Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Couple of Rail letters in MIJ
Monday 12 May 2008, 06:52
Filed under: Marin, NCRA, Railroad, SMART

Train station and children

Marla Fields and Annan Paterson support a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station at Hamilton (Marin Voice, May 7). They envision a reduction of vehicle traffic in the neighborhood. However, it seems more likely that traffic will increase, not decrease.

Fields and Paterson say that kids will be safer, but in fact the stepped-up volume of auto and bus traffic will pose a worse hazard than school children now face. After all, although a train station would deposit some people in Hamilton who might otherwise have driven, it also will draw autos and buses in that currently don’t enter the neighborhood.

One of the main talking points of SMART supporters usually is that southbound traffic on Highway 101 will be lessened, in particular through the area between Novato and San Rafael, a corridor plagued by severe backups. So how will Novato drivers get onto SMART? If the station is placed in Hamilton, all those vehicles will channel through Hamilton’s two access roads, posing a significant hazard to children as they walk or cycle to school. In addition, Golden Gate Transit’s routes will no doubt be altered to bring large and potentially dangerous buses into the neighborhood.

Rather than making kids safe, a SMART station would endanger Hamilton’s school children.

Will Meecham, Hamilton resident

How to resolve rail issues

Mike Arnold continues to mischaracterize the state-mandated working relationship between Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit
and the North Coast Rail Authority, a relationship necessary to ensure cooperation between the two governmental agencies that must share the rails (April 7, Marin Voice). Concerns exist about freight’s resumption that need addressing, but not by driving a wedge between SMART and NCRA, nor by lawsuit.

Alternative? Two years ago, Novato Councilman Jim Leland offered up an approach to what appeared to be an impasse. Neighboring residents of Todd Road in Hamilton became pitted against the wetlands restoration project because of truck traffic along Todd Road, the project’s only access. Leland proposed a process termed interest-based negotiation; stakeholders in a dispute sit down, put their interests on the table and build consensus toward a workable solution. A working group came into being, charged with the task of reaching consensus on an alternate route (including funding) for the trucks. The group’s hard work bore fruit from its members’ tenacity and mutual respect for each other’s interests.

I recommend this approach to the freight issue and request the same exemplary leadership demonstrated by Leland, Judy Arnold and Peter Theran during the Todds Road dispute.

Lastly, NCRA’s operator (NWP) is small enough to be exempt from any Environmental Protection Agency regulations on locomotives. However, in SMART’s draft supplemental enviromental impact report, NWP proposes using “Non-Road Tier 3” compliant locomotives after operating one year. These locomotives cut in half the particulate matter emitted from conventional ones (Section C.6 page 9 of the report at under “documents”). NCRA and NWP are to be commended for this significant step.

David Porter, Novato


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