Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is staring down a staffing change and a small handful of projects that it’s hoping to use capital funding for.
"General Manager Farhad Mansourian has announced his retirement,” said Windsor Councilmember Debora Fudge at a Windsor Town Council meeting on April 21. Fudge sits on the SMART board and gave an update as part of her regular council report. “He’s been with SMART for 10 years, and he worked for 32 years before that as the head of public works in Marin. It was emotional.”
According to Fudge, Mansourian’s contract runs through Aug. 17, though depending on how the search for his replacement is going, he may be asked to stay on a bit longer, something he has already agreed to.
She also shared some financial plans SMART approved at their meeting. There are a variety of projects they will be leveraging some capital funding for, with the hope of closing the gap through additional grants and matching funds. They authorized $21.4 million for a variety of projects, including the long-awaited Healdsburg Bridge alteration.
According to the board packet, $3.4 million from Sonoma County Transportation Authority Measure M designated for use by SMART for the design, environmental clearance and required match for a $13.6 million federal construction grant. SMART is working with Congressman Huffman to seek federal funds for the construction of this bridge.
The staff report points out that while SMART is not aware of the rules for the new proposed federal earmark opportunities and infrastructure initiatives, if they require projects be in a Regional Transportation Plan, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) decision not to include expansion projects north of Windsor will be a major potential obstacle in applying for or obtaining these funds.
Other projects included the Petaluma 2nd Station at Corona construction, and completion of bike paths in several areas adjacent to and from the rails and stations.
However, before SMART can make alterations to the Healdsburg Bridge and make their way north, the path through Windsor must be completed and there are some legal issues standing in the way.
According to the board packet, this project is partially funded by Regional Measure 3. A tax payor group is suing MTC, challenging the legality of the vote. The taxpayer group has lost twice in lower courts and have now appealed it to the California Supreme Court.
“If MTC is successful, we will be able to complete the project to Windsor, although the delay in construction most likely will increase the project cost and we will have to address that when the time comes. If MTC is not successful, you will need to re-evaluate the capital plan. This project is halfway constructed, and we cannot go further north until this project is completed,” said the packet.
“Forty million of that is the money we need to finish building to Windsor, and it’s still on hold and we’re not sure when it will come to a resolution,” Fudge said. “That could be a year to 18 months, we’ll keep everybody posted … the point was made three times that we have to get through Windsor before get to the Healdsburg bridge.”