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SMART continues to close budget gap

Sonoma County transportation planners Monday approved an additional $3 million for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district, part of a regional plan meant to bridge the commute rail line's last financial gap.

"Public transportation like this is long overdue," said Healdsburg Councilman Tom Chambers, a member of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

SMART estimates that it is $21 million short of what is needed to open its initial operating line from Railroad Square in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael in the fall of 2014. Ultimately, service is to run from Larkspur to Cloverdale.

The proposal passed the SCTA on a 11-0 vote.

It requires that SCTA contribute $3 million; the Transportation Authority of Marin, $8 million; and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, $10 million.

The plan was drafted by the three agencies but Marin and MTC have not given final approval.

Marin would put in the largest share of the North Bay funding because SCTA already is giving SMART $11 million from its quarter-cent sales tax and Sonoma is bearing the brunt of the cuts that SMART has made to get an initial project going.

"In transportation we try to leverage funding and the big one here is the $10 million from MTC," said Windsor Councilman Sam Salmon, also an SCTA member.

SCTA Executive Director Suzanne Smith said the $3 million is expected to come the 2012 allocation of federal transportation enhancement funds, which are restricted to such projects as bike and pedestrian paths, but can't be used to run trains or for highway projects.

SMART would be restricted to spending the money on its pedestrian-bicycle multiuse path, but not on administration or train operating expenses, Smith said.


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