Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
State rail regulators in San Francisco are set to vote Thursday morning on Santa Rosa’s request to restore a ground-level pedestrian and bicycle pathway over the railroad tracks at Jennings Avenue.
The city has sought the return of the historic east-west crossing in northwestern Santa Rosa since receiving the California Public Utilities Commission’s approval to build it in September 2016. It is seeking a two-year extension to work out a deal for it with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, which now owns the rail right of way. A legal arbitrator for the state agency last month recommended granting the request to construct the footpath through September 2021, stating that the city’s plan for added enhancements met public safety requirements.
SMART, the North Bay’s commuter rail agency, opposes a ground-level crossing at Jennings Avenue, citing ongoing safety concerns.
In 2015, two years before the launch of service, SMART fenced off the pathway, which dates to at least the early 20th century.
SMART previously supported the city’s plan to build an overcrossing at the location, submitting a letter of support as part of a regional transportation grant application for $8 million toward the $9 million project. Santa Rosa ultimately reverted back to a ground-level crossing, noting the access challenges for disabled people and the overcrossing’s general incompatibility with the neighborhood. It returned the grant funding.
SMART submitted [a] letter in support of the city’s updated plans before reversing course once passenger service started. SMART did not return a request for comment Monday about the Public Utilities Commission’s upcoming vote on the crossing. If approved Thursday, the two-year extension would place the ball back in the court of SMART and the largest city along its rail line, leaving the two entities to come to an agreement over the long-disputed issue.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10147543-181/state-rail-regulators-to-decide?sba=AAS
SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Efforts to shift school commutes away from single-rider trips to more sustainable modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, carpooling, and public transit are making a difference at 12 Sonoma County high schools.
“Since September 2017 the Safe Routes to School pilot program has seen measurable increases in active and alternative forms of transportation among students at participating high schools,” said Kelly Elder, Public Health Division manager at the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS).
The two-year pilot program is coordinated by DHS and funded by the Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program, aims to increase physical activity among high school students and decrease greenhouse gas emissions related to vehicle trips.
The Department collaborated with the Center for Climate Protection to implement youth leadership trainings at 12 local high schools, while W-Trans, a traffic-engineering consultant, received funding to assess walking and biking infrastructure around the schools.
“Our team has gathered information on walking and bicycling to and from school, and we led walking audits in the spring to identify critical pedestrian and bike safety issues,” said Principal, W-Trans, Steve Weinberger.
Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/sonoma-county-high-schools-reduce-carbon-footprint-during-commute
Today’s report on those plans finds that regions have made progress in some areas, but not nearly enough to meet their goals:
1. Regions are not on track to meet their climate goals, not for 2020 or even for 2035.
2. Statewide, driving is increasing. The trend is going in the wrong direction — each of us is driving more, not less.
3. Not enough investment is going toward climate-friendly transportation — including walking, bicycling, and public transit — or affordable housing near jobs and transit.
4. Action is needed at every level of government — cities, counties, regions, and the state — to get on track.
“To reduce emissions, the most sustainable options need to be the most convenient,” said Ella Wise, State Policy Associate at ClimatePlan.
Today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a new report finding that California regions are not on track to meet either their 2020 or 2035 climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additional action from every level of government is required, including more investment in sustainable transportation and affordable homes near jobs and transit. The report can be downloaded here.
Each metropolitan region in the state has a plan, required by law, to reduce emissions by reducing the need to drive. However, the report finds that regions are failing to deliver on their plans. Part of regions’ failure is due to challenges beyond their control, such as limited state funding and local land use decisions. But regions continue to invest in highways, which results in more driving, not less.
Read more at https://www.climateplan.org/new_report_california_regions_falling_short_on_climate_driving_increases
J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday revived one of their most controversial land-use debates, examining potential changes to a planned quarry west of Cotati that has been in the works for a decade and a half.
Quarry developer John Barella wants to alter some of the conditions the county imposed when it narrowly approved his project off Roblar Road eight years ago. The Board of Supervisors last year hired a consultant to study Barella’s proposed changes and is now considering a draft of the resulting environmental analysis.
Much of Tuesday’s discussion centered around a 1.6-mile stretch of Roblar Road that would be used hundreds of times daily by large trucks hauling aggregate from the quarry. Barella’s team says the original county requirement to widen the road to 40 feet proved unworkable and proposed constructing a road that’s 32 feet wide instead.
The proposal prompted safety concerns from some supervisors and community members, particularly since the road is used by cyclists.
Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the only current board member who was in office when the project was approved, called for further road improvements that would slow traffic and better accommodate bicycles.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8845302-181/sonoma-county-mulls-changes-to
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.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8569281-181/sonoma-marin-area-rail-transit-officials