SMART constructs first phase of railway

Tired of being stuck in traffic? The Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit is currently being built to connect the Sonoma and Marin counties in order to create an energy-efficient, green alternative to cars. Also known as the SMART, it will create less traffic on Highway 101 which has been a problem throughout the Sonoma and Marin counties.

“Tracks have been repaved and built for 17 miles, starting from Guerneville Road in Northern Santa Rosa to D Street in Petaluma,” said Matt Stevens, SMART’s community relations manager. “Also, five foundations for platforms have been built throughout that route.” 

Phase one is a 38.5-mile route that will connect Downtown San Rafael to North Santa Rosa. An additional phase has been planned which would complete a 70-mile route that would go from Cloverdale to Larkspur. 

According to Stevens, the Phase One stations include two in Santa Rosa at the historic Railroad Square and Guerneville Road, one in Rohnert Park at Rohnert Park Expressway, one in Cotati at East Cotati Avenue and one in Downtown Petaluma. 

There will be two more stations created in Phase One at the Marin Civic Center and Downtown San Rafael. 

One of the main goals of the SMART is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The SMART train is estimated to reduce greenhouse gases by 31 million pounds each year. This does not include emissions that will be reduced by strengthening the overall transit network, and by the bicycle and pedestrian pathway. 

The SMART train is also being built to operate at a noise level that will be similar to that of a typical transit bus. Overall the SMART is being built to be environmentally friendly, and could end up being a “smart” transportation option for citizens of the Sonoma and Marin counties. 

The rail cars for the SMART train are composed of self-propelled Diesel Multiple Units. These rail cars are expected to be environmentally friendly, comfortable and reliable. They received a top technical score at a low price. 

Measure Q was passed by 70 percent of the voters in Sonoma and Marin counties in 2008, which sparked the production of the fuel-efficient train that would connect the two counties. 

The measure was a quarter cent sales tax implemented to help fund the project. 

In 2012, the SMART’s Board of Directors was awarded a $103 million construction contract. Bonds were also issued to raise $171 million towards the project. Also, 1,000 jobs were created to help improve a receding economy once the project began. 

According to Stevens, SMART train construction began on July 7, 2012 in Santa Rosa at Guerneville Road. The SMART is scheduled to become serviceable to the public sometime between 2015 and 2016.

“I think the SMART train could have a very positive effect on all of Sonoma County when it is finished,” said Rohnert Park Mayor Pam Stafford. 

“It could be a while. It should help with traffic and with the casino opening this year, we will definitely have traffic issues.” 

The SMART will create a reliable mode of public transportation for students at Sonoma State University. 

“I think it will really connect the North Bay with the rest of the Bay Area and it will help students get from point A to point B,” said student Libby Cunningham. 

“It will hopefully attract more people to see what the North Bay has to offer.”  

As construction continues, it is likely that more students will become aware of it and be able to use it as an environmental friendly form of transportation. 

As for now the SMART train continues to be built, and will be up and functioning between 2015 and 2016.