Capdiamont\’s Weblog


Marin Judge issues injunction, one project affected on railroad
Sunday 27 Jan 2008, 11:03
Filed under: NCRA, Railroad

NCJ posted it 1st with ruling. NCRA says it will only affect one project due to cut off date moved to 7 Jan 2008. One has to wonder with fiscal stability of Novato is questioned, Novato government agency’s now having to pay for garbage service, Highway 101 closed at the Sonoma-Marin county line for 9 hours due to flooding of a creek this past week, and yet we want to pay for a lawsuit to delay or kill the rail line? Home sells/prices down in Marin(free hybrid car with home purchase). Mass exodus of jobs from Marin is worst in state. Oh yeah don’t forget as pointed out in a letter to the editor of MIJ the connection of the train with reducing traffic, and yet traffic is a major concern.

Things are not as rosy down there as NCJ would have you believe. The problem that people are not looking at is when you delay work on the railroad, it makes it more expensive to restore, even if you only want the SMART or other passenger trains.

MIJ:

Setback for Novato rail project
Joe Wolfcale
Article Launched: 01/24/2008 11:42:29 PM PST

The North Coast Rail Authority must halt all construction associated with its attempt to bring rail service to Novato, a Marin County judge said Thursday.

Judge James Ritchie, upholding much of his preliminary ruling, concluded that the Ukiah-based rail agency violated California Environmental Quality Act guidelines in moving forward with the project and that an environmental analysis must be completed for work launched after Jan. 7.

“The city is very pleased with the outcome,” said City Attorney Jeff Walter.

The merits of the case will be heard Feb. 26.

Christopher Neary, the rail authority’s Willits-based attorney, said the Jan. 7 date affects only one contract. The city urged the date be set at Oct. 15, a move that would have affected a number of contracts.

“In his tentative ruling, that would have prohibited us from getting reimbursed on (other) contracts, a monumental impact on us,” Neary said. “We appreciate the fact that the judge took the time to think things through, reason it out and come to the decision he did,” Neary said.

“It will be a relatively minor impact on us.”

In his ruling Judge Ritchie said the rail authority may have violated environmental laws by filing disputed notices of exemption before
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project approval, and by entering into contracts and allowing work to begin before environmental analysis.

Ritchie said the rail agency was attempting to skirt the law by claiming an analysis was not necessary for the construction work itself, but only for the operation of the railway.

Ritchie said the entire project, whether broken up geographically, by phases of construction and operation, or otherwise – must be considered in an environmental analysis.

“That’s essentially what we’ve been saying all along,” Novato City Manager Dan Keen said.

Neary said he believes the rail agency followed proper procedures.

The judge emphasized in his seven-page ruling that no conclusions have been reached as to whether the railway expansion is appropriate or not.

The city filed suit Sept. 28, saying freight trains in Novato could pose traffic problems, safety hazards and noise and that the rail agency needed to complete an environmental report. The judge denied the city’s request for a temporary restraining order, allowing the agency to continue construction.

Officials are preparing a $2.4 million report on the rail plan and it should be available in May, outlining impacts of a plan that could send as many as 32 trains, each pulling up to 60 cars, through Novato every week at speeds of up to 40 mph.

SR Democrat:

Setback for Novato rail project
Joe Wolfcale
Article Launched: 01/24/2008 11:42:29 PM PST

The North Coast Rail Authority must halt all construction associated with its attempt to bring rail service to Novato, a Marin County judge said Thursday.

Judge James Ritchie, upholding much of his preliminary ruling, concluded that the Ukiah-based rail agency violated California Environmental Quality Act guidelines in moving forward with the project and that an environmental analysis must be completed for work launched after Jan. 7.

“The city is very pleased with the outcome,” said City Attorney Jeff Walter.

The merits of the case will be heard Feb. 26.

Christopher Neary, the rail authority’s Willits-based attorney, said the Jan. 7 date affects only one contract. The city urged the date be set at Oct. 15, a move that would have affected a number of contracts.

“In his tentative ruling, that would have prohibited us from getting reimbursed on (other) contracts, a monumental impact on us,” Neary said. “We appreciate the fact that the judge took the time to think things through, reason it out and come to the decision he did,” Neary said.

“It will be a relatively minor impact on us.”

In his ruling Judge Ritchie said the rail authority may have violated environmental laws by filing disputed notices of exemption before
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project approval, and by entering into contracts and allowing work to begin before environmental analysis.

Ritchie said the rail agency was attempting to skirt the law by claiming an analysis was not necessary for the construction work itself, but only for the operation of the railway.

Ritchie said the entire project, whether broken up geographically, by phases of construction and operation, or otherwise – must be considered in an environmental analysis.

“That’s essentially what we’ve been saying all along,” Novato City Manager Dan Keen said.

Neary said he believes the rail agency followed proper procedures.

The judge emphasized in his seven-page ruling that no conclusions have been reached as to whether the railway expansion is appropriate or not.

The city filed suit Sept. 28, saying freight trains in Novato could pose traffic problems, safety hazards and noise and that the rail agency needed to complete an environmental report. The judge denied the city’s request for a temporary restraining order, allowing the agency to continue construction.

Officials are preparing a $2.4 million report on the rail plan and it should be available in May, outlining impacts of a plan that could send as many as 32 trains, each pulling up to 60 cars, through Novato every week at speeds of up to 40 mph.

NA:

Partial injunction issued against repairing railroad tracks

By Tim Omarzu
Managing Editor
Saturday, January 26, 2008 9:24 AM PST

Both sides were declaring victory Thursday afternoon, after Marin Superior Court Judge James R. Ritchie issued a preliminary injunction partially stopping work on freight train tracks that run through Novato.

The city of Novato sought the injunction against the North Coast Railroad Authority, which is in the process of repairing a 62-mile stretch of tracks between Lombard, in Napa County, and Windsor, in Sonoma County so that freight trains can run in the summer.

The city’s suit argues that the railroad authority needs to complete an environmental impact report, or EIR, for its entire 316 miles of track between Humboldt Bay and Marin and Sonoma Counties before doing any repair work.

Judge Ritchie will hear the case in full on Feb. 26.

In the meantime, the judge ruled that construction work that was already underway as of Jan. 7 could continue, but that the railroad authority can’t issue any other contracts prior to the Feb. 26 hearing.

“The harm alleged in the (city’s lawsuit) apparently would arise from the operation of trains, not from the construction work itself,” Judge Ritchie wrote.

The railroad authority’s attorney, Christopher J. Neary, said, “This is a triumph for us, because it allows us to proceed with all the contracts that were awarded.”

Contractors will continue to install crossing signals, repair bridges and dewater a flooded area in southern Sonoma County, said Mitch Stogner, the railroad authority’s executive director.

The ruling will delay the railroad authority from awarding a $9 million contract to repair the railroad track itself, including the tracks, railroad ties and “ballast,” or rock and slag foundation on which the tracks rest, Stogner said.

The railroad authority argues that it has the right to repair the 60 miles of track without performing a California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, analysis.

But the judge’s ruling that said “It … appears that NCRA was attempting to avoid conducting CEQA review by claiming that an environmental impact report was not necessary for the construction work itself, but was necessary only for the planned operation of the railway. Instead, the “whole” project — whether broken up geographically, by phases of construction of operation, or otherwise — must be considered in CEQA analysis.”

City manager Dan Keen felt vindicated by that section of the Ritchie’s ruling and predicted that the city would prevail on Feb. 26.

“NCRA could have avoided this, they could have done CEQA (analysis),” Keen said.

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