Novato resident wants to stop SMART train project

December 9, 2010 7:56:54 PM PST
There are more troubles for a North Bay commuter rail line. Voters passed a tax to build a rail line that was supposed to stretch from Larkspur to Cloverdale, but there is not enough money to do the whole job, so the board wants to only build the section from San Rafael to Santa Rosa and some voters now say they want their money back.

The old Northwestern Pacific rail line tracks are still there, just waiting for trains to roll between Larkspur and Cloverdale. Cloverdale has a 12-year-old train depot, built just for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train. But, facing a $345 million budget shortfall, the SMART board voted last month to shrink the route, leaving Cloverdale's station to gather more cobwebs. Instead of the original 70 miles between Cloverdale and the Larkspur ferry terminal, they voted for a 39-mile route between Santa Rosa and the Marin civic center, just miles short of San Rafael's downtown transit center.

Novato resident John Parnell is furious, and thinks that is grounds for repealing the quarter-cent sales tax voters approved to pay for it. He has founded repealsmart.org to make it happen.

"I don't want them to build half a train, I don't want our two counties to pay this much money for the next 20 years for something that is worthless so I think the only way to go about doing it is to repeal the measure we passed two years ago," Parnell said.

SMART board chair and Windsor vice mayor Debora Fudge is not impressed.

"There's still so much support for the train I don't think a repeal would get much traction at all," she said.

Like Cloverdale, Windsor also has a new train depot, built four years ago.

SMART will require a $215 million bond early next year to build the current project.

Marin County Board of Supervisors President Judy Arnold is also on the SMART board. She abstained from the vote on the shorter route and she has authored a supervisors' letter to SMART demanding more financial details. She also wants to know how riders will get from the civic center to San Rafael's transit center.

"In that letter we say before you go out for bonding we want answers to all these questions," she said.

SMART says it will have more financial details available for Arnold next week.


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