Capdiamont\’s Weblog

Judge in Novato vs NCRA approves settlement
Monday 3 Nov 2008, 11:34
Filed under: Marin, NCRA, Novato, Railroad

Thirteen months after it started, it is dead. The next hurtle for the NCRA is to get the funding from the CTC extended. It is expected that since this is just an extension of already approved funding, that this too will be approved. However expect much opposition in this too.

MIJ: Judge OK’s lawsuit settlement over freight trains

By Brent Ainsworth

Feed for farm animals, building materials, wood products and cases of wine could be hauled on Novato’s railroad tracks by the middle of next year after a judge Monday approved a lawsuit settlement.

Marin Superior Court Judge James Ritchie dismissed the suit filed by the city of Novato against the North Coast Rail Authority after both parties last week agreed to settle the case. Novato had sued the NCRA in 2007 over environmental issues.

Mitch Stogner of the NCRA said Monday that the company leasing the tracks, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co., will haul bulk goods such as rock, sand, gravel, wood and feed as well as some general merchandise such as wine.

First, the NCRA must repair and upgrade 62 miles of track that run from Windsor in Sonoma County south through Novato and east to Napa. Once the work is finished, trains will run through Novato at approximately 40 mph on no more than six one-way trips per week during daytime hours only.

Track and bridge repairs, upgrades and flood control work will take four to six months, Stogner said. More than 50,000 railroad ties and 60,000 tons of ballast for the tracks will be replaced. The NCRA is meeting this week to consider the awarding of contracts.

The freight trains will not stop in Novato, Stogner said.
As part of the lawsuit settlement, the NCRA agreed to install equipment and landscaping to ensure safety and make the railway as environmentally friendly as possible.

SR PD: Marin judge approves freight rail settlement


A Marin County judge on Monday approved the settlement in a lawsuit that has blocked the return of freight rail service to Sonoma County.

Superior Court Judge James Ritchie ratified last week’s agreement between the city of Novato and North Coast Railroad Authority, the Ukiah-based agency that plans to restore freight service on the Northwestern Pacific line.

Novato sued NCRA last year, charging the rail authority failed to consider environmental impacts of train traffic in the city.

Under terms of the $1.3 million settlement, NCRA will create “quiet zones” at 13 rail crossings in Novato, use low-emission locomotives and take other steps to ease impacts on the city. NCRA also will pay Novato’s legal costs.

The rail authority is completing $50 million in repairs to the route between Napa and Windsor, said Mitch Stogner, NCRA’s executive director. Train service could resume as early as next spring, he said.


1 Comment

As a lawyer, I’ve been following this suit since its inception. I’ve been very critical of it the action, as it was essentially pointless, given the federal preemption of interstate transportation issues. I had occasion to get the “inside scoop” on it just the other day from a member of the Novato city council and was rather amazed.

It turns out, the Novato city council decided to sue the NCRA over their environmental impact report because they feared that the SMART ballot measure would not pass. They hoped that they would be able to settle with NCRA for an agreement to provide “quite zones” at the Novato grade crossings (essentially, two), quieter welded rails and secure other concessions such as fencing around the right of way. Now, these things were already planned in the SMART development, but the city council figured that if SMART DIDN’T PASS, they would have no chance to twist the NCRA’s arm on these points. They filed the suit as a pretext to extort these concessions from the get-go. They would have realized them in any event, if SMART passes, but didn’t want to take the chance. The cost to the taxpayers for the lawsuit alone was somewhere around six or eight hundred thousand grand. …Go figure!

Comment by Bob Cleek

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