SMART Committing More Funding to Bike Path?

Over the past few months, the SMART Board of Directors has been reviewing operations in preparation for approving a capital improvement plan and next year’s budget. On Wednesday, April 21, they will be approving a capital improvement plan.

When voters passed Measure Q in 2008, we were promised both a commuter train and a “bicycle/pedestrian pathway between Cloverdale…and Larkspur.” Trains are now running between Santa Rosa and the Larkspur Ferry, but progress on the path has lagged behind. (We recently rode the thirty miles between downtown Novato and the North Santa Rosa station, only NINE miles of which are Class 1 separated paths!)

In its last meeting, the Board was informed that the agency has over $26 million in funding for construction projects through FY29. This amount of money could only fund minor improvements to the experience of train commuters – their total “wish list” is $26 billion – but would make a massive impact if spent on the pathway. In response, the Sonoma and Marin County Bicycle Coalitions, along with Transportation Alternatives of Marin, have asked that SMART invest $4 million per year in the pathway over the next 5 years, and to complete at least one pathway segment in each county per year.

Wednesday’s Board agenda was released at the end of the day on Friday. The staff is recommending that $5 million be spend on increasing service and decreasing fares; out of the remaining $21.4 million, $13.4 million – TWO THIRDS – be spent on closing gaps in the pathway.  THIS IS A WIN! (They have been reluctant to commit specific funding amounts to the pathway in the past.)

We still have questions about their projections – every meeting the numbers seem to change – and the proposal is to bring all the of unbuilt segments through the environmental clearance and design phases to be “shovel ready,” pursuing grants and other funding for construction. We believe that some segments are just not going to be particularly competitive for outside funding, and that SMART will need to spend some money on construction if the path will ever be complete.

Please share your support of the pathway by clicking here to email the Board by 5 pm Tuesday 04/20.  (Feel free to edit our text and make it your own!)