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Novato sues to derail NCRA plan to resume freight train service

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  • 9/29 Marin IJ
    Published Saturday, September 29, 2007, by the Marin Independent Journal Novato sues railroad over freight service By Brad Breithaupt Novato officials sued the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2007
      Published Saturday, September 29, 2007, by the Marin Independent Journal

      Novato sues railroad over freight service

      By Brad Breithaupt

      Novato officials sued the North Coast Railroad Authority on Friday,
      seeking to derail plans for freight service through town.

      The lawsuit filed in Marin Superior Court says the railroad authority
      failed to comply with environmental rules and bypassed state open-
      meeting laws. It seeks to halt plans to launch a new freight service
      until a comprehensive environmental review is completed.

      Novato and NCRA have been at odds since the rail agency disclosed
      that its plan to bring freight back to the old Northwestern Pacific
      Railroad tracks could involve as many as 32 trains pulling up to
      60 cars each, traveling up to 40 mph through Novato every week.

      Novato City Manager Dan Keen said the city is asking the court to
      invalidate NCRA's contracts with companies involved in upgrading
      tracks to accommodate the trains.

      "I think we have serious concerns about the whole resumption of
      freight," Keen said.

      He said NCRA's plans have been "understated" and fail to give
      adequate attention to safety, traffic, noise and other problems
      a busy freight train line could bring to Novato.

      Keen added the city sees no benefit that NCRA's freight plan offers
      to Novato.

      The Ukiah-based NCRA has proposed starting service from Willits,
      initially hauling garbage down through Sonoma County and Novato
      to Highway 37, where the trains would turn east and head for Napa
      County. It has talked about starting service next year.

      NCRA executive director Mitch Stogner said Novato's lawsuit comes
      as no surprise.

      He said he couldn't comment on specifics in the complaint because
      he had not yet seen the lawsuit.

      But, Stogner added, Novato's lawyers have spent hours in NCRA's Ukiah
      offices, poring over "no fewer than 10 file drawers" of documents.

      He said the cost in taxpayer dollars to have "high-priced lawyers"
      traveling to Ukiah and spending time combing through NCRA paperwork
      is "outrageous."

      The lawsuit says that NCRA violated state environmental rules by
      chopping its rail improvement plan into small components without
      evaluating its cumulative impact in a comprehensive way.

      Further, the suit says, the plan was crafted amid secrecy, violating
      state open meeting rules.

      NCRA "has made a mockery of the Ralph M. Brown Act," the lawsuit
      asserted, referring to the state's open meeting law.

      Last month, NCRA questioned whether its two Marin members, Marin
      Supervisor Judy Arnold and Novato Councilman Jim Leland, were legally
      appointed to its board. Both Arnold and Leland have been critics of
      NCRA's plans to resume freight service through Novato.

      [BATN: See also:

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

      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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