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SMART board OKs rail station near Rohnert Park Expressway

The final approvals have been given to build a commuter rail station near Rohnert Park Expressway in Rohnert Park, the closest thing that city has to being a downtown civic center.

"That is the center of Rohnert Park," said city Councilwoman Gina Belforte. "Logistically, it makes much more sense than being on the northern side of town," the initial proposed site for the station at Wilfred Avenue near Highway 101.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District board on Wednesday approved the station site, which is on city-owned land along Seed Farm Drive between Rohnert Park Expressway and Enterprise Drive, which would be the access point to a 130-space parking lot.

The site has 2,800 homes in its vicinity, is next to the vacant State Farm Insurance building, across the street from city library, police station and City Center Plaza, near east-west pedestrian and bicycle paths and a few blocks from a major shopping center.

"It is where downtown Rohnert Park will be; it is moving the station to plan for the future," said SMART board member Debora Fudge, who is mayor of Windsor."

SMART has begun work on an initial 38.5-mile commute rail system from Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael, with service to start in late 2014 or early 2015.

The Rohnert Park station will cost $500,000 more to build than a station at the Wilfred Avenue site, an increase that has been included in SMART's construction budget.

If SMART in the future decides to create vehicle access to the station from Rohnert Park Expressway, it would require a stop light and cost an additional $750,000.

Officials said the station could spur the development of the State Farm Insurance site, which has been vacant since last summer.

"What the city wants is something that can really open that site. What we would like is something that will have a business component, create jobs, and have some shopping," Belforte said. "It is 33 acres, you can do a lot with the property. It is significant."

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.


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