490 Mendocino to have up to 15; vehicle design firm to relocate

SANTA ROSA -- Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District plans to open a project office, located in downtown Santa Rosa, as initial work on the $590 million project progresses toward targets for construction in 2011 and the start of commuter rail service in 2014.

SMART signed a lease for 7,200 square feet of office space at 490 Mendocino Ave. for design and construction management. Staff members and consultants are set to occupy it in February.

"It's more central on our corridor," said spokesman Chris Coursey. "We are a two-county district, and it is good to have a presence in Marin and Sonoma counties."

District General Manager Lillian Hames and administrative employees will remain in San Rafael. The staff grew from just Ms. Hames operating out of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority office, now located also at 490 Mendocino, to five when the office relocated to San Rafael along side the Transportation Authority of Marin. District staff now numbers nine people. The project office is expected to accommodate up to 15 people, plus have room for district board meeting facilities.

SMART plans to build a commuter rail and pedestrian trail system along 70 miles of Northwestern Pacific Railroad track from Cloverdale in northern Sonoma County to the ferry terminal in Larkspur in southern Marin County.

In the next 18 months, $10 million worth of contracts will be executed for real estate acquisition as well as design of vehicles and systems, track and pathways, stations, major bridges and a central maintenance and operations facility.

The district is concerned about a potential $155 million funding shortfall for construction because of current bond-market woes and lower sales-tax receipts during the economic recession, but design and engineering will continue as revenue allows.

For the real estate, track and pathway, and vehicle and systems contracts awarded this fall, 47 prime and specialty firms are involved, one-third of which are locally based.

URS Corp. is engineering three major bridges along the route. HDR, which already has an office in Santa Rosa, is working with PGH Wong Engineering of San Francisco on tracks and pathways.

LTK Engineering Services has the vehicle design contract, and its Bay Area office is set to relocate to Santa Rosa, according to Mr. Coursey.

A proposed contract for the stations design is set to be presented to the district board Dec. 16. Firms are being interviewed for the central operations and maintenance facility.

Niels von Doepp of NAI BT Commercial represented SMART in the lease deal, and Russ Mayer of Keegan & Coppin represented the owners of 490 Mendocino.

For more information, call 415-226-0880 or visit www.sonomamarintrain.org.