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October 24, 2000

Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit Commission
520 Mendocino Avenue, Suite 240
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Re:

Agenda for the November 15 SMART Meeting
Include a Multi-use Trail in the EIR/EIS

Dear SMART Commissioners:

Thank you again for including a goal in the final SMART report of constructing a "rail with trail" whenever feasible to share the 68 mile NWPRA railroad right-of-way corridor from San Rafael to Cloverdale.

The foresight to include a "rail with trail" was endorsed and praised highly by the Marin Independent Journal in their Editorial column on Saturday, October 7 (attached) which states, "An innovative combination of rail and bikes could be the ticket to ride for bringing home the federal and state funding need to make it a reality. The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Commission's decision to consider adding a bike lane is a smart move".

At the present time, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition would like SMART to consider and hopefully affirm the following points at your November 15 meeting:

1) Include the Bikeway in the EIR/EIS for SMART: The next step in moving forward to accomplish the goal of including a "rail with trail" whenever feasible is to include the bikeway option in the EIR/EIS that SMART will soon be authorizing. The EIR/EIS should include a feasibility study, preliminary engineering, and an environmental analysis of the bikeway, which should be treated as part of the rail project. The assessment of the feasibility of the bikeway on sections of the right-of-way will dovetail nicely with the need to lay-out cross sections of the right-of-way for the EIR/EIS process for the rail. In addition, it is essential to include the trail as part of the rail project in order to conform with existing adopted plans and studies which show a shared use of this corridor.

2) Have National "Rail with Trail" Experts on the EIR/EIS Team: We are respectfully requesting that your future EIR/EIS Team include national experts on "rails with trails" so that the engineers and planners will be able to adequately evaluate the feasibility and impacts of a bikeway from a position of experience. We are aware that there will be challenges for implementing the bikeway in certain sections, including wetlands and right-of-way width. We have been advised from other "rail with trail" operators that good engineers who are not "rails with trails" experts would most likely dismiss the project as being "unfeasible" simply because there are challenges. National experts on "rails with trails", however, have worked on similar issues in dozens of other communities and are truly the only ones qualified to adequately determine feasibility in areas with constraints.


A multi-use path alongside the rail line will provide good bicycle access to train stations, create a separated and flat bicycle facility connecting cities, maximize use of the railroad corridor, and provide another needed alternative to traffic congestion.

As was mentioned in the Marin Independent Journal, the "rail with trail" capability for the SMART line improves the desirability of this project for receiving grants and State and Federal earmarks. Having a "rail with trail" also creates two additional and complimentary transportation facilities in the Highway 101 corridor which has been declared the 4th most traffic congested region in the entire state of California.

In addition, due to the fact that the proposed Novato Narrows widening will eliminate bicycle access to the 16 mile section of roadway between Novato and Petaluma, it will be required by law that another bikeway be added to this corridor. This fact has been confirmed in the attached letter from Harry Yahata, District 4 Director of Caltrans. While Caltrans is suggesting a system of frontage roads, it is our opinion that this solution will be rejected by the community. The logical place to replace the bikeway would be along the railroad right-of-way, with funding for this section of the "rail-with-trail" to be paid for out of the future budget for the Novato Narrows. Whatever amount was going to be budgeted for the frontage roads could be transferred to the "rail with trail" bikeway instead.

In summary, to move forward with SMART's goal to have a "rail with trail" where ever feasible, it will be essential for the Commission to 1) include the bikeway as part of the rail project throughout the Environmental Review process, and 2) to ensure that your EIR/EIS team includes national "rail with trail" experts.

The Marin County Bicycle Coalition looks forward to continuing to work with SMART to create a truly world-class multi-modal facility that will relieve traffic congestion, increase transportation choices, and improve the quality of life in the North Bay. Please feel free to call me at (415) 488-1245. Thank you.

Yours truly,

Debbie Hubsmith
Executive Director

cc:

Ms. Celia Kupersmith, General Manager GGBHTD and NWPRA
Marin County Board of Supervisors
Mr. Farhad Mansourian, Marin County CMA Executive Director
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
Ms. Suzanne Wilford, Sonoma County Transportation Authorit
Mr. Justin Fox, Wilbur Smith Associates (SMART plan consultant)
Mr. Michael Jones, Alta Consulting (Bicycle/Pedestrian plan consultant)
Mr. Steve Petterle, Marin County Bikeways Committee Staff
Mr. Steven Schmidt, Sonoma Co. Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Staff
California Senator John Burton
California Assemblymember Kerry Mazzoni
California Assemblymember Patricia Wiggins
Mr. Joe Nation, Democratic Candidate for Assembly
U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
Caltrans Director, Jeff Morales
Caltrans District 4 Director, Harry Yahata
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Transportation Alternatives for Marin
Bikes Belong Coalition
California Bicycle Coalition
Marin Independent Journal

Encl:

October 7, 2000 Editorial from the Marin Independent Journal
July 31, 2000 letter from Mr. Harry Yahata, Caltrans District 4