Contracts sought include engineering and design for $590 million system

NORTH BAY - Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has requested proposals for three major contracts for the $590 million rail project and is about to put out requests for the remaining three.

"We are confident that we are going to get a great deal of interest from the engineering communities," said John Lackey, SMART's capital projects director who is leading a team that is overseeing the pending contracts.

Three of the "Requests for Qualifications" have opened up to the public, with one already closing.

Those three are for Right of Way and other Real Property Services, Vehicle and Systems Design Services and Civil/Track/Pathway Design Services.

The real property services closed with 26 submissions, nearly three times the expected amount. If this holds true for the rest of the projects, there will be quite a bit of competition. Multiple firms will be selected for each category.

The professional services contracts that SMART is in the process of procuring will directly generate in excess of 170,000 hours of work by a variety of engineering and architectural firms, said Mr. Lackey.

He said that is the equivalent of 90 people working full-time for more than a year.

The next three RFQs to be posted, one every two weeks until they are all out, are for a bridge contract, the stations contract and the maintenance and operations facility contract.

"We are still operating under the assumption that the entire project will be complete by 2014," Mr. Lackey said.

The total project cost, the tracks, railcars, stations, maintenance facility, bike-pedestrian path and the design, engineering and construction is $590 million according to Chris Coursey, the community outreach manager for SMART.

Mr. Lackey said SMART will help spur economic development in the North Bay by adding to and improving the region's transportation infrastructure and helping support the city-centered growth.

The economic boost will includes the mixed-use transit-oriented development project in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square.

He said unlike boosts from sales tax revenue, economic development "will also occur in more subtle ways, such as helping companies like Fireman's Fund in Novato recruit and retain employees who would otherwise avoid or leave that company because of the difficult commute."

SMART is intended to provide an alternative to Highway 101 traffic by upgrading the existing rail line and building a new bicycle/pedestrian pathway linking the 14 rail stations, according to SMART.

"We are looking forward to getting people to work on this," Mr. Lackey said.