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Column: Long-dead NCRA's freight plans complicate SMART EIR

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  • 9/27 North Coast Journal
    Published Thursday, September 27, 2007, by North Coast Journal (Arcata) Column THE TOWN DANDY [...] Regular readers of this space will know that we have an
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 27, 2007
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      Published Thursday, September 27, 2007, by North Coast Journal (Arcata)




      Regular readers of this space will know that we have an ongoing
      fascination with the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA), the
      public agency that owns the defunct railroad line between Humboldt
      County and the Bay Area. (See "The Squeeze," July 5. Or, hell, go all
      the way back to "Going Nowhere," May 29, 2003.) The railroad has been
      dead for 10 solid years, yet according to its backers it is ever on
      the verge of making its glorious return, establishing steady freight
      service between a deindustrialized Humboldt County and the national
      grid. Not only will this put hundreds or thousands of local people to
      work in high-paying jobs, backers say, it is the only possible way to
      put people to work in high-paying jobs.

      A couple of months ago, we predicted that the second worthwhile and
      doable project to fall to the railroad dreamers -- after the proposed
      Eureka-Arcata trail -- would be on the south end of the line ("Town
      Dandy," July 19). For years, environmentalists and people fed up with
      traffic in Sonoma and Marin counties have been trying to institute
      commuter service, along with a pedestrian trail, on the dead right-
      of-way. But to put the issue to North Bay voters, advocates of the
      commuter plan -- Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART -- have to
      come up with a complete environmental impact report to satisfy the
      exacting residents of those wealthy neighborhoods. Such a report
      would have to take into account the NCRA's freight plans. Those
      plans, predictably, have been all over the map; they are bound by
      the railroad backers' hopes and dreams, rather than any solid data.

      So by the time the SMART environmental impact report was published
      and SMART tax initiative was ready to go on the February ballot, the
      North Coast Railroad Authority had a completely different set of
      projections. This caused much outcry, down south. And so the Marin
      County Board of Supervisors held a hearing, and the City of Novato
      held a hearing and Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) dinked
      with pro-NCRA legislation heading through the state legislature,
      carving out a million dollars for additional track improvements in
      his district.

      And then, last week, SMART announced that it would head back to the
      drawing board. It would take a few months to update its environmental
      impact reports with whatever projections the NCRA is putting forward
      this week, and cross fingers to hope they won't change again. Now the
      SMART tax is pushed back to the November 2008 ballot.


      [BATN: See also:

      SMART to update EIR; re-vote planned for November 2008

      Comment: SMART or not -- freight trains coming to Novato

      Comment: SMART foes work to whip up freight train fears

      Opponents using NCRA freight projections to delay, kill SMART

      Freight tail of moribund NCRA seeks to wag SMART dog

      February '08 SMART re-vote unlikely due to freight study request
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/35492 ]
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