Upcoming storm not expected to delay SMART train testing in San Rafael

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Crews are working on shoring up an area at risk for landslides where SMART trains are tested as another storm is expected to hit the Bay Area on Thursday. (KGO-TV)

Crews working on a new train system in the North Bay feel a little chased by the winter rains.

They've been shoring up an area at risk for landslides as another storm heads our way on Thursday. The good news is crews don't expect the upcoming storm to affect or delay their work.

WATCH: AccuWeather Forecast

The winter rains have caused problems getting the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train project back on track in the past.

Last January, a slide in San Rafael sent mud and debris down the hill damaging Los Ranchitos Road in San Rafael and covering part of a tunnel used by the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit.

Since then, SMART trains have stopped being tested through there while crews work to stabilize the lower part of that hillside, along with some smaller slides in that canyon. "We had a brief break in our testing where we were focusing on testing in the northern part of the alignment so it's an opportunity to get in, get this cleared up and get out," chief engineer Bill Gamlen said.

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The canyon is too narrow to allow a train to move through there while heavy equipment is being used.

Crews have moved quickly, placing bolts and plates to secure the hillsides while covering them with a special mesh.

The cost is an added $500,000, which according to the transit agency says should be the responsibility of the contractor.

One San Rafael resident understands unforseen events happen. "That is not abnormal, it's not their fault, so they'll deal with it," San Rafael resident Dwight Steeves said.
"We'll resume in the area mid next week," Gamlen said.

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However, the SMART project has seen delays and escalating costs. "It's something that has been on delay with all these promises, it's not coming to fruition. I think there is a lot of frustration around that," Novato resident Mary Jane Brammer said.

The first part of the project, from Santa Rosa to San Rafael, is still expected to be completed and rolling by late Spring. "Between the train as one alternative to 101, the ability to bring a fair amount of bikes on the train to get that last mile or two, it really provides a nice option," Gamlen said.

The second part which will take people to the Larkspur Ferry terminal is expected to be on line by the end of 2018.
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