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SMART selects American-made rail cars

Directors of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system on Wednesday chose the heavier American-style rail car over its European counterpart, but promised it would be every bit as quiet, comfortable and sleek.

?It?s not only got to look cool, it has to ride well and be a good neighbor,? said Charles McGlashan, a Marin County supervisor and SMART chairman.

The decision, which came on a 9-2 vote, directs staff to begin writing specifications, from the number of bathrooms on a train car to how many bicycles it can hold. The process will take several months and cost $400,000.

It also allows SMART engineers to begin designing rail stations, platforms and maintenance facilities along the 70-mile, Cloverdale-to-Larkspur commute line.

The choice was between the American- and European-style vehicles, both of which are self-propelled with diesel engines, but the American vehicles are built heavier to meet federal crash standards.

The American-style cars can be run alongside freight service, giving SMART flexibility in scheduling midday and excursion trains.

The manufacturers have also indicated the American-style cars can be converted to electric in the future, which the European cars cannot.

Directors noted the major manufacturers that are expected to bid have plants in California or elsewhere in the United States, and the estimated $93.5 million SMART will spend will create local jobs.

?I?d really like to see that money stay in the United States, and better yet here in California,? said Mike Kerns, a Sonoma County supervisor.

By not having to seek federal waivers, SMART directors also believe the American-style cars are the best bet to have the system running by the fall of 2014.

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