SMART train seeks more federal money

  • 10/16/2011: A1:
    PC: Model of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit diesel multiple unit train by Sumitomo Corporation of America and Nippon Sharyo, Ltd.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials are seeking $6.6 million in federal funds to buy more train cars, money that otherwise would be used for local pedestrian and bicycle paths.

"SMART is committed to go to Cloverdale and to Larkspur and as you go farther, you need more vehicles," said Farhad Mansourian, SMART's general manager.

SMART's request is drawing fire from bicycle advocates because the rail agency would be taking the lion's share of $9.9 million that Sonoma County is getting for such projects as bike lanes, sidewalk improvements, traffic lights, Safe Routes to Schools programs and even construction of SMART's own pedestrian and bicycle path.

"It would mean that most jurisdictions would have to put off implementing most of their bike-pedestrian plans for five years, at least," said Sandra Lupien, outreach director for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

The coalition has been a staunch supporter of SMART but is strongly opposing this bid.

"We don't understand how it makes sense for one train set to take two-thirds of the funding for the entire network," Lupien said.

The Sonoma County Transportation Authority board, made up of representatives from the county's nine cities and the county Board of Supervisors, will make a decision Monday on SMART's request.

Four of the authority's 12 members also sit on the SMART board: County Supervisor Valerie Brown, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane, Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie and Cloverdale Councilwoman Carol Russell.

Sonoma County has been allocated $9.9 million in federal money for congestion mitigation/air quality, meant primarily to fund pedestrian and bicycle projects.

The Transportation Authority has received requests totaling $38 million from the cities and county for the funds, including the Cloverdale Greenway, landscape improvements along Santa Rosa Avenue and Third Street in Santa Rosa, the Mark West Creek Trail, Windsor bike paths and lanes and Safe Routes to Schools programs throughout the county.

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