Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Local passenger rail officials have told Santa Rosa they’re putting the brakes on plans for a $2.3 million rail crossing near Coddingtown Mall, but they’re saying very little publicly about their apparent reversal.
Top Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials recently informed Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey and other city officials that they are concerned about the safety of a proposed crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists at Jennings Avenue.
That’s a major about-face for SMART officials, who supported the crossing two years ago before state utility regulators and told Santa Rosa officials publicly they felt the crossing — which would block pedestrians from crossing the track when a train approaches — would be perfectly safe.
“We were told that circumstances had changed,” Mayor Chris Coursey said. “If they no longer support building the Jennings crossing, it would be extremely disappointing.”
Jennings Avenue used to cross over the tracks in an east-west direction, but at some point decades ago the crossing was blocked off for vehicles and the street now dead-ends at the track. Area residents continued to cross the tracks there in relative safety as rail service over the ensuing decades was sporadic or nonexistent.
When SMART began testing trains on the line in 2015, it fenced off the area and directed pedestrians and bicyclists to cross a quarter-mile north at Guerneville Avenue.