‘The upgraded track increases our operations for north Santa Rosa and gets the trains back and forth to the operations and maintenance facility in a timely manner,’ said SMART Director Debora Fudge, a Windsor councilwoman. ‘It also gets us closer to the workers at the airport and halfway to Windsor.’
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials Wednesday approved spending $6.6 million on an additional two-car train, improving service and raising the possibility of extending service to Airport Boulevard near Windsor. With the extra cars, SMART officials said they will have enough trains to run passenger trains at 30-minute intervals to the Guerneville Road station in Santa Rosa, a station that will serve the most riders.
After six months of being based in a makeshift depot outside City Hall, bus traffic returned this week to a Santa Rosa transit mall renovated to create a more open, modern feel.
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials are seeking $6.6 million in federal funds to buy more train cars, money that otherwise would be used for local pedestrian and bicycle paths.
‘SMART is committed to go to Cloverdale and to Larkspur and as you go farther, you need more vehicles,’ said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager.
SMART’s request is drawing fire from bicycle advocates because the rail agency would be taking the lion’s share of $9.9 million that Sonoma County is getting for such projects as bike lanes, sidewalk improvements, traffic lights, Safe Routes to Schools programs and even construction of SMART’s own pedestrian and bicycle path.
Finding a way to get pedestrians and bicyclists safely across the railroad tracks at Jennings Avenue continues to confound the Santa Rosa City Council, which has no good options to accomplish that goal. The council learned Tuesday that it has four options for the location west of Coddingtown, ranging from no cost to nearly $3 million.
Water quality officials have filed a complaint seeking a $5.5 million fine from Caltrans and a Santa Rosa contractor for allowing soil to be washed into Copeland Creek during work to widen Highway 101. It is the largest fine that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board staff has ever recommended, said Luis Rivera, assistant executive officer.
Raising the train tracks to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross under them near Coddingtown is probably not feasible. Instead, city staff is recommending that Santa Rosa study either building a bridge over the tracks or ground level crossing gates to help get people across the tracks.
The Sonoma-Marin commute rail line is exempted from having to give local design review boards its plans for stations and buildings under legislation that was signed by the governor on Friday. Such local oversight, while only advisory in nature, may have let any single city along the 70-mile line attempt to hold up construction, rail officials said. The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District already was exempt from local planning and zoning regulations, they said.
Pieces of rail each longer than five football fields were unloaded Friday along the SMART line in Santa Rosa, the steel bending in long arcs as it slid off a special train onto the ground. The $360 million commute line is scheduled to open in late 2015 or early 2016 from Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael and to be extended north and south in future years.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District will create a consolidated headquarters in Petaluma, moving workers there from Santa Rosa and San Rafael. ‘We have a lot of staff constantly going back and forth. We are wasting a lot of time and talent and mileage,’ said SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. SMART has eight administrative workers in its San Rafael offices, a dozen workers in the Santa Rosa construction office and is preparing to hire scores more as rail line reconstruction proceeds and the line gets closer to operating.