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MIJ: Cal Park Hill groundbreaking draws rail backers, foes
Wednesday 24 Sep 2008, 10:02
Filed under: bicycle, Marin, SMART, trails, transit

Over 150 people showed up, only 6 were in opposition.

In review, the operator of the NWP wanted 100ft set back for any trail. This is not set in stone until december. There is many meetings left for your to voice your opinion. There is many trails next to rails, even in California. Thus those same trails would fall under the same PUC as the ones along the NWP.

We will have a slight intermission, for some humor.

Can’t Find Anyone writes “That aside, I live a half mile from the tracks. Trust me I can hear the now rare freight train steam whistles as they cross the numerous roads. Now imagine the impact of SMART all day and freight all night. Quality of life for tens of thousands of people will be trashed so a handful of people can ride the train without helping relieve highway 101 at all (best projections are 0.5% reduction in traffic).

Pretty amazing trick to be able to hear a “freight train steam whistle” That would require a steam locomotive. Diesel locomotives use air horns, not steam.

OldAsDirt has a pretty good reply to those who keep coming up with railroad is old technology.

A road is 2000 year old technology that still does a job, having had improvements in both the surface and the vehicles making use of it. The MTC has no subway plans in the bay area, only surface or elevated, only bridges crossing the bay, none from Marin to SF. Subways are something like 60 times the cost of the SMART construction. SMART (and any other rail line) can be electrified for extra cost at a later date, as documented on their website.

By Mark Prado
Article Launched: 09/24/2008 06:15:10 PM PDT

Opponents and proponents of a Marin-to-Sonoma rail plan ended up in a literal joust with campaign signs before a groundbreaking ceremony for work to reopen the long-closed California Park Hill tunnel.

The $25 million project – more than half the cost funded by state toll dollars and the balance by county funds – will re-open the old rail tunnel between San Rafael and Larkspur for a proposed commuter train and a bike and pedestrian path. Work will be finished by December 2009.

Backers of the $1.6 billion Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit project, which seeks a quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot to support rail via Measure Q, used the groundbreaking as a campaign rally at the site. Supporters marched from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal to the tunnel site – adjacent to Highway 101 – carrying signs and banners.

During the SMART rally near the tunnel, rail opponents tried to hold up their signs near an area where proponents were talking to the crowd. Proponents then tried to stick their “Yes on Q” signs in front of the opponents’ signs.

The jostling for position lasted for the entire 15-minute rally, which drew more than 150 people, all but a half-dozen in favor of the rail plan.

“They said it was their event, well this is a public right of way,” said rail opponent Elena Belsky of San Geronimo, who tussled with SMART supporters and at one point used her elbow to keep a SMART supporter from covering her sign. “They didn’t want to know about freedom of
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speech.”

Said Chris Coursey, publicist for SMART: “There is a small minority of people who are against the train, while a vast majority are for it. That was evident today.”

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, spoke at the SMART rally, saying the train will help solve many issues in the region.

“We will finally give folks an alternative to sitting in highway gridlock in their automobiles,” he said. “We will not only make this a better community and do the right thing for our environment, but we will begin to address the challenge of global warming.”

While rail opponents support re-opening the tunnel, they have issues with the train.

“The cost has been bumped up by millions since 2006. How much more will it go up?” asked Dennis Brown of San Rafael, as he held a “No on Q” sign. “They will ask for more money in a year or two.”

The SMART rally was followed by the county-sponsored groundbreaking.

“A lot of people can use the tunnel: the elderly, children and the disabled,” said Susie Weaver of Transportation Alternatives for Marin. “It’s an advantage for everyone. It’s about creating alternatives.”

The 1,100-foot tunnel – just under a quarter mile – has been closed since the 1980s, when the south end collapsed. A fire in 1990 did further damage. Bikers say the tunnel is a critical part of plans to create a rail link as well as a bike and pedestrian path that connects the transit hub in downtown San Rafael and the Larkspur Landing ferry.

The contractor, Drill Tech Drilling & Shoring Inc. of Antioch, will begin at the north portal and replace all the redwood timber support with steel supports in a horseshoe shape. The tunnel is 30 feet wide, and at its peak is 25 feet high.

The tunnel will be divided, half dedicated to the rail right of way, the other half to bicycle and pedestrian use. A 2002 county study predicted that 800 to 1,000 bike riders and pedestrians would use the path daily.

Even if the SMART tax effort fails on the November ballot, the rail side still would be built, officials said.

“The last 150 feet of the south end has collapsed and that will be a little more challenging,” said Mike Cox, project engineer.

Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@marinij.com

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