SMART board weighs American vs. European rail cars

Rail car manufacturers made pitches to the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District on Wednesday, hoping to sell directors on their technology as the deadline to choose a rail car nears.

One of the companies said it could produce the light-weight, European-style trains that directors envision running on the 70-mile commute line through Sonoma and Marin counties.

?You had several presentations, you had several sales pitches,? said SMART executive director Lillian Hames, who promised the board a staff recommendation at its July 15 meeting.

The board is choosing between heavy-weight, American-style rail cars that meet federal safety and pollution standards that take effect in 2012 and European-style cars that would require a waiver from federal railroad regulators. The European-designed cars could not run at the same time as freight trains.

Board members were disappointed with the ride quality of the only American-style train they tested, which is being operated in Portland, Ore.

Three companies made presentations arguing for the heavier American-style cars.

Hoping to allay fears about the cars? ride quality, Siemens vice president Robin Stimson told the board the Portland car was made by now-defunct Colorado Railcar, was poorly crafted and that the car built by his company is a better alternative.

Representatives from Brookville Equipment Corp. of Brookville, Pa., and Nippon Sharyo USA of Arlington Heights, Ill., also made presentations of their American-style trains.

The only company at the meeting that said it would produce the lighter cars was Stadler of Switzerland, which makes the cars for the European market and recently branched into the United States.

It has made cars for a rail system in Austin, Texas, which is waiting for federal rail regulators to approve it for operation. It also has the contract to provide cars for a new system in Denton, Texas.

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