Segments of a bike and pedestrian path designed to skirt North Bay railroad tracks where occupied passenger trains are soon slated to run inched closer to reality under funding proposals advanced Wednesday.

One of the segments, a 1.2-mile path running along railroad tracks over the Petaluma River and under Highway 101 between Payran Street and Southpoint Boulevard in Petaluma, is now fully-funded, with construction plans in the works.

The other segment reviewed Wednesday would extend from Golf Course Drive in Rohnert Park to Todd Road south of Santa Rosa.

The timetable for the start of SMART’s passenger service, meanwhile, remains unclear.

Farhad Mansourian, the agency’s general manager, told directors he spoke with federal railroad regulators Wednesday. He did not detail those conversations other than to say he was told “there are no pending issues.”

SMART officials say federal officials are completing a review of the rail agency’s positive train control system, which automatically shuts down service to prevent emergencies such as derailments caused by excessive speed.

Mansourian said his next conversation with federal officials is scheduled for next Wednesday.

“I think we’re very, very, very close,” Mansourian said of the launch of passenger service, which has been delayed twice in recent months.

Mansourian reported Wednesday that close to 26,000 people have taken advantage of preview rides aboard trains. The rides began June 29 and continue through this weekend.

Debora Fudge, chairwoman of SMART’s board, called response to the preview rides “overwhelming.”

The board on Wednesday approved the final funding piece of the $3.3 million Petaluma pathway segment.

The path is slated to be completed in 2021, but the rail agency is hoping the combination of grant monies and proceeds from a statewide increase in gas taxes and vehicle license fees will allow completion of that segment by 2019.

The SMART board also approved seeking a $1.5 million state grant for construction of the pathway segment from Golf Course Drive to Todd Road. The total cost of the project is estimated at $4.2 million.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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