California Governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. recently signed Assembly Bill 1962, my legislation designed to ensure the timely completion of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system, into law.
In 2002, AB 2224 created the SMART district in Sonoma and Marin counties. In 2008, voters within this district approved the construction of the train and nearly 70 percent passed a funding mechanism through Measure Q. The project they approved is a 70-mile-long sustainable, regional transit system from Cloverdale to Larkspur that would link Sonoma and Marin counties. Along the rail line will be a bike path that links up to the state parks within the region.
Voters also approved the creation of a SMART board comprised of local city council members and members of the boards of supervisors for the respective counties. In becoming law, AB 2224 exempted the district from having to comply with local planning commissions and city councils. Rather, a regional design approach was envisioned.
Over the last two years, SMART’s board of directors has conducted 24 station design workshops. They have solicited feedback from the public and made alterations along the line to comply with the desires of each individual community.
AB 2224 allowed design review boards to have a non-binding, advisory role in the train’s design. This late in the process, this provision no longer benefits the general public and can only be used as a delay tactic to drive up the cost of the train. In February 2012, SMART broke ground in Petaluma, officially entering phase one of the train’s construction. Phase one will see the completion of the line from Santa Rosa down to San Rafael. Phase two, which is expected to begin by 2014, will include the northernmost and southernmost components of the line.
AB 1962 does not remove the public’s input. Rather, it further emphasizes a regional planning approach and ensures that the local leaders that comprise the SMART board of directors are responsible for the train’s completion timeline. This is why the counties of Marin and Sonoma are among the many listed supporters of AB 1962.
What the bill does remove is the last delay tactic available to SMART’s opponents, and ensures that the system is delivered to the public on time and on budget. They have their stated reasons for opposing that system, but the bottom line is that the residents of Marin and Sonoma have demonstrated their overwhelming support for the project, which means jobs, a modern and efficient network of public transportation for the region, and a blueprint for forging stronger links between communities in the two counties.
According to Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie, who wrote a letter in support of AB 1962 in April 2012, “To meet the public’s high expectations for the start of rail service, and to facilitate the efforts of the local jurisdictions to reduce vehicle miles traveled and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that the construction of the SMART system not be disrupted or delayed by the discretionary reviews of local design review boards.
“SMART has a strong record of collaboration with local jurisdictions and will continue to keep the public well-informed and invite local public input where appropriate,” Mackenzie added. “ I am convinced that SMART leadership will continue its practice of inviting reviews of its plans by local jurisdictions and the general public and that AB 1962 will be critical toward the timely completion of this much needed rail system in the North Bay.”
In addition to the supporters listed or quoted above, AB 1962 is also backed by, among others, the Marin Builders Association and mayors Debora Fudge (Windsor) and Gary O. Phillips (San Rafael).
Assemblyman Michael Allen is in a two-person runoff with San Rafael City Council member Marc Levin for the 10th Assembly District, which includes part of Sonoma County. The election is Nov. 6.
Levine also blogs for Patch.