Letters: NIMBY Novato vs. NCRA freight trains, SMART
- Published Thursday, October 18, 2007, by the Marin Independent Journal
Letters to the Editor
Rail official scolds Novato
In filing its lawsuit against the North Coast Railroad Authority,
Novato is shamelessly abusing California environmental law in a
vain attempt to stop the return of trains to the North Coast.
California environmental law permits in-kind repairs to an existing
facility without a lengthy environmental review process. NCRA finally
has started the repairs on 62 miles (Lombard-Novato-Windsor) with
the approval and financial support of the California Transportation
Commission, Caltrans and all the other cities, counties and
transportation agencies on the North Coast. Novato's lawsuit is
hypocrisy at its best from a city that claims to want to reduce its
How does its claim of environmental sensitivity square with Novato's
determination to kill a regional railroad that will take big rigs
off Highway 101, reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- when compared to
trucks -- by 80 percent and is four times more fuel efficient than
Novato ignores these environmental benefits in favor of a bogus
lawsuit that attempts to halt all repairs to an existing freight line
that has operated for more than 100 years. The city of Novato stands
alone in its opposition to the resumption of train service in our
region. By invoking Machiavelli's theory that the ends justify the
means, the city has engaged in a legal wild goose chase that will
waste taxpayer dollars and benefit no one. I am confident that when
the facts are known, this lawsuit will be relegated to the trash can
where it belongs.
Chairman, North Coast Railroad Authority
More buses trump the train
The city of Novato has recently sued the North Coast Railroad
Authority. The reason cited by Daniel Keen is the environmental
impact on the many new homes, offices and businesses located near
Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit, although not sued, will surely
create a similar environmental impact, albeit reduced by using newer
engines. Despite the potential environmental impact of SMART and the
escalating cost of a project that will be completed years from now
(not taking into account the inevitable time and budget overruns),
many people still support this wasteful idea.
A few weeks ago, we read about the plans to expand Highway 101 for
the insignificant cost of $750 million in a project that will take
at least 10 years to complete.
Isn't it time for people to come to their senses and to explore a
simpler and speedier way to resolve the traffic problem on Highway
101? Isn't it time to consider using all that money to develop or
rather expand the public transportation service by adding a fleet of
gas/electric powered buses?
A large fleet of gas/hybrid/electric buses available for high-
frequency service can be made available on relatively short notice.
Such a service is more flexible than the proposed train and the
service maps and frequency can be rapidly adapted to changing
population needs. Such buses, available today, have a low environment
impact and can greatly alleviate traffic problems on Highway 101.
Questions for rail authority
The North Coast Railroad Authority failed to comply with
environmental rules and bypassed state open-meeting laws as Novato's
lawsuit states. If the NCRA were to do a comprehensive environmental
review, then maybe we would have more facts. This review is necessary
so that we know what this authority is up to.
How many trains does it plan to run each day and how long would they
be? Will these trains be short enough to fit on the proposed "passing
sihdings" so that they can run some of them during the day and not
disrupt Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit trains? What would be the
times that trains would operate -- with or without SMART?
These are just some of my questions. I am sure others have more. NCRA
should step into the light and put all its cards on the table. NCRA
should remember that the right of way belongs to the people and we
have the right to know what's happening on our land.
Who benefits if Novato loses? The North Coast Railroad Authority and
the heavy rail lobby.