Published Sunday, September 30, 2007, by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Novato sues railroad authority
Officials go to court seeking to stop plans for $26 million upgrade,
By Clark Mason
The Press Democrat
Novato officials are going to court to try and derail plans for
freight train service planned for the North Coast that would go
through their town.
The city filed a lawsuit Friday in Marin Superior Court against the
North Coast Railroad Authority, claiming a lack of environmental
studies for planned upgrades to the rail line.
Novato says a more comprehensive environmental study is needed before
$26 million in repairs are made to a 62-mile stretch of rail from
Lombard, east of Novato, to Windsor.
The North Coast Railroad Authority was planning to resume freight
service on the stretch south of Windsor by next summer, said NCRA
executive director Mitch Stogner.
"Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission, North Coast
cities and counties and transportation agencies all want to restart
rail service. Novato clearly does not," Stogner said Saturday.
Novato has been unhappy with the NCRA since it disclosed plans to
bring back as many as 36 trains per week pulling up to 60 cars each.
There are six crossings in Novato, and the city is seeking to
invalidate contracts with the companies involved in upgrading the
Novato claims NCRA's plans failed to adequately consider safety,
traffic, noise, and other factors associated with frequent freight
The agency has plans to use the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad
tracks from Willits, initially bringing garbage through Sonoma County
and Novato to Highway 37, before the trains head east to Napa County.
Stogner said the NCRA and other state agencies agreed that
comprehensive environmental studies were not required to upgrade
crossings, signals and make other improvements to an already existing
The lawsuit does not affect plans to bring back passenger service on
the same rail line, according to Chris Coursey, a spokesman for the
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency.
"The NCRA and SMART are two different agencies doing two different
things, going through two different environmental processes," he said.
But Coursey said SMART is updating its environmental studies to
reflect the recently announced higher level of freight service.
SMART is aiming to put a measure on the November, 2008 ballot to
resume passenger rail service from Cloverdale to Larkspur, similar
to a ballot proposal that was narrowly defeated in 2006.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or
[BATN: See also:
Novato sues to derail NCRA plan to resume freight train service
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