The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District, or SMART, received federal environmental clearance on April 6 for a portion of the planned bicycle and pedestrian pathway, stretching from north San Rafael to north Santa Rosa.

The 36-mile portion of the path from the San Rafael Civic Center Station to the Santa Rosa North Station near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport cleared National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, review.

The Petaluma-based transit agency said this federal green light is one of the most significant environmental approvals to advance bicycle and pedestrian projects in the Bay Area. It also makes the approved portion of the path eligible for federal funding, the train authority said.

“This federal clearance is the culmination of years of work and collaboration with several federal agencies,” said SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. “The clearance also gives us the green light to apply for federal funds to help pay for the pathway, and we have already started that process.”

SMART (sonomamarintrain.org) spent the past three years working on the clearance with several federal agencies. The lead agency for review was the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.

“We are very pleased to be part of this process and move a project forward that is in line with our mission of promoting sustainable transportation options in the Bay Area,” said Bijan Sartipi, director of Caltrans District 4, which includes Sonoma and Marin counties.

To get approval, SMART also worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries.

SMART plans to start construction on multiple sections of the pathway as early as this month. Pathway construction is scheduled for several areas in Sonoma and Marin counties, including:

• San Rafael: North San Pedro Road to Marin Civic Center Station.

• Novato: Hamilton Station to Hamilton Parkway, Franklin Avenue to Grant Avenue, and Rush Creek Place to San Marin Station.

• Rohnert Park: East Cotati Boulevard to Golf Course Drive.

• Santa Rosa: Bellevue Avenue to Hearn, Third Street to the Santa Rosa Downtown Station, Sixth Street to Eighth Street, and College Avenue to Guerneville Road.