Sonoma-Marin area Rail Transit District,North Coast Rail Authority make safety agreement

SONOMA (KGO) -- The Sonoma-Marin area Rail Transit District unanimously voted to approve an agreement with North Coast Rail Authority on safety concerns.

Several months ago the excitement over SMART rail service from downtown San Rafael to Sonoma County Airport came to a halt when the rail transit district became aware of freight cars carrying liquid petroleum gas.

"It was an issue because we hadn't been notified that they were going to show up," said Debora Fudge, the chair of the SMART Board of Directors.

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Residents who live near the tracks say they're concerned about safety.

"It's kind of scary because one time I thought I was seeing smoke coming out of them," one resident told ABC7 News.

SMART owns the rail in certain areas but the freight company has areas where it's allowed to operate beyond SMART's rail system.

"These cars are proven to be safe any accidents that have happened with them have happened because of high-speed derailments," said Douglas Bosco, the General Counsel for Northwestern Pacific Railroad.

A new proposed agreement states that SMART alone with local responding agencies, like the fire department, will be notified about the freight cars location.

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Under the agreement, the North Coast Railroad Authority will also assume the risk and liability for transporting and storing the hazardous material.

The agreement has the full support of the SMART Board of Directors. "This really eases SMART's safety concerns about them being located in that area," said Bosco.

But the Sonoma County Supervisor, Susan Gormin is not as confident. "It is destructive to a tourism economy, the businesses that operate there, to agricultural folks," said Gormin.

All but one member of the SMART Board of Director attended Wednesday's vote.
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