By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With commute trains still scheduled to run three years from now between Santa Rosa and San Rafael, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials plan to meet with the users of 28 private track crossings on safety issues.
“We all share the concern of the safety of our citizens with trains going by at 70 miles per hour,” said Farhad Mansourian, executive director. “The goal is so nobody gets hurt and to make sure their business and livelihood is not hurt.”
SMART has sent letters to the 300 owners of private crossings on the track from Cloverdale to Larkspur, where SMART plans to someday run trains, and from Novato to Napa, which is SMART-owned track that the Northwestern Pacific Railroad will use for freight trains.
The commute rail district wants to eliminate and consolidate as many crossings as possible for its own safety concerns and to comply with state Public Utilities Commission and Federal Railroad Administration policy.
The 28 crossings in the initial segments range from farmland to the crossing at the Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center in Novato, said SMART Chief Engineer Bill Gamlen.
SMART’s operating committee on Wednesday approved Mansourian’s proposal to meet first with the owners of the crossings from Santa Rosa to San Rafael, the segment SMART is building first because of budget restraints.
The lessons learned in those meetings can be used to deal with the remaining hundreds of crossings elsewhere on the line that will be built later, Mansourian said.
“It is going to be a challenge to find solutions that will satisfy everybody,” Mansourian said. “I don’t believe ‘one size fits all’ will work in such a diverse area.”
He said the cost of holding 14 separate meetings to deal with the issue will be about $50,000.
SMART had proposed charging crossing owners $1,500 to apply to have crossings studied to remain open and an additional $2,600 a year for inspection services, but Gamlen said those fees have not been adopted.
Mansourian is serving as SMART executive director while taking time off from his position as Marin County public works director.