Friday, November 27, 2015

SMART needs another $600 million to fully realize its vision

SMART needs another $600 million to fully realize its vision

The total price tag for the proposed 70-mile SMART train route, including train stations, is currently projected to be around $1 billion.
By Tom Gogola
The tracks are laid, the cars are here—but the train stations?
As the highly anticipated Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) service rolls down the line to a late 2016 opening, an October document released by SMART indicates it will eventually need an additional $120 million to fully develop nine stations along a 43-mile “Phase I” route from San Rafael to Airport Road in Santa Rosa.
The station funds are a piece of the $600 million SMART needs to raise to realize the vision of the rail as a sleek, green and efficient alternative to unrelenting congestion on Highway 101 for commuters in Marin and Sonoma counties.
The SMART project list includes another $124 million for a promised bike and pedestrian parkway along the tracks; $11 million for a presently unidentified second station in Petaluma; $42 million for a Larkspur track extension; and, eventually, $178 million for the Phase II SMART extension, about 25 miles of track north to Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.
The station build-out has reached a new phase. On Nov. 17, contractors poured the top layer of concrete for a station in San Rafael and were headed north once they finished.
“This really marks the beginning of the station-finish process,” says Matt Stevens, community education and outreach manager at SMART.
The head of the rail district says the $120 million represents station enhancements that would take place over the next 25 years, as he stresses that the document in question is a planning document requested by the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“We are building the stations from downtown San Rafael to the airport,” says SMART general manager Farhad Mansourian. He insists that the money to build the stations in time for late 2016 is available now. “Absolutely. By the time we finish our project, we’ll have spent just under $500 million for the entire system of 43 to 45 miles.”
The station designs were approved by the SMART board of directors earlier this year. According to a report from the May 6 board meeting, the approval came with a board request for a range of improvements that totaled $12 million across the system. Those are listed as “unfunded requested improvements” in SMART documents.
Marin and Sonoma County residents voted to support Measure Q in 2008, which imposed a quarter-cent sales tax for 20 years to fund SMART’s construction, and which has sent over $200 million SMART’s way, according to revenue estimates. SMART has pieced together multiple revenue sources to supplement Measure Q.
Based on information contained in the Oct. 21 planning document, the total price tag will approach
$1 billion by the time the 70-mile system  is complete. The additional $120 million for station 
Read the full article in the Pacific Sun HERE
Richard Hall of  Remarks:

  • Glad to see somewhat objective reporting from the Pacific Sun, I have yet to see this reported on by either the IJ or the Press Democrat despite forwarding them both the documents.
  • Good to read this statement affirming SMART is approaching a "price tag" of $1 billion...

    "Based on information contained in the Oct. 21 planning document, the total price tag will approach $1 billion by the time the 70-mile system  is complete." 

    However Mike Arnold and I peg the total price tag as easily beyond $1bn and nearer $1.5bn. We have a records request due today from Farhad / SMART (if they don't deliver today they are late).
  • Neither the IJ or the Press Democrat have touched upon this additional $695m (not $600m as reported) in funding asks from SMART to complete the line originally promised
  • The bike lobby is clearly screwed over, the promised multi-use path is clearly unfunded, now estimated at $124m (instead of $91m from prior estimates). Arguably SMART, that only passed by a narrow margin, would not have passed without promising this path; now they've reneged on that promise.
  • The $120m additional for stations is dismissed by SMART's spokesman Matt Stevens as the "station finish process" or by Farhad as a "wishlist" of improvements for MTC. Puhhhlease!
  • The Petaluma station is interesting as it appears to show SMART is actually exacerbating sprawl, opening up development on land previously off limits or beyond the "urban land boundary". Why else would Pacific Lumber offer the land at Cornerstone up for free for a station if not so that then their adjacent land value becomes higher in value and more attractive to developers.
  • Of course any such development would go through the "full public process" - I think we all know how that works by now! The argument for development is alluded to since the station site is so close to the (now vacant?) Firemans Fund offices.
  • Sadly once again the media references the train in paragraph 2 as a "green and efficient alternative" clearly they are not in possession of the facts about diesel trains and ridership, or low emissions of cars - I submitted an op ed explaining that this narrative doesn't fit the facts that hopefully an outlet with integrity will publish.

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