Marin County supervisor Judy Arnold shows her true colors. She will only support SMART if it helps to KILL freight/NCRA. All gloves are off now.
MIJ: Judy Arnold: SMART urged to fight freight
Article Launched: 03/26/2008 12:03:53 AM PDT
THE REVISED cumulative impacts report by Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has some new facts that are critically important to the northern part of Novato and all of Sonoma County.
It strikes me after reading the report that freight is preventing SMART from providing superior passenger rail service for Marin and Sonoma.
The most important point is that if SMART wants to run the light Diesel Multiple Units that it proposes for passenger service, it must obtain a Federal Rail Authority waiver. It would also be subject to California Public Utilities Commission approval.
A federal waiver is required because SMART is running on the same track as freight service (up to 32 trains a week).
Waivers historically have been granted “only under the condition of time separation, which limits freight operations to hours during which passenger trains are not in operation, precluding passenger-freight meets.” A “meet” is when two trains running in opposite directions move by each other, with one on a siding.
The report goes on to state that the Federal Rail Authority would likely only consider a waiver with the application of time separation or a new technology known as positive train control.
A PTC system is a computer-based information and braking control system using a Global Positioning System. This is especially important on single-track systems like that proposed for Novato. However, the Federal Rail Authority has not yet authorized the use of positive train control systems.
If SMART wants to use light DMUs it must either:
- Obtain a federal waiver to run light DMUs with strict time separation, which would likely mean the elimination of a midday train allowing time for midday freight service between the SMART morning and evening peak periods.
- Or hope the Federal Rail Authority will authorize the use of positive train control, which hasn’t happened yet.
Residents now are faced with heavy diesel freight trains, some as long as 60 cars, with loud horns running through their neighborhoods into the night. Many residents have grave concerns about the impact of freight.
In the last SMART election, 56 percent of Novato voters supported the passenger rail system because of the ever-increasing traffic congestion on Highway 101. I hear from more and more Novatans who can’t get in and out of town. Business owners tell me their customers can’t get to them easily. The impact on the environment from cars idling in freeway traffic jams also is of great concern.
Because of these facts, I have decided that I will support SMART, but only if the SMART board takes a public stand against the resumption of freight service. I am not willing to turn my back on Novato residents north of Highway 37.
If we did not have to accommodate freight, which already has failed repeatedly under past operators, SMART could run light diesel units, which are environmentally superior and quieter.
It is possible to stop the North Coast Rail Authority and its operator, NWP. We elect the policy makers who grant the rail authority its funding, such as our North Bay state legislators and federal congressional representatives. We can tell them we don’t want our public dollars to subsidize a private company. If the state and federal money dries up, the NCRA can’t survive.
I call on the SMART board to join with me in this effort and end the strained “arranged marriage” it has with the North Coast Rail Authority.
If this happens, I ask Novato to join me in embracing the SMART ballot measure in November with a light diesel system that will add another mode of travel in the Highway 101 corridor of Marin and Sonoma.
And in two years (after a demonstration project is up and running), we can supplement the light rail system with the addition of personalized rapid transit and really put a dent in our oil dependence.
Judy Arnold represents the Novato area on the Marin Board of Supervisors.