Capdiamont\’s Weblog

NA Guest: Time for Supervisor Arnold to help agriculture by backing freight trains
Thursday 8 May 2008, 06:47
Filed under: Marin, NCRA, Novato, Railroad, SMART

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 12:06 PM PDT

The issues surrounding the Railroad here in Novato continue to come up in our local media.

I certainly understand this is a controversial issue, but the most important thing to me is that the public is armed with all the factual information.

A recent newspaper article regarding milk prices quoted Supervisor Judy Arnold as having said, “But someone has yet to explain to me the economics of bringing grain from the central Valley to Novato on a rail that runs north and south. I don’t understand where the savings comes from.”

For the benefit of Supervisor Arnold and the public here is the explanation: First, the railroad tracks split in the same place that Highway 101 and Highway 37 do and the tracks head due east.

This is where the grain will be coming from, places such as Nebraska and Iowa.

Secondly, the economics are very simple: trains are a much more efficient and economical way to transfer freight. A big truck can only bring about 25 tons per load while a train can bring thousands of tons at a time. Not only is this a cheaper way to bring feed here, it will also take a very large number of trucks off the road which will lessen traffic congestion and lower the amount of exhaust that pollutes our air.

The city of Novato prides itself in becoming more environmentally friendly and green; it makes sense to use the railroad to help achieve this.

Third, the economic benefits go well beyond savings for those of us in agriculture. Many goods will be transported by these trains. Jobs will be created in Novato as businesses recognize the value of the efficiencies rail freight will create. The tax base will increase and the city coffers will expand.

For those who would like more detail, and for Supervisor Arnold’s review, please see the letter I sent to the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 10, 2007. Here is the link to that letter for anyone who would like to read it.

I believe that both freight and SMART will benefit from each other and work well together. There is no need for anyone to try to drive a wedge in between two organizations—SMART and NCRA—which can work together to achieve the mutual goal, which is the best use of the tracks. Both NCRA’s 1989 enabling legislation and SMART’s 2002 enabling legislation mandate the restoration of both passenger service and freight service on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad line. Assembly Bill 2224 by Joe Nation states, among other things, “The district (SMART) shall work with the NCRA, the (Federal Railroad Administration), and any of its successor agencies to achieve safe, efficient, and compatible operations of both passenger rail and freight service along the rail line in Sonoma and Marin Counties.”

As such, one could interpret Supervisor Arnold’s recent request of the SMART Board to take a public stand against the resumption of freight service as contrary to state law.

If freight and SMART work together, general track maintenance would then be shared by two companies instead of just one having to foot the whole bill.

I think this is a great opportunity for Supervisor Arnold to show her leadership and join the agricultural and business communities in supporting freight service.

Both Novato and Marin will reap the economic benefit.

Dominic Grossi is President of the Marin County Farm Bureau.

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