EDITOR: Given its funding cuts due to shrinking sales tax revenues, Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit needs to make the most of every expenditure. Here are some suggestions.
First, instead of replacing track between Guerneville Road and Windsor for a
Class 4 utility (80 mph maximum speed), use the existing Class 3 track (60 mph). Windsor is a better terminus than Guerneville Road, with Airport Boulevard as a way station.
Gain: more fare-box revenue at startup. Saving: the added costs of 10 miles of new track plus environmental review costs, as using existing track would be considered maintenance rather than new construction.
Second, instead of building concrete platforms before startup, construct temporary timber ramps just long enough to serve two- and three-car trains. SMART's station plan for Petaluma shows platforms almost 600 feet long. You don't need a 600-foot platform for two-car trains that are 160-feet long or even for three-car trains 240-feet long.
Third, instead of spending $30 million for a railroad bridge over Andersen Drive in San Rafael, install a grade crossing with gates and flashing signals for about $1 million, or build a road overpass. The wild card here is the California Public Utilities Commission's stipulation in 1997 that San Rafael is obligated to pay for the crossing.