We're about one year away from seeing the first high-efficiency, low-emission railcars taking test runs on SMART tracks.
The Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District announced Thursday that the Nippon Sharyo USA passenger railcar factory opened in Rochelle, Ill., and will start fulfilling its $39 million contract to make 12 diesel multiple-unit cars for the new commuter train service in Marin and Sonoma counties.
The new factory, about 80 miles due west of Chicago, began hiring in June and is projected to provide 250 jobs by the end of 2013 and many more indirectly, SMART said in its release.
"It's a really exciting day for SMART to have the facility open and to know that the trains are going to be built right here in the U.S.," said SMART board member Eric Lucan, a member of the Novato City Council. "I think the one thing we're all very concerned about is getting this train delivered on time. Anytime we see progress like this toward the overall timeline in project, it's a sign that things are moving smoothly. I think that's what the residents and voters expect."
Lucan said SMART was represented at the Illinois factory opening by General Manager Farhad Mansourian and board members Judy Arnold and Debora Fudge.
Nippon Sharyo has delivered nearly 900 rail cars to various transportation districts since it was established in 1982, according to its website. Its Japanese parent company has been making railroad cars for 110 years and is probably best known for producing the bullet trains in Japan, known as the shinkansen. It also made trains for CalTrain in the mid-1980s.
The Rochelle plant management expects to produce its first cars at the plant by the end of 2012 for the Metra district in the Chicago area.
The SMART rail line — which in January to cut its local sales tax funding — is set up to be an alternative to Highway 101 traffic between Santa Rosa and San Rafael. In the first phase, Novato will get one station in Hamilton and one off North Redwood Boulevard on the snorth side of town; San Rafael will get one at the Marin Civic Center and another at the downtown transit area. The second phase of the project includes plans to extend the line north to Cloverdale and south to Larkspur.
SMART said its cars would be compliant with federal Buy America requirements and represent the state-of-the-art in self-propelled passenger trains for fuel efficiency, noise levels, air quality and value. The cars are expected to exceed standards for safety as well.
The Tier 4 engines lower greenhouse gas and particulate emissions for diesel multiple-unit cars to unprecedented levels. SMART is expected to be the first passenger rail service in the U.S. to achieve that environmental milestone.
In May, to fund construction of a train and pathway linking Marin and Sonoma counties.
Sumitomo of America/Nippon Sharyo USA submitted the winning bid of $57 million for the SMART railcar contract in 2010 with the highest technical score and lowest price. The contract was $23 million below estimated costs, SMART said. The contract includes options for 146 more cars.
SMART said it saved $750,000 by having Canadian rail agency Metrolinx piggy-back on their order by purchasing 12 cars through SMART’s order.
The first set of railcars is due to arrive in Sonoma County for testing in the third quarter of 2013, SMART officials said.