After two votes, the Transportation Authority of Marin approved allocating $8 million in local funds to help close Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit’s $21 million budget gap.
SMART appealed to TAM, as well as the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, for funds to construct the initial rail line and multi-use path from downtown San Rafael to Santa Rosa Railroad Square in April. During the first vote, the TAM board voted 7-7 on the plan.
“SMART promised it would not take local funds,” said Supervisor Susan Adams, who represents San Rafael and voted against the motion. “We have a fiscal responsibility to decide what is best for TAM. We’re not SMART board members.”
After a brief break, when most of the public left, TAM reconvened and Joan Lundstrom of Larkspur decided to change her vote in hopes that a pedestrian bridge over Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the Larkspur Ferry would be possible. The new vote was 8-6.
TAM Chairman Steve Kinsey said the item would be put on the future agenda so the public could be present.
A date for the meeting has not been set for the board to take another vote, TAM Executive Director Dianne Steinhauser said.
The $8 million from TAM is part of a “three-legged beast” that enabled SCTA and MTC to contribute the remaining funds needed to begin construction, according to Steinhauser.
MTC shuffled $22 million in toll funds that were left over after the Larkspur SMART station was cut. Even after this, SMART still needed $21 million to being construction, so MTC contributed $10 million and SCTA contributed $3 million.
“I think is it short of miraculous that we are able to provide these one-time funds,” Steinhauser said. “The difficulty of past months was seeing if we could participate without holding back any projects.”
Before the second vote, Marjorie Shank, among many others, urged TAM not to give SMART more money.
“You’ve already given them raises for no performance,” she said. “How much money is going to be given to the train that goes nowhere that will continue being the train that goes nowhere?”
Opponents also worried that SMART will cut the multi-use path to save money, and continue to ask for more financial support in the future when budget shortfalls occur.
“All projects like these are built in phases and usually need other agencies' help,” Supervisor Judy Arnold said.
Arnold, who is SMART’s vice chairperson, supports allocating the funds because she said 63 percent of her district voted for the rail line.
“TAM has a responsibility to help SMART succeed,” she said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.