Rains expose possible flooding issue along SMART tracks

PETALUMA, Calif. (KGO) -- Recent rain has knocked plans for a major railroad project in the North Bay off-track.

All that water actually washed away some of the SMART-train track beds in Marin and Sonoma counties and this could point to potential problems down the line.

In Marin and Sonoma County, the half billion dollar future Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transt railroad is always under a microscope. When finished in two years it will ease congestion along Highway 101, but even the best-laid plans sometimes need adjustments.

When put in the context of a 70-mile railroad that hasn't begun service, a waterlogged section track near Petaluma at Ely Road hardly represents an end of the world. But a photo of the very same spot on Dec. 11 shows the tracks hidden beneath feet of water.

Chris Muelrath snapped a photo of SMART train tracks underwater on Dec. 11 after severe weather hit the Bay Area.

Chris Muelrath

Chris Muelrath snapped the photo of the tracks underwater on Dec. 11. He works nearby and notes that if the future SMART railroad doesn't want future service interruptions, it needs to find a solution.

"They have a pipe that goes underneath and they have tried it several times, but it washes out pretty good," he said.

SMART rail engineer Gregg Jennings inspected the damage Monday.

"It's low and it backs up," Jennings said.

The track runs through a flood plane and officials knew about it in advance.

The question is if this happened once, it can happen again and what can be done to prevent future disruptions.

"We are looking at what we saw compared with what we calculated, and they we will decide what to do," Jennings said.

In the meantime, SMART is putting a positive spin on this.

"It's a learning experience," Jennifer Welch, a spokesperson for SMART said. "Trains are not running yet, so this is something we will pay attention to."

Better now, than two years from now with passengers coming through.
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