Posted: Yesterday, 7:33 PM
Another day in Paradise
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Cotati - The Hub of Sonoma County
Stacy & Witbeck/Herzog lay down new sub-grade for passing track near College Avenue in Santa Rosa.
SMART seeks funding for San Rafael to Larkspur train segment
The south end of the Cal Park Hill Tunnel bicycle/pedestrian path photographed from the Larkspur side of the tunnel. SMART declares this part of the segment its Òpreferred alternative,Ó opening up the door to get federal dollars to build the extension. (IJ archive photo/Frankie Frost) Frankie Frost
In this IJ archive photo, a pedestrian enters the south end of the Cal Park Hill Tunnel. SMART declares this part of the segment its Òpreferred alternative,Ó opening up the door to get federal dollars to build the extension. (IJ archive photo/Frankie Frost) Frankie Frost
In this IJ archive photo, a pedestrian walks north in the Cal Park Hill Tunnel. SMART declares this part of the segment its Òpreferred alternative,Ó opening up the door to get federal dollars to build the extension. (IJ archive photo/Frankie Frost) Frankie Frost
By Mark Prado
Marin Independent Journal
Posted: 05/20/2013 05:47:32 PM PDT
An extension of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit commuter train service from San Rafael to Larkspur is slowly moving to the fore as officials open the door to seek federal funding for the work.
The rail agency will submit a letter to the Federal Transportation Administration requesting entry into its "Small Starts" program. The program funds new projects as well as extensions to commuter rail, light rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit, street cars and ferries.
A rail connection to Larkspur Landing and Golden Gate Ferry service to take commuters into San Francisco has been a SMART objective since its inception. When voters in Sonoma and Marin counties approved a quarter-cent sales tax in 2008, the project was for train service from Cloverdale to Larkspur.
But the downturn in the economy left the project without full funding and the ability to borrow the needed money to complete all the work as promised. Now the project is being phased, and a $360 million San Rafael-to-Santa Rosa line is under construction and expected to be operational by early 2016.
When the SMART board met last week it approved a resolution designating the San Rafael to Larkspur link as its "preferred alternative," a move needed to start a process that could land it millions of dollars to build the 2.2-mile segment. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood recommended SMART make that designation in order to be eligible for more federal funding.
The agency is doing an analysis to determine just how much it will cost to build the extension, according to SMART officials. Work has already been done on a key stretch south of San Rafael. In December 2010 the revamped Cal Park Hill Tunnel, an 1,100-foot tube, was opened at a cost of $28 million with the costs split between the county and SMART. The tunnel, which is 30 feet wide and 25 feet tall, has been divided, part dedicated to the rail right of way, the other to bicycle and pedestrian use.
"I think it shows SMART's commitment to getting the train to Larkspur," SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian said.
In 2009, SMART received $427,000 from Congress for an alternatives analysis, which it completed. In 2010, the agency received a second earmark for $2.5 million for technical, environmental and engineering design on the San Rafael-to-Larkspur segment.
Now SMART will use that money to complete required environmental studies, as well as engineering and design for the segment, as it positions itself to get federal money.
"The SMART board has always been committed to Larkspur," Mansourian said, adding efforts are also under way to find a way to extend service north of Santa Rosa, to Cloverdale. "We want to be ready when the money becomes available. Doing the work ahead of time gets us in better position."
Contact Mark Prado via email at email@example.com