A war of words is breaking out between the cities of Cloverdale and Larkspur, the ends of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit line, over who will be left out if the agency must build the project in phases.
"It is vital to the welfare of this city and everyone in it," said Cloverdale Mayor Carol Russell. "We have devoted a dozen years to working on the train. The fact that Larkspur can get on the caboose is fine and I don't wish them any ill, but the impact of not having the train on Larkspur is negligible."
Larkspur officials, however, contend it is better situated to help SMART draw riders, even though the city has opposed SMART and Larkspur voters didn't pass it.
"Larkspur needs to be part of the coordination process, particularly since we are the end of the line," said Mayor Joan Lundstrom. "We are next to 101, we have the ferry, the bikeway and the (Marin) Airporter."
Cloverdale, which built its downtown redevelopment and economic plan around SMART, has been a strong supporter of the commuter rail project.
Sonoma County voters passed Measure Q, the quarter-cent sales tax to support the trains, with 73.7 percent of the vote. In Cloverdale, 78.6 percent of voters supported the November 2008 tax measure to fund SMART.
The Larkspur City Council was the only city in Marin County to oppose SMART in 2006, when a tax measure to fund rail transit was on that year's ballot. Two years later, Measure Q failed in Larkspur, as it did throughout Marin County in the November 2008 election.
In Marin County, 62.8 percent of voters supported Measure Q, short of the two-thirds needed to pass the measure. Only 58.8 percent of Larkspur voters backed the tax measure.
However, Measure Q still passed because of widespread support in Sonoma County for the two-county tax measure.
Given the lack of support in Larkspur, critics are now questioning the city's interest in the rail line.
"I think I can understand their desire," Russell said. "It surprised me a little. I was under the impression that Larkspur was not excited about this."
Russell and Lundstrom are both members of the SMART board of directors, which this fall will have to deal with the realities of funding the construction of the 70-mile commute line, which is scheduled to open in 2014.
SMART has projected a $155 million shortfall from sales tax revenue and bonding capacity, largely because of the effects of the recession and the cost of constructing the line.
The transit agency is now updating its projected revenues and costs. Without adequate funding, the agency may be forced to build the rail line and adjacent bike and pedestrian path in phases.
"The desire is for us to be included should there be a need for phasing," Russell said. "One thing that is important is to look at the overall effect on phasing on the whole project and the individual city."
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