The first train cars ordered up by the Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit agency have passed their factory tests in Japan and are ready to be shipped to the United States for on-track testing, SMART general manager Farhad Mansourian said Wednesday.
A rare chimeric coast redwood in Cotati will be spared the ax, at least for now, after Sonoma-Marin rail officials bowed to public opposition Thursday and suspended the planned removal of the tree to make way for train tracks.
Passengers riding the new rail line between Sonoma and Marin counties may one day be able to spot a black-tailed deer or a night heron on wetlands owned by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit system.
The seats for the new Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit commuter rail cars have passed required safety tests, a month after failing the first round of testing.
A group of property owners trying to organize a united front in dealing with the SMART rail line say they are not looking to derail the project, but merely provide a counterweight to the agency’s political and financial might.
‘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 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.
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.