Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SMART plans to launch service to Larkspur, the rail system’s gateway to San Francisco via the nearby ferry, by mid- December after finishing testing on the extension, helping set the stage for an expanded schedule that agency officials branded “a game changer.”
The 2-mile extension is Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s first completed expansion since it began operating in 2017 on 43 miles of existing track from San Rafael to Santa Rosa’s northern outskirts. Completion is a watershed moment for the taxpayer-supported transit system voters approved in 2008. Design, construction and planning service took about 2½ years for the $55.4 million project that includes an accompanying bicycle and pedestrian pathway adjacent to the tracks that is expected to be finished by the end of next year.
The timing of the station’s opening next month and expansion of train service the first week of January is not lost on officials with SMART, who again seek voter support in March for renewal of the sales tax that funds the 2-year-old passenger rail system. Without extension of the commuter rail agency’s primary funding source about a decade early, staff has warned of a need to burn through financial reserves or make deep cuts to SMART’s workforce and service over the next three years.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10340941-181/smart-to-begin-train-service?ref=moststory
Tyler Silvy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday capped a month of speculation about behind-the-scenes jockeying over a third Santa Rosa-area SMART station, voting 4-1 to fund a study of a new stop in north Santa Rosa.
The discussion had initially pit supervisors Lynda Hopkins and James Gore against Supervisor Shirlee Zane and board Chairman David Rabbitt, as Hopkins and Gore favored a Fulton Road location in north Santa Rosa and Zane favored a station in southwest Santa Rosa, near Roseland or Moorland Avenue. Rabbitt wanted to know where the $11 million to build such a station would ever come from before agreeing to study it.
In the end, Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents parts of eastern Santa Rosa and the entire Sonoma Valley, was the lone board member to vote against the $50,000 study of the Fulton site.
Supervisors began the discussion with an attempt to dispel reports they had been squabbling about the location. But they ended with a threat from Gorin that Sonoma Valley likely wouldn’t support tax renewal for SMART because it doesn’t directly serve her constituents. Hopkins chimed in that deliberations reflected the board’s need for a therapy dog.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10151507-181/sonoma-county-supervisors-back-study
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
Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
Sonoma County transportation planners are looking to solve a major dilemma that has potentially suppressed SMART ridership in the rail system’s first year: How do you get riders from the station to their final destination?
For the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, the solution may be a new bikeshare program. The agency received an $800,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to launch a one-year bikeshare pilot.
“There is a lot of interest in how people get to and from trains, and whether station parking is adequate,” said Dana Turrey, a planner with the transportation authority.
The agency is accepting proposals through March and will evaluate them in the spring. The format of the program will depend on the winning bid, but models in other cities include dock-based bikes, which are rented and returned to a fixed dock, and others that can be locked to any location and found using GPS.
The program will initially focus around SMART stations in Sonoma and Marin counties, Turrey said. In Petaluma, that would mean a passenger arriving at the downtown SMART station could pick up a public bike and ride it the last mile to a restaurant or concert in downtown. Other bikes could be stationed at the Petaluma Community Center for riders on the east side, according to the proposal, which calls for about 300 bikes overall.
Read more at https://www.petaluma360.com/news/9307583-181/bikeshare-coming-to-sonoma-county
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The vacant lot next to Santa Rosa’s downtown train station is being sold to a developer with plans for a highly anticipated transit-oriented housing and commercial center.
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, which begins service on Friday, has agreed to sell its 5.4-acre property west of the Railroad Square station to ROEM Development Corp. of Santa Clara for $5.75 million.
The deal inked Tuesday calls for the sale to be finalized only after the developer wins necessary approvals from the city for the $85 million project, which could include several hundred residential units.
The sale agreement was structured with payments required at key junctures over 28 months to motivate ROEM to move forward with the project quickly, said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager.
“We didn’t want an open-ended contract,” Mansourian said. “We want to see shovels in the ground. We want action.”
The deal could pave the way for the single largest rail-oriented housing and commercial development in Sonoma County. The property and neighboring land that is the site of a former brick cannery building have been eyed for more than a decade as prime downtown development opportunities.
Read more at: SMART selling land near downtown Santa Rosa station to housing developer | The Press Democrat
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The developer of a large apartment complex in downtown Santa Rosa is hoping for permission to pack even more apartments into the project.
Rick Derringer won approval in May to build 185 apartments on a large industrial property along the railroad tracks in the city’s West End neighborhood.
His four-story DeTurk Winery Village project was already one of the largest apartment projects planned for the downtown area. Now he’s hoping to add more units into the project, boosting the number of proposed apartments by 30 percent to 240.
Derringer is holding a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the DeTurk Round Barn to discuss his proposed changes.
“The city wants density and affordability, and this project provides more density and affordability,” Derringer said.
The project has undergone several iterations in the more than a decade since Derringer acquired the property. The effort has been complicated — and controversial — in part because it involves reuse of a historic building.
Read more at: Developer seeks to add units to downtown Santa Rosa apartment project | The Press Democrat