SANTA ROSA – Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit's deadline for its request for proposals to build new rail vehicles closed last Monday. SMART received six detailed proposals from manufacturers based in North America, Europe and Asia.

"It's an excellent response," said John Lackey, capital projects director for the agency. "We're very pleased with the number of proposals."

SMART plans to use railcars known as Diesel Multiple Units, or DMUs, which are self-contained vehicles with engines in each car that allow each car to operate independently or in sets of two or three. It is quieter, cleaner and more efficient than traditional locomotives hauling lines of unpowered cars.

Proposals received include existing designs and new vehicles that would be created specifically for SMART with the emerging DMU market in mind. SMART's request is for 18 railcars with an option to add nine more.

SMART staff expects to make a recommendation for contract award to its board in early 2011. The decision will be based on multiple factors, including price, and a thorough technical evaluation will be conducted on each of the proposals.