The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
March - April 2006
Marin/Sonoma voters need facts for a SMART decision
Marin and Sonoma voters mustn't decide about the most expensive transportation decision in the counties' history without timely and accurate information.
The proposed Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) would be a public rail service from Cloverdale through Santa Rosa to Larkspur. According to SMART's Oct. 15, 2004 Expenditure Plan, the initial estimated cost for this project is $1.2 billion, but SMART acknowledges that costs have risen, so that it needs to release an updated financial analysis. Particularly important for the Sierra Club Marin Group is that costs must be identified and funding assured - for environmental mitigation of construction impacts on creeks and wetlands and for impacts of operations on neighborhoods.
The SMART Board has scheduled a 20-year 1/4-cent sales-tax measure for this November's ballot. This sales tax would pay for about 54% of SMART's capital and operating costs. State, federal, and local resources, as well as fares, would provide the additional funding. The legal deadline for release of an updated financial projection is Aug. 7, 60 days before the ballot is mailed.
Aug. 7 is also the legal deadline for release of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). There is no question that increased public-transit options bring environmental benefits, but the EIR is also required to fairly weigh how SMART compares to other transit alternatives, including, for the same cost, significantly increased bus service. The Marin Group, however, is concerned that the initial draft of the EIR contained a large number of errors and omissions. (See the Marin Group's 30-page comment on the draft EIR.)
For a project as complex as SMART, errors and omissions are to be expected in the first draft, but the Marin Group believes that in this case they are substantial enough that the public will need more than the legally required minimum time to review the corrected EIR and the updated financial projection. Some SMART Board members, as well, have asked that these documents be released at least 60 days before the Aug. 7 deadline.
The Club has taken no position for or against the project - and we can not do so without reliable information, and without agreement between the Redwood and San Francisco Bay Chapters. Voters also cannot make an informed decision in November without adequate time to review this information. The Club therefore calls on the SMART District to make sure that an adequate and accurate EIR and financial projection are released in a timely manner.
Whether we are train enthusiasts or train doubters, in either case, correct, complete, and timely information is essential. Write to the SMART Board (handwritten letters are best) at:
Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART)
Urge SMART to release the corrected EIR and the updated financial projection to the public at least 60 days before the Aug. 7 deadline.
© 2006 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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