Growth in the areas of jobs and new residents in Marin and Sonoma, the two counties immediately north of San Francisco, has outstripped the area’s transportation resources. Generally hilly terrain adds to the region’s attraction and beauty, but also inhibits opportunities for new or expanded highways. U.S. 101 is the area’s only major freeway.
Paralleling U.S. 101 is the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad line, now owned by the public and still intact, though currently unused. Installation of a commuter rail service on the NWP line is a goal of the counties and cities, which have formed the Sonoma Marian Area Rail Transit (SMART) Commission to pursue development of a project.
LTK has assisted SMART with conceptual planning and preliminary engineering since 2001. Our responsibilities included developing alternative service concepts and preparing an operating plan, identifying and screening a variety of locomotive-hauled and self-propelled vehicle options, and evaluating several alternative sites for a central operations and maintenance facility.
LTK staff prepared reports and presentations on these project elements, participating with SMART staff in a series of workshops with a Vehicle Alternatives Committee that evaluated and made recommendations considering the operating needs of the proposed line and the aspirations of the communities it would serve.
The result of this work was a project definition for the conduct of preliminary engineering, including these elements:
A 68-mile line with 12 stations
Morning and afternoon peak services at 30-minute intervals, plus one midday round trip
Six trains in service, with a fleet of 14 FRA-compliant diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicles
With commitment and funding SMART could develop into an outstanding example of how DMUs can be used to recycle an old railroad line and make it relevant to the needs of people living and working in the 21st century. LTK currently is assisting in system refinement work that will lead to completion of environmental documentation. The firm’s work is in the areas of operations planning, vehicle alternatives reviews, and maintenance facility siting and functional design.