The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District will create a consolidated headquarters in Petaluma, moving workers there from Santa Rosa and San Rafael.

"We have a lot of staff constantly going back and forth. We are wasting a lot of time and talent and mileage," said SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian.

SMART has eight administrative workers in its San Rafael offices, a dozen workers in the Santa Rosa construction office and is preparing to hire scores more as rail line reconstruction proceeds and the line gets closer to operating.

The commute rail district has leased 25,000 square feet on the second floor of an office building at 5401 Old Redwood Highway in Petaluma at a cost of $510,000 a year.

The office space will be large enough to eventually house 100 SMART employees also to rent space to the consultants it hires.

Mansourian said that over a six-year period, consolidation will save $100,000 in the cost of office space. SMART will move into the building, owned by Cornerstone Properties of San Mateo, within the next few months, he said.

The building is in of what has been called Telecom Valley, an area stretching from Petaluma to Rohnert Park along the Highway 101 corridor, and area once home to a thriving telecommunications industry.

Mansourian said the building has the communications infrastructure needed to house SMART computer servers that will be used as part of the commute line operations. The building is also across Old Redwood Highway from the Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks that SMART will use for commute service.

A decision has not been made on a location for a north Petaluma station.

The agency has begun rebuilding the rail line, beginning in Railroad Square in Santa Rosa and working south to San Rafael.

Mansourian said SMART will look for a place in Petaluma to hold its monthly board of directors meetings. The board now alternates between San Rafael City Hall and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chambers.

(You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or