SMART board rejects key Marin grand jury recommendations

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency Wednesday reaffirmed its support for a pedestrian and bicycle path, rejecting a Marin County grand jury recommendation it be delayed as a cost-cutting measure.

However, SMART is undertaking a review of its construction costs and revenues, which may dictate when and how much of the 70-mile line may be opened by 2014, as promised.

"It's premature for us to be making any decisions, it's mandatory that we have all the numbers," said Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold, a SMART board member.

The grand jury in its June 25th report also recommended that SMART undergo an independent audit, which SMART rejected as being unnecessary.

"We have already got it at several different levels," said SMART General Manager Lillian Hames.

Hames said SMART had outside audits in 2006 and 2008, has its own independent audits and is audited by Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and federal transportation agencies.

The recommendations were contained in the grand jury's report titled "SMART: Steep Grade Ahead," which raised the questions largely because of the transit agency's looming financial problems.

SMART is financed by a quarter-cent sales tax from Measure Q, which was approved by votes of both Sonoma and Marin counties in 2008. The tax was estimated to raise $890.7 million over 20 years.

The measure called for 14 stations on the line from Cloverdale to Larkspur, with a pedestrian and bicycle path alongside.

But with the recession hurting revenues, uncertain construction costs and a weak bond market, SMART has projected it will be $155 million short of the funds needed to open the full line..

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