond funds, which restricted the line to be used for rail use only," said Clark.

TAMC's Director of Planning, Christina Watson, disagrees.

"The question mark of whether removing the tracks is a problem for the Proposition 116 funds. We don't think that this is a problem. We just are working with our legislators to confirm it's not a problem," said Watson.

Clark said they weren't notified about the possibility of the rails being removed for the SURF project.

TAMC showed us an initial lease agreement with Handcar Tours saying there were plans for the property, which included the SURF project and the possibility of removing the rails used by the business.

"TAMC and MST have been saying that they were not going to be removing the tracks. The tracks are going to remain in place. But we reviewed, the engineering plan that was submitted to the Coastal Commission that shows the tracks were being removed," said Clark.

There is no set timeline for when the removal process will begin, but Clark acknowledges the business he and his family were dedicated to may be in its final days.

"It's hard for us, but we know that it may come to an end."

We asked TAMC if there is a way to work around the tracks to add the bus project.

They said the engineers they're working with said the area the track sits on is the best alignment so the bus does not run into any highway pillars.

TAMC said after a legal determination from the transportation agency, they are hoping to start construction for the bus project by the end of the year.

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Dania Romero

Dania Romero is an reporter at KION News Channel 46.


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