WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa OKs $200,000 study of rail underpass


The Santa Rosa City Council agreed reluctantly Tuesday to spend $200,000 to study whether a bicycle and pedestrian undercrossing can be built beneath the future rail line at Jennings Avenue.

Jesy Carrillo lifts daughter Callie over the tracks at the Jennings Avenue crossing in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2012. (Jeff Kan Lee / PD)

The council unanimously agreed to explore ways to avoid the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit service fencing off the pathway that people have used to cross the tracks for years at that location.

Commute rail service is expected to begin in 2015 or 2016.

“Without this crossing, this is a barrier in the center of our city and it’s a barrier that would exist for years if we don’t take a look at this now,” Councilman Gary Wysocky said.

But some council members were clearly chagrined to be paying to study something the city doesn’t have the money to build even if it is feasible.

“Why isn’t SMART paying for this?” asked Councilman Jake Ours. “They are building the train, not us.”

Public Works Director Rick Moshier told the council that an underpass at that location likely would cost $1.8 million, but the city has just $600,000 to spend on it.

“I don’t see a scenario where this city will be in a position to be able to pay for all of it,” Moshier said.

He said the balance would have to come from other sources, such as SMART or the Sonoma County Transit Authority.

Moshier said that the city has been working for months to figure out how to preserve a crossing at Jennings, and initially didn’t think it was possible. “We didn’t have any clear path that I though the council would find attractive at all,” Moshier said.

Digging a tunnel under the existing rail bed wouldn’t work because it would make people feel uncomfortable, Moshier said.

“If the pedestrian has to go down into a dark tunnel, I have a hard time believing it’s worth it,” Moshier said. “I just don’t think people will use it.”

Increasing the height of the rail bed also didn’t seem feasible because the location is only about a third of a mile from the Guerneville Road station. That would require a fairly steep incline from the station to get the train high enough to go over an at-grade tunnel, Moshier said.

But just a week and a half ago, the contractor doing the rail bed work for SMART said they thought it could be done if the train went up about eight feet and the path went down two, Moshier said.

Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, urged the council to support the study, calling the crossing as important as the proposed bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101.

“It’s a way to unite your city east to west in this area,” Helfrich said.

Vice Mayor John Sawyer initially opposed the allocation, but after listening to his colleagues agreed to support the study as it could not exceed $200,000.

Councilman Scott Bartley said he wanted more than the undercrossing to be studied. He wanted an overhead pathway considered, as well, noting that it could be constructed later. Wysocky also wanted to take a closer look at a ground level crossing at that location, despite warnings that the state Public Utilities Commission would require the closing of other crossings before it would approve a new one.

“To me that’s unreasonable. Two for one? I mean who made them king?” Wysocky said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.

11 Responses to “Santa Rosa OKs $200,000 study of rail underpass”

  1. PDBlogger69 says:

    The SR City bus will get you over the railroad without endangering your life nor a child. People are just freakin lazy to walk a bit more or use something in place (public transit) that already works. Why spend all that money when there is no money to build it anyway?

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  2. Steveguy says:

    I could ‘study’ it for $60,000. Therefore a $140,000 ‘savings’ !!

    Or just make a crossing ! Oh my, THAT would be too simple, stoopid me.

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  3. Joseph says:

    Every station should have one of these tunnels under the tracks to get to the other track on the other side of the fence so the passengers do not have to walk across the tracks. Dual tracks at the stations allow for trains to pass each other during normal scheduled stops. Basic fundamental designs. The station is only a short distance from this street. Makes more sense to design a station that allows for future growth, than to be adding additional crossings at this point that is used by the transients on the way to the kitchen or their camps.

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  4. Phil Maher says:

    $200k + $1.6 mil = $1.8 mil…with only $600k in funds available. Not enough money to do the project and too high a cost for a single crossing that will serve too few people. Seems pretty straight forward to me. Study complete.

    I wonder, would me charging only $10k (a 1900% savings) to come to a logical conclusion like this while drinking my coffee this morning strike anyone as any more ludicrous than the proposal the City Council just signed up for?

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  5. Phil Maher says:

    $200k + $1.6 mil = $1.8 mil…only $600k available. Not enough money and too much for a single crossing that will serve too few people. Can’t afford it, not worth it. Study complete.

    Would me asking for $10k (a savings of 1900%) for this conclusion seem any less ridiculous?

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  6. Steveguy says:

    Dudes. I wanna ride my bike along the track, remember ?

    So what’s with a big fence ?? Many just want to ride their bikes or live on the right of way. Didn’t we vote for a bikeway too ?

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  7. Doug says:

    The streets are great in Sonoma County. If you think there bad try seeing some more parts of the country.

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  8. sue says:

    seems like the city has a pot of gold under lock and key

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  9. brown act jack says:

    Hey, we have $600,000 to spend on the undercrossing, we might as well spend it on a $200,000 study rather than use it for something that might help the citizens.

    After all the consultants don’t have much work now a days and we want to make sure they stay in business and help us spend the money we don’t have!

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  10. steve humphrey says:

    Seriously, can’t pedestrians just walk the short 2 plus blocks to Guerneville Road where there is sure to be a crossing?
    Now we’re going to spend 200K to study a project admittingly there are not enough funds to complete should the “study” prove out.
    It appears the bicycle cooalition has much to do with this unprudent decision, with hopes of tying into a even more unrealistic pedestrian/bicycle bridge over hwy 101.

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  11. Grapevines says:

    I want the city to plant more of those “money tree’s” it’s apparently tapping into for this $200,000 (TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) “study”. I mean if we have to stop wasting money to do a “study” on reuniting courthouse square might as well do one on a crossing two blocks away from an existing one. Sure would hate to have the bicyclist have to ride those extra blocks when we could waste a ton of funds “studying” and eventually causing the roadbed to raise up so we could zip underneath

    What I want to know is when do those of us who drive cars, get the roads fixed? How about a “study” to do that for a change? We’ve seen “bike streets” (Humboldt), bike lanes up the wazoo sprouting up all over town. Now I want a turn. Fix the streets!!

    Would that require another $200,000 dollars to study?

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