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SMART rail cars on track for 2013 delivery

The commuter rail cars that will run between Sonoma and Marin counties have passed federal crash tests, are in the final design stages and are on track to be delivered in October 2013.

"This is the state of the art for commuter rail, which shares the track with freight railroads," said Kevin Koyasu, president and chief executive officer of Nippon Sharyo USA, based in Arlington Heights, Ill.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District developed specifications for the new rail car to meet Federal Railroad Administration regulations for crash-worthiness and new emission standards that take effect in 2014.

The cars, called Diesel Multiple Units, are slope-nosed, self-propelled and powered by diesel engines. They run in pairs, with the ability to have a third non-powered car added in between to increase capacity.

"Overall, the basic systems is not new to us; it is fine tuning our past experience," Koyasu said.

SMART is paying $49 million for 12 cars.

Metrolinx, in Toronto, Canada, has ordered 18 of the cars at a cost of $75 million to run between downtown Toronto and the city's airport. It paid SMART $758,825 in development costs last March.

Koyasu said the new cars are expected to become a standard in the United States.

"Unlike the commuter trains hauled by big locomotives, these are very flexible in operation, especially for startup transportation," Koyasu said.

Nippon Sharyo is building a $50 million assembly plant to open this summer in Rochelle, Ill., where it will employ 300 people. The state of Illinois has spent $12 million on infrastructure, such as rail spurs and roads, to serve the plant.

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