Second Petaluma SMART station gets final approval
A new commuter train station planned for east Petaluma has received its final green light to begin construction as soon as this October.
In a 5-1 vote on Monday, the Petaluma City Council approved an agreement between the city and the Sonoma-Marin Area Railroad Transit District to begin construction on SMART’s Petaluma North Station at Corona Road and North McDowell Boulevard.
If work begins on time, Petaluma’s second SMART station could be completed by early 2025.
The Monday night vote followed the SMART Board’s approval in July 2022 to allocate $14.1 million toward the station’s construction, including $10.1 million from the state transportation agency’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program and $2 million in Measure M dollars.
“I’m excited this day has come,” said Petaluma Mayor Kevin McDonnell. “I’m glad (SMART has) found the funding to push this forward.”
The project will also include the installation of a 3-mile pathway for non-motorized bicyclists and pedestrians from Southpoint Boulevard to Penngrove’s Main Street.
But with the station project planning for at least 100 vehicle parking spaces, including just six electric vehicle spaces, and less than a dozen bike parking spaces, some council members were concerned its design did not match Petaluma’s carbon-neutral goals.
“I see 100 parking spaces and 10 bike parking spaces, and that’s not the type of future we’re trying to promote here in Petaluma,” said Council member Brian Barnacle, who had the sole “no” vote. “If we could cut out five parking spaces and put in more bike lockers, I’d be excited to support this tonight. I want to see this move forward.”
In response, SMART General Manager Eddy Cumins said that most of the time users do not fill all available bike lockers – but if demand ever came to a point where all bike spaces were taken, SMART can accommodate and add more to the site.
Cumins also said the agency will look into updating the proposed design for the Corona station to make way for more bike parking before construction begins, as budgeting allows.
Council member Karen Nau said she understood the need for so many parking spaces, stating that with the downtown station, many riders end up parking on city-owned or residential streets due to lack of parking in the lot.
“I’ve received numerous calls from people who were not able to park and catch their trains,” Cumins said in response to Nau’s comments.
For years, Petaluma has sought a second train station to serve residents in the north and east parts of the city, with funding being the main reason for its delay, as well as a lengthy debate over a 110-unit housing development that was to be paired with the station. The housing proposal was eventually abandoned in early 2022.
City officials note that a new affordable housing project dubbed “the Meridian at Corona Station” is slated for that site. “This project would provide 131 units, all of which would be affordable to lower income tiers, including 33 units of permanent supportive housing with on-site support services,” said Assistant City Manager Brian Cochran.
Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5208.