February '08 SMART re-vote unlikely due to freight study request
- Published Saturday, June 23, 2007, by the Marin Independent Journal
All about Marin
By Brad Breithaupt
A push by SMART backers to put a train tax back on the ballot in
February, along with California's presidential primary, rather than
waiting until November 2008, may be doomed.
The promise of that political move is dimming, thanks to a letter
the city of Novato fired off asking for a study looking into the
potential problems and benefits of freight trains rolling through
The cow standing on the SMART's tracks is the surprising expansion
of freight plans.
The North Coast Rail Authority once estimated it would be running
three trains per week on the Willits to Napa route, which cuts
through Novato. That number has grown to a potential of two trains
per day -- or more, and officials are furious.
Novato City Hall is up in arms. City officials are worried that
freight trains, possibly as many as 60 cars in length, could be an
eyesore and cause noise and traffic problems, particularly if freight
has to roll at night to stay out of the way of SMART's trains.
The study Novato is seeking could take enough time to blow a February
vote off SMART's strategy.
Marin Supervisor Charles McGlashan, SMART's vice chairman, called
the chance of a February election "a remote possibility."
"I would be very skeptical. We have way too much work to do."
He wants SMART to publish "white papers" addressing a variety of
issues that opponents used to narrowly defeat the 2006 train tax
Drafting those "white papers" is on the to-do lists of SMART's
$120,000-per-year community outreach consultants and its new
$75,000-plus per year public affairs director.