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Light on the Rails 

Editor:

Rees Hughes makes a mistake by assuming all rail travel is more expensive than trails in "A Walk on the Wild Side of 101" (Jan. 19). The problem is a matter of the weight of the vehicle exerting forces on the track. Speeders, hand cars, and rail-cycles do not weigh as much as a train. They are not classified by the Federal Railroad Administration as a train. All of these can run on the rail as it is today, with the only exception is a little clearing of trees. The Arcata and Mad River Speeder Crewcar has traveled from the Arcata Marsh to the last crossing north of Eureka. Those washouts are minor, and I have lawfully walked that path, because of volunteering with the Timber Heritage Association. The costs are only that of clearing and inspection of the track. The reason that side is not regularly used is political, not physical. The mistake is assuming costs are all the same. So: minimal costs versus millions of dollars to make the trail. The speeder clearly is the lowest-cost version. Another mistake is the thinking the speeder crewcar/hand cars would not attract many people. Already thousands of people have ridden the speeder on trips given by the Timber Heritage Association. Many of those people are from out of the area, enhancing the local economy. Last year 12,000 people showed up for an annual event called the Handcar Regatta at the Santa Rosa Depot. I would describe that event as a Steam Punk sculpture race on the rails. Rail-based transport is hugely popular. Might I suggest we do a serious look at rail based passenger transport? I suggest we look at the diesel multiple units that SMART will be using in Sonoma and Marin counties.

Lawrence LaBranche, Eureka

 

Editor:

This is the best issue of the Journal that I have read. Was this by design?  I have been an advocate for the "Rails to Trails" program, but observe that the North Coast Rail authority is the only hold up in this process. To have these two stories ("A Walk on the Wild Side of 101" and "New Direction," Jan. 19) appear "back to back" in the same issue made me feel like Christmas again. I have also walked that stretch of rail to and from Eureka, and converting it for bicycle use is probably 85 percent manual labor. Mostly weed whacking, landscaping and removal of foliage, along with removal of the rails and ties, but why pay engineers five or six digits to complete a feasibility study? Why do you suppose they call this a "safety corridor," and how many more fatalities will this community accept? Reduce consumption of foreign oil and carbon footprints too.

Rail banking leaves the NCRA an open option, and Mr. Shelter could supervise. The complaints still lingering about the encampments on the jetty were that there was no supervision or trash removal. Think of the programs instituted during the Great Depression that worked, and produced viable projects on a shoestring budget! Think of the local nonprofits already in existence that could contract food, showers, laundry services etc. and paid for by grant funding. I understand that the Obama administration has expressed an interest in funding public works programs. I am watching the current district elections with a jaundiced eye, and my vote will only go for the candidate who advocates a program similar to the WPA or the CCC during Roosevelt's administration.

Randy Myers, Arcata  

 
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