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