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.
A Petaluma man locked in a dispute with the SMART commuter rail system is hoping to draw track-side neighbors from all along the route to a meeting tonight to consider how to work together.
With construction crews finishing track replacement work through Santa Rosa this month, officials at Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit are starting to plan for the final stages of the $360 million project that will link Santa Rosa to San Rafael.
The use of eminent domain powers was authorized by Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit directors Wednesday to obtain easements necessary to consolidate three rail crossings into one in south Petaluma.
‘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.
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 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. 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.
A plan to encourage development of a transit-oriented community around a future train station got sidetracked Tuesday by Santa Rosa City Council members concerned that the 300-page plan was overreaching and lacking the support of Coddingtown mall. The council spent four hours picking apart the long-range plan before directing staff to strip out several proposals that Coddingtown officials said would hinder the very economic development the plan sought to foster.