Coddingtown's owners pressed SMART to move its north Santa Rosa rail station closer to the shopping center.

The benefits for Codding Enterprises and Simon Properties, the mall's owners, are obvious: easier access for shoppers and an added transit option for tenants in Codding-owned apartments near the rail station. Codding even paid for the studies required to relocate the train station and offered parking for commuters.

SMART benefited, too.

The Guerneville Road station is expected to cost at least $3 million less than the original site near Jennings Avenue, where cleaning up ground water contamination from an old railroad junction could have driven the cost differential even higher. The savings helped SMART extend its initial service from Railroad Square to north Santa Rosa.

City planners are now crafting a vision for future development in the area around the Guerneville Road station, just as they did five years ago for the area surrounding the Railroad Square depot.

Santa Rosa's transit village approach allows for construction of more housing and more business space within a half-mile of the station to encourage ridership. The Coddingtown plan also includes bike lanes and wide sidewalks to encourage people to get out of their cars.

With train service scheduled to start in 2015, it's a sensible approach for the city. And Coddingtown, which is making upgrades of its own, should be a major beneficiary of transit-related improvements in the area.

To that end, we were surprised by the breadth of the objections raised by Codding representatives to the station area plan. They object to a proposed extension of Coffey Lane, construction of roundabouts on Range Avenue and two bicycle paths across mall parking lots.

The paths are intended to accommodate traffic to and from a proposed bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 linking the shopping center with Santa Rosa Junior College and the surrounding neighborhood. Codding Enterprises has been an advocate of the bridge.

"It benefits local businesses, like those at the Coddingtown Mall, by providing an easier access route for potential customers on the east side of the freeway who are discouraged from shopping due to the severe traffic congestion on the streets between the SRJC neighborhood and the west side of 101," Codding CEO Brad Baker and a co-author wrote on these pages when the City Council was debating a study of the bike bridge.

If the bridge is built, riders will need a route to SMART as well as access to the mall. Two bike paths may be excessive, but the Planning Commission recommended eliminating one before Codding objected to the council.

The remaining path would connect to the Coffey Lane extension, allowing bikes and pedestrians to avoid busy Guerneville Road. As the plan notes, the extension isn't likely for many years.

A solution may lie elsewhere in the plan.

It also envisions bike lanes and pedestrian enhancements on Edwards Avenue, immediately south of Coddingtown. If the mall operators can't accommodate any bike path, perhaps they could partner with the city to speed the Edwards Avenue improvements, just as they partnered with SMART to relocate the rail station.