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Mendocino Railway: Letter to Mendocino County Board of Supervisors


Robert Jason Pinoli



April 6, 2024

Members of the Board:

I wanted to call your attention to two very critical matter facing the future of Mendocino County’s transportation network.

The first concerns the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA), a group that even Senator McGuire labeled as “the center of controversy on the North Coast [for the past 30 years],” and that has wasted more than $141M of taxpayer money. The NCRA has now been rebranded as the Great Redwood Trail Agency (GRTA), but this name change hasn’t ended any of the controversy. Because while the GRTA plans to leave the NWP’s tracks in place south of the Mendocino County border—so the people and businesses south of that border can benefit from both rails and trails, the GRTA has decided to deny those benefits to the people and businesses of Mendocino County. So, even though there is room for both rails and trails in Mendocino County too, the GRTA has chosen to forevermore cut Mendocino County off from our country’s national railroad network. Even more bizarrely, not only do some of Mendocino County’s political leadership seem okay with that, some are even helping the GRTA accomplish their goal. Isn’t it time for Mendocino County to stop being a doormat, to stand up and demand the same benefits for its people and businesses that the people and businesses of Sonoma and Marin will enjoy?

Second, in order to more easily achieve its plan to cut Mendocino County off from our national railroad network, the GRTA has announced that it intends to force the abandonment of Mendocino Railway’s California Western Railroad / Skunk Train. If they succeed, they will have killed a railroad that has served, and bound together, the communities of Willits and Fort Bragg for 139 years; a railroad that even today has customers interested in shipping 400-500 railcars of freight between our two cities, shipments that would remove nearly 2,000 trucks from Highway 20 each year. And this is just one example of the railroad freight opportunities that the NCRA (and now the GRTA) has negligently – or intentionally – prevented for more than two decades now. The NCRA and GRTA have insisted that freight rail won’t work in Mendocino County not because there isn’t demand for it, but solely because they have been too incompetent to carry it out and too jealous of their fiefdom to allow anyone else to do so.

Freight trains move millions of tons of goods and materials across our national railroad network every day, reducing road congestion, improving road safety, and avoiding the greenhouse gas and other pollution produced by trucks. Trains can move one ton of freight nearly 500 miles on just 1 gallon of fuel; not even a Prius achieves that efficiency. Our State Legislature and Governor have mandated that California must by 2030 reduce its GHG emissions to 1990 levels. How is Mendocino County going to do that if our leaders have allowed the GRTA to rip out our county’s only remaining connection to our national railroad network?


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