Up and running for less than three months on a portion of its planned 70-mile route, the North Bay’s new commuter rail line is pursuing a plan to branch out to Solano County, where it would connect with the national rail system running from coast to coast.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system already owns 25 miles of track from Novato to the north end of Vallejo and would acquire use of the tracks from there to an Amtrak station at Suisun City.
“You gotta have a vision so you can get places,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART general manager. At Suisun City, North Bay passengers could “go anywhere in the country,” he said.
The proposed extension, known as the Novato-Solano Hub, is included in the 2018 California State Rail Plan drafted by Caltrans as a blueprint for boosting ridership on the statewide rail and bus system from 110,000 daily trips currently to more than 1.3 million daily trips by 2040.
SMART officials said they were pleased to be included in the state plan and are seeking an $837,000 grant to pay for a feasibility study of the link to Suisun City.
Debora Fudge, the SMART board chairwoman and Windsor mayor, said the eastward expansion, “our dream for 20 years,” may now be closer than ever.
Mansourian said the state plan provided “a tremendous opportunity (and) we’re jumping all over it.”
There are no cost estimates for the extension in the state plan, and Mansourian said in an interview it would be useless to come up with a “back of the napkin” estimate.
Planning the extension does not detract from SMART’s goal to complete the original 70-mile route from Cloverdale south to Larkspur.