Last month, the City of Lodi and Bike Lodi invited residents to participate in a feasibility study to convert an unused portion of Union Pacific Railroad into a Greenline Trail that would connect Downtown Lodi to Woodbridge.
Last week, the Lodi City Council directed staff to continue exploring options to make such a trail a reality.
“I support moving forward with a feasibility study,” Vice Mayor Mikey Hothi said. “We talk a lot on this council about obesity rates and diabetes rates. A project like this would not only serve to beautify the community, it would also serve to help get people out and moving.”
According to a Feb. 16 staff report, the Lodi Greenline would repurpose the existing 1.75-mile Union Pacific Railroad spur line between Downtown Lodi and Woodbridge into a bicycle and pedestrian path with access to various commercial, outdoor recreational, educational and civic centers.
Kristin Lohse, a representative with consulting firm Toole Design Group, said the proposed trail would be a 12-foot-wide paved thoroughfare with two 2-foot-wide soft-surface shoulders or “clear zones” on either side.
The existing UPRR corridor is 60 feet wide, she said, with unused railroad tracks in the center.
Lohse presented two concepts to the council, describing the first as a “rail to trail” design where the tracks are removed and redeveloped as a shared path.
The second concept is a “rail with trail” design, in which the tracks would remain and a shared path would be added to the corridor.
The first design could potentially cost $5.587 million, and it meets safety guidelines set forth by both Caltrans and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, provides buffers from private property and the railroad, and allows the potential for roadway crossing improvements to create safe and predictable crossings, Lohse said.
In addition, the first design connects destinations and land use, and allows space for amenities such as trees and shrubberies along the corridor.
However, it does not allow flexibility for future rail use, she said.
The second concept could cost $4.745 million, but it does not meet Caltrans or AASHTO safety guidelines and does not provide buffers from the railroad or private properties.
While it connects destinations and land use and allows for future rail use, it only “somewhat” allows for roadway crossing improvements and space for amenities along the corridor, Lohse said.
In addition, she said that according to UPRR guidelines, the corridor is not wide enough to accommodate both a trail and rail service.
“All told, you’re looking at $8 (or) $9 million to construct the trail,” she said. “These are just estimates. I know it will take time to get everything in place and costs will go up, but this is a starting point for you.”
The effort to construct the trail began in March of 2018, when Bike Lodi first suggested the idea to the council. In November of that year, the city applied for the Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant to obtain funding to conduct a feasibility study.
The following May, the city was awarded $80,750 in grant funds. Staff said potential future funding from the San Joaquin Council of Governments might be $100,000.
“A good question is ‘do we have the money now to construct it, and do we have the money in the future to maintain it,’” Lodi City Manager Steve Schwabauer said. “And the answer to that is, right now, no. I wouldn’t recommend going forth with the project if we get to the end of feasibility process and we don’t have money for either one of those (designs).”
Councilman Alan Nakanishi said while he liked the concept, he worried it would be used as a place of refuge by the city’s homeless.
Schwabauer replied that if funding could be found for the trail, and if the city built a low-bar or no-bar shelter, then the homeless would not be an issue.
Councilman Doug Kuehne said the City of Manteca completed a rail to trail project, and officials there do not see any potential problems with its homeless population.
“The project they have has not exacerbated any issues, and it’s easily maintained by (Manteca Police Department officers) because the trail is so large a vehicle could drive down it,” he said. “We have electric motorcycles that could travel down it. In my estimation, this is currently an eyesore, and this would be a beautification project.”
Staff will return to the council with regular updates on the project at future meetings.