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Comment: Anti-rail NIMBY Novato explains its lawsuit against NCRA

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  • 10/8 Santa Rosa Press
    Published Monday, October 8, 2007, by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat Comment City of Novato explains reasons for lawsuit over freight train By Daniel E. Keen
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2007
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      Published Monday, October 8, 2007, by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat


      City of Novato explains reasons for lawsuit over freight train

      By Daniel E. Keen

      Within the past two weeks, the city of Novato sued the North Coast
      Railroad Authority (NCRA). Not surprisingly, this lawsuit has
      generated some controversy, particularly among those who believe
      that rail is a superior alternative to trucks.

      Why did the city of Novato sue the NCRA?

      For well over a year now, the NCRA has been moving toward the
      resumption of freight service along a rail line traversing the North
      Coast. Since 1998 these tracks have been shut down because of their
      dangerous condition, and only minor freight traffic has occurred.

      For decades, freight traffic on these tracks was unreliable and
      unprofitable. Since then, most cities have experienced significant
      growth, with many new homes, offices and businesses located close
      to the tracks.

      The resumption of rail traffic is likely to create environmental
      impacts not previously experienced in the community.

      Homes near the tracks may hear train horns and feel vibrations at all
      hours, and streets may be blocked by trains, disrupting emergency
      response and causing greater traffic congestion. NCRA's proposed
      operator has stated it will not make improvements to reduce horn
      noise levels as trains pass through residential areas and will not
      purchase engines that emit the lowest pollutant levels.

      The city's primary dispute with NCRA concerns these potential
      environmental impacts. NCRA has already begun a "repair" program
      to upgrade the railroad tracks. This work will permit faster train
      speeds, and more trains, along the tracks. As many as 16 trains
      per day could be accommodated, some as many as 60 cars long.

      NCRA believes that because this work is "repair" work, it is exempt
      from environmental review and thus has not conducted analysis prior
      to starting these projects. The city of Novato disagrees. We believe
      this work is part of a much larger project to eventually bring very
      large volumes of freight traffic down the line. The city is asking
      the court to stop any further work, until NCRA conducts a full
      environmental analysis of its entire plans from Humboldt County to

      The environmental review process represents perhaps the only
      opportunity the city of Novato and its residents will have to comment
      on and possibly mitigate the impacts of NCRA's plans. Once approved,
      the NCRA will be regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

      Numerous communities have found that railroads can create severe
      impacts and that convincing railroads to be responsive to concerns is
      very difficult. A full environmental review would ensure that such
      impacts are minimized and would provide some recourse if NCRA failed
      to comply with mitigation requirements in the future.

      This lawsuit is not about the SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit)
      project and does not include SMART. While we recognize that a
      commuter train could create similar environmental impacts, unlike
      the NCRA, SMART has agreed to prepare a supplemental EIR to review
      these impacts.

      NCRA has created a lot of excitement along the North Coast,
      suggesting that this project will create new jobs with a new rock
      quarry in Trinity County and the development of a container terminal
      in Humboldt County.

      When asking for its $60 million allocation, NCRA has represented to
      state agencies that it has complied with all environmental laws. In
      contrast, we believe there are numerous situations where NCRA has
      violated laws concerning environmental review, public meetings and
      public contract issuance. NCRA argues that it is simply making
      "repairs," yet the public record of NCRA's statements reflects a
      far different picture.

      Novato simply is asking the court to require NCRA to live by the
      same rules all public agencies must follow and to be honest with
      the communities it will impact in the future.

      Daniel E. Keen is city manager for Novato.

      [BATN: See also:

      Anti-SMART NIMBY Novato sues over NCRA track repairs

      NIMBY Novato sues NCRA to derail planned freight trains

      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

      Editorial: SMART quiet zones to appease train-phobic NIMBYs

      North Coast Railroad Authority dreaming vs everybody else

      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

      Coment: Rail foe Arnold has more questions about SMART

      Novato freight train noise fears spur talk of "quiet zones"

      Freight trains may return to Sonoma Co. SMART line
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/33595 ]
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