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SMART weighs rail-car options | PressDemocrat.com | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA
Sunday 22 Feb 2009, 03:32
Filed under: Northwestern Pacific Railroad, Railroad, SMART, transit

SMART weighs rail-car options | PressDemocrat.com | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA.

In the next two weeks, the SMART committee and planners will take day trips to gauge operations of systems in San Diego and to Portland, Ore., which are representative of light- and heavy-rail vehicles.

“A lot of the subsequent planning and design work that SMART has to engage in to develop a rail system starts with the vehicle type,” said Lillian Hames, SMART’s executive director.

The North Coast Transit District in San Diego is a light-rail system, using cars produced by Siemens, a German company with an assembly facility in Sacramento.

Light-rail cars are popular in Europe. They are made of lighter materials such as aluminum and fiberglass and have automobile-style crash impact zones built in.

U.S. rail authorities, however, don’t allow them to be on the tracks used the same time as freight trains.

“One of the benefits of the light is it is off-the-shelf technology,” said John Nemeth, SMART’s rail planning manager. “Most of these companies we are looking at have manufacturing facilities in the U.S. They are already running these, and you know how it performs.”

SMART’s consultant, LTK Engineering Services of Portland, Oregon, is expected to make a recommendation in the spring on heavy versus light rail. SMART is expected to go to bid a year later.

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