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SMART Board Accepts Updated Financial Figures

The cost of the San Rafael-to-Santa Rosa line is $359.9 million and funding is estimated at $360.2 million, but detractors continue to challenge the numbers.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district's board of directors on Wednesday accepted a report containing updated costs and revenues for the commuter train and bike and pedestrian pathway between Santa Rosa and San Rafael.

The report by acting executive director Farhad Mansourian, a Novato resident, will be presented next month for approval of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Mansourian said the MTC wants a balanced financial plan for the 37-mile segment between the downtowns of Santa Rosa and San Rafael before SMART issues bonds for the project. The line would run through Novato and have a station at Hamilton under the current proposal; for the time being because of cost shortfalls but the top priority if more funding is secured.

The balanced financial plan also is required before the MTC considers awarding $10 million in additional grant money for the project. The $10 million would supplement and $3 million from the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. The , but it passed by a narrow and controversial vote.

The cost of the San Rafael-Santa Rosa initial operating segment is $359.9 million, and funding for it is estimated at $360.2 million, under the balanced financial plan.

Voters in Marin and Sonoma counties approved a quarter-cent sales tax hike in 2008 to finance the proposed 70-mile rail line and bike and pedestrian path between Cloverdale and Larkspur.

In December, the SMART board voted to scale back the project to the Santa Rosa-San Rafael segment because of sales tax revenue that was less than expected and other adverse economic conditions.

The board said it hoped to have the rail line and bike and pedestrian path in operation by 2014.

The organization RepealSMART is circulating petitions to ask voters in both counties to repeal the sales tax measure in the June 2012 election. RepealSMART asserts the initial operating segment is not what voters approved three years ago.

Members of RepealSMART again criticized the board of directors Wednesday, calling for a more solid financial plan.

"Proceed carefully so the voters know what they are voting for," Mike Arnold of Novato said.

An equal number of speakers urged the board to proceed with the Santa Rosa-San Rafael segment.

"Do the right thing. We already had the vote. Let's build it," one supporter said.              

Mansourian said building the 37-mile segment would provide nearly 1,000 jobs this fall.

Board members unanimously approved the report by Mansourian and Chief Financial Officer David Heath. They noted that Mansourian's and Heath's figures would be adjusted once bids are received and the board knows what it will cost to build the project.

"We've done enough vetting. It's time to pull the switch and get the train on the tracks," board member Debora Fudge said.

Mansourian told the board most public agencies are realizing 40 percent savings in the current climate of competitive bidding.

"This could be worth tens of millions of dollars in savings," he said in the report. "We assumed an extremely conservative savings of $5 million." 

— Bay City News Service

John Parnell August 18, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Brent - All one needs to do is read the last line of the last slide to know how sound & "acceptable" this financial plan is & if it makes sense. It says "SMART creates & provides local sales tax". No joke. New SMART spin - "give us your sales tax money & we will create more". Huh?!? Is that like Jesus with the fish & wine?
John Parnell August 18, 2011 at 08:38 PM
I’m John Parnell from Novato with RepealSMART. As you know, I have some issues with how things have been going. Maybe not all of you have heard me before, but I voted for this project. Most of those who have been working with me also voted for it. It isn’t the concept I oppose at all, but the delivery. When you decided to deliver half of what we voted for, without thinking to ask us again – that is when you lost me. When your staff & you, the Board, decided that it would be acceptable to forego the ticket-vending machines, as well as violate ADA – that was a big red flag that maybe you should not be in the train business at all. The ticket-vending machines are as essential as the trains, and the fact that you don’t see that, indicates that you are not perhaps qualified to be making these decisions. It is a serious problem. Just as it’s a problem that you think you still have this 70% mandate, despite delivering maybe 50% of this project. You have a very serious HR issue which you need to address. Perhaps you can emergency agendize it in today’s already scheduled HR closed session. Mr. Mansourian told the TAM Board last month that he knew nothing of the cost overruns which you discuss today. But some SMART employees did know of these overruns prior to that (we have the documents), and by not sharing that information with their boss prior to his presentation to TAM, they committed fraud. This has serious legal implications & needs to be addressed.
John Parnell August 18, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Mr. Mansourian says “there’s a new sheriff in town” & he’s here to clean things up. But I’d like to remind everyone here, including Mr. Mansourian, that he is just a temp. He will be gone, as soon as he finds his replacement, which is what he was hired to do. Unless of course he pulls a Dick Cheney & recommends himself for the job, so he can milk the SMART gravy train a bit longer. He is right though…there is a new sheriff in town, but it’s not him. It’s us! Think of us at RepealSMART as your new sheriff, your new, improved Citizens’ Oversight Committee, and your conscience. This project isn’t remotely what we voted for, and therefore we the people should be asked again. Although It shouldn’t be us who is forced to ask the question; but since you won’t, then we must. I would like to see you do the asking though, so the question could be framed a bit differently. Make it a multiple choice ballot: 1.) Bump up the tax to 1/2 % & build what we thought we were getting in the first place 2.) Stay with the Status Quo 3.) Stop the Train, but Build the Path 4.) Stop it all We don’t have the luxury to ask it that way. Our lawyer says that if we did that, you would keep us in the courts & we’d never get to the ballot. But you could ask it this way. I think you should. And not because I’m concerned about us getting the signatures, but just with the way we are limited in asking the question. Thank you. *These were my comments to the Board
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 August 20, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Just call it the Gang Train, where our "leaders" keep on wasting tax payers money and will be connecting the Santa Rosa gangs with the Novato, San Rafael and Marin City gangs. Who is going to ride something with all that future crime. Get out a bullet proof vest and hop on if you dare!
DINAH MATTOS August 22, 2011 at 05:58 PM
You go girl. I'm right behind that train of thought. You left out Rohnert Park and petaluma. Oh yeah...one more. Windsor. They are planning a 400 unit....low income housing project. Sounds like a good idea to them. But we know what will happen to their town in a few years.

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