Bay Area’s SMART Leaves Businesses Out of Loop

by Matt Brown, McClatchy : govtech – excerpt

As the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit builds the tracks for commuter service, businesses along the line are upset at losing direct access to freight service, which can increase property values and save shipping costs.

… The Lagunitas Brewing line is one of a handful of rail spurs that have been shut off as SMART builds the tracks for commuter service. Businesses along the line are upset at losing direct access to freight service, which can increase property values and save shipping costs.

SMART says some spurs need to disappear to meet federal safety guidelines. The rail authority is upgrading some spurs that serve legitimate businesses but can’t afford to restore all the switches.

The issue highlights the challenges of operating a passenger rail system on a corridor shared with freight service and the competing interests and constituents of each…

SMART, which owns the right-of-way, is building the $427 million commuter rail system from San Rafael to Airport Boulevard north of Santa Rosa. It has an agreement with the North Coast Railroad Authority, the public agency that oversees freight service on the line, to restore spurs to businesses that need them, said Farhad Mansourian, SMART general manager.

After laying dormant for a decade, freight rail restarted in 2011 from Windsor to Schellville, where trains connect with other lines heading east. At the time, property owners along the line expressed interest in connecting to the freight network.

“The agreement was that if it was a bona fide business, they get a connection,” Mansourian said. “We are in full support of getting businesses connected to our freight provider. We see each other as partners.”

Businesses that want a rail spur and were not included in the original agreement can ask SMART to install one at the company’s cost, Mansourian said…

The same advantages — a reduced carbon footprint from getting drivers out of their cars — helped sell commuter rail to voters in Sonoma and Marin counties in 2008.

“The public would benefit from getting trucks off the road,” Kantock said. “People should be just as excited about freight rail as they are about passenger rail.”… (more)

Who has the right of way on the rails? Must government  choose between passengers and freight or should they compromise and serve both?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s