Once again, SMART rail planners try to raid bike/ped funds:
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials are seeking $6.6 million in federal funds to buy more train cars, money that otherwise would be used for local pedestrian and bicycle paths.
“SMART is committed to go to Cloverdale and to Larkspur and as you go farther, you need more vehicles,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager.
SMART’s request is drawing fire from bicycle advocates because the rail agency would be taking the lion’s share of $9.9 million that Sonoma County is getting for such projects as bike lanes, sidewalk improvements, traffic lights, Safe Routes to Schools programs and even construction of SMART’s own pedestrian and bicycle path.
“It would mean that most jurisdictions would have to put off implementing most of their bike-pedestrian plans for five years, at least,” said Sandra Lupien, outreach director for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.
The coalition has been a staunch supporter of SMART but is strongly opposing this bid. “We don’t understand how it makes sense for one train set to take two-thirds of the funding for the entire network,” Lupien said.
This problem all stems from a very ill-advised decision by SMART to custom-design FRA-compliant railcars. Compared to the global price, the SMART DMU’s will be nearly twice as expensive. And the decision to run under FRA rules adds huge cost; for example: the $12 million spent on the quiet zones. It would be one thing if SMART needed the $6.6 million to cover legitimate shortfalls. But in this case, it is to pay for self-inflicted problems.
And here again, we see the downsides to Buy-America rules on railcars. $6.6 million taxdollars could be used to hire local Sonoma contractors to build bike-paths for local Sonoma bike riders. SMART instead would send that money to subsidize jobs out in Illinois, which does nothing for the local California economy.