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Elevated rails for SMART crossing near Coddingtown 'not viable'

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 option where they go under the tracks is too expensive, too time-consuming and not viable," said Rick Moshier, the city's director of transportation and public works.

Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit had planned to just fence off Jennings Avenue on both sides of the tracks to prevent people from crossing there, something many people are in the habit of doing.

But the city wanted to find a safe way for people to cross the tracks after light rail service commences, and in August agreed to spend up to $200,000 to study the options.

A report by SMART and its contractors looked at four options for the crossing: A fence or barrier wall, an at-grade crossing, an ADA compliant overcrossing or an ADA compliant undercrossing.

None of the options are great, Moshier said.

"It's a daunting project," he said.

The undercrossing proved most challenging largely because of the timing. Contractors were expected to begin work on that section earlier this month, according to SMART officials.

The idea was to raise the rail bed by 10 feet to ensure pedestrians didn't have to step down more than 2.5 feet. But the report indicated the track height and long retaining walls required to raise the track could present visual impact on neighboring properties. It also noted there would be drainage issues in the undercrossing that would have to be resolved.

The overcrossing might present other challenges. The concept would involve two 310-foot-long ramps needed to get people up to a bridge 25 feet above the ground. This would also present visual impacts to neighbors, the report noted.

The main challenge to the at-grade crossing is that the state Public Utilities Commission regulates such crossings and winning approval "may be difficult," the report noted. Maintenance of the crossing signals was also noted at a higher cost.

The City Council on Tuesday was expected to discuss the various options, but deferred doing so until Nov. 13 to give members the chance to review the report.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater

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