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LTK Engineering Services (www.ltk.com), which recently won the contract with Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District (www.sonomamarintrain.org) to design specifications for commuter cars on the forthcoming line from Cloverdale to Larkspur, leased office space in the same Santa Rosa building as the district's planned project office.

Pennsylvania-based LTK, founded in 1921, has 19 other offices nationwide, including its Bay Area office in San Francisco.

SMART plans to open its project office at 490 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa in February, and LTK is expected to relocate its office to Santa Rosa around that time. [See "SMART to open project office in Santa Rosa," Nov. 30.]

To meet planned commuter service startup in fall 2014, LTK plans to release draft specifications on the SMART rail cars for public comment in January. Proposals from railcar manufacturers would be received through March and bids entered by October. The builder would be selected by January 2011. The first cars are set to arrive for testing in fall 2013.

In July, the district board voted to pursue Federal Railroad Administration-approved designs for cars, which includes a requirement for time separation between cars operating on the same track, to avoid startup delays while seeking a design waiver.

Dominic DiBrito, lead Bay Area project manager for LTK, is one of two company employees on a FRA advisory task force formed in recent months to streamline the waiver process and investigate "crash energy management" systems that may lessen the need for time delays between trains.

Russ Mayer of Keegan & Coppin represented the building owner in LTK's lease.

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Santa Rosa-based engineering and environmental consulting firm Winzler & Kelly acquired Norris-Repke, a municipal and civil engineering and construction management firm with offices in Santa Ana and Moreno Valley.

Norris-Repke has 24 employees, including 16 professionals.

Winzler & Kelly (www.w-and-k.com) is the largest construction-related engineering firm locally and the 264th largest such firm in the U.S. this year, according to research by the Business Journal and trade publication Engineering News-Record, respectively.

The firm now has 329 employees in 12 offices, including 63 Southern California employees in the two new offices and existing ones in Anaheim and San Diego, according to Vice President Marc Solomon.

"Together, we are uniquely positioned to provide all of Southern California with the most comprehensive planning, engineering and land surveying services available," Mr. Solomon said.

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Whole Foods Market plans to solicit bids in January for interior improvements of its store in Coddingtown mall in Santa Rosa, according to Glen Moon, vice president of store development for the Austin-based grocery chain.

Construction is set to start in April and be complete by late October. It is company policy not to open stores in November or December.

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Associated General Contractors of America asserts that the data collected starting earlier this year under the mandatory reporting of nitrogen oxide (NOX) and soot (PM) emissions from off-road diesel equipment shows that the California Air Resources Board's original 2000 estimate overstated emissions projections for 2009 by nearly 40 percent.

As a result, the Virginia-based trade group is urging the board to drop requirements for retrofits on certain engines, set to start in March 2010, and push back fleet average emissions reductions for medium- and large-sized fleets until 2015. That’s when required reductions for small-sized fleets will take effect.

A board spokeswoman said no changes are planned for the new off-road rule. The board recently reached an agreement with the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, on engine retrofit equipment that reduce emissions or waivers for retrofit when infeasible. The new retrofit guidelines are posted on the board Web site.

Associated General Contractors estimates that NOX emissions, based on the 2009 data, will be well below original state estimates each year through 2025. That’s the horizon for the new state diesel emissions rules, approved for off-road vehicles in December 2008 and revised in January and July.

Based on 2009 figures, PM emissions will be below state estimates through 2014 and will require fewer reductions than projected each year after that.

The contractor group claims the overestimates in the state rule resulted from projections for continual growth in construction employment and project value. The state has lost 330,000 construction jobs since 2006, while the rule projected 8,000 more jobs between 2006 and 2014. Construction industry contribution to the state economy has dropped by $13 billion since 2006, instead of the $10 billion growth projected in the rule between 2007 and 2009.

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Clendenen Vineyard Management obtained an SBA loan through Wells Fargo Bank to build a 7,000-square-foot shop and offices at 555 Westside Road near Healdsburg, the site of a future animal shelter as well as a wine warehouse and tasting room. Ron Vann Construction will be constructing 2,000 square feet of offices plus equipment storage and maintenance facilities.

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Melvin and Karen Hahn decided to wind down their Hahn’s Window Center business at 365 Blodgett St. in Cotati after 23 years in business as home construction ebbed and retire to Oregon.

San Rafael-based Conservation Corps North Bay, formerly Marin Conservation Corps (www.conservationcorpsnorthbay.org), purchased the 12,100-square-foot building for $1.69 million, backed by state bond money. Richard Henderson of Orion Partners represented the Hahns in the Dec. 2 sale, and Cari Lynn Pace represented the organization.

The corps expanded to Sonoma County in September 2008 and has been leasing a building in Santa Rosa, according to Executive Director Marilee Eckert.

“The recent increase of gang activity in the Sonoma County communities provided a very compelling need to give youth a positive alternative to gangs, and a corps program is a very effective answer to this community need,” she said.

The group helps youth complete their diplomas, learn job skills, earn scholarships and receive ongoing career counseling.

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The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors postponed until Jan. 12 its deliberation on The Dutra Group's proposed asphalt plant along the Petaluma River just south of the city to give the U.S. Coast Guard time to look into commercial and recreational traffic on the river.

Contractors have been eager to have a southern Sonoma County source for asphalt for paving projects. Opponents of the project include the North Bay Rowing Club, which contends that the barges bringing aggregate rock to the plant would crowd out boaters.

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Principal architects Colin Russell and Larry Davis, who started Russell & Davis Architects of San Rafael in 1998, are parting ways “amicably,” according to a note Mr. Russell sent to clients earlier this month.

The 12-person firm had billings of $1.2 million in 2008 and ranked No. 21 on the Business Journal’s June 22 list of architecture firms. A notable recent project was EAH’s $9.1 million, 24-home Drake’s Way Apartments project, completed this month in Larkspur.

Mr. Russell said he plans to move his new firm, Russell Associates Architects, into space shared with TWM Architects & Planners at 181 Carlos Drive in San Rafael as of Jan. 1. His more than three decades of experience includes retail, entertainment, health club, office, multifamily and custom residential projects.

Mr. Davis plans to partner with Crome Architecture of San Rafael.

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Submit items for this column to Jeff Quackenbush at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256 or fax 707-521-5292.