|SMART to begin rail rebuilding on May 29
Trains will run even if cities don’t build depots
Even if financial strains prevent the building of train depots, representatives from Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit on Tuesday evening said the trains will still make stops in Rohnert Park and Cotati.
A crowd of about 25 people attended a public forum in the Cotati Room at the Ray Miller Center and learned about the construction schedule for the proposed 70-mile rail system, with train tracks going from Santa Rosa to San Rafael.
Both Rohnert Park and Cotati have plans to construct depots as the centerpiece of their train stops. Monies provided by redevelopment agencies were to be the primary source of funding these projects, but Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated the agencies and will use the money to try to ease the state’s stifling financial burden. That will have no impact on the trains coming through, according to a SMART spokesman.
“Our train stops will be on platforms, and we’re building the platforms,” SMART representative Matt Stevens said. “All stops will have platforms, independent of whether a depot gets built or not.”
SMART is rebuilding the Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks that run north to south through Sonoma and Marin counties. The segment in the RP-Cotati area will run from Scenic Avenue (north of RP) to East Railroad Avenue (south of Cotati).
Drainage work will begin Tuesday, May 29, and track reconstruction starts either the last week of June or the first week of July. Work on the drainage system includes the replacing of culverts and retaining walls and the repairing, rehabilitation or replacement of bridges.
Keith Tarkalson, also with SMART, warned how work done on the tracks could force the closing of intersections over the course of a weekend.
“If we have to close a grade crossing (intersection), we want to do it so we can complete the construction in one piece rather than continually having to return and cause more disruption,” Tarkalson said. “We want to do at least 1,600 feet of tracks a week.”
Those working on the tracks will work four, 10-hour days per week, but some overtime may require extended work shifts of 12 hours a day.
One concern from one person in attendance was about how long delays would be when a train is crossing a city intersection.
“About 40 seconds,” Stevens said. “We’ll be running two-car train sets, so we’re anticipating no delays.
The SMART representatives also emphasized the noise factor is likely to be less than when a train carrying freight is running because the cars are smaller and more modern.
“The shell of the cars was made in Japan, but all the other parts and interior will be manufactured in Rochelle, Illinois,” Stevens said. “Most noteworthy is the train scored the highest on the tech ratings and costs $20 million less than the premier proposal.”
The train will be able to get to top speeds of 79 mph, depending on where it’s at, according to Stevens. The statistics provided by the SMART representatives were based on numbers from their environmental impact reports.
The average trip for riders, according to Stevens, is two to three stations in length, and the average fare should be between $4-5.
“We’re hoping to keep fares around bus fare levels,” Stevens said.