A marathon meeting of the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) board last week resulted in a $39.6 million plan to improve the so-called Greenbrae Interchange, or the intersection of Highway 101 in Larkspur and Corte Madera.
The meeting, which TAM officials said went into the early hours of Friday morning, also produced a recommendation for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to redirect $11.4 million in regional funding to the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train's extension from San Rafael to Larkspur.
The recommendation to have MTC pass along $11.4 million in money from Regional Measure 2 (RM2), a $1 increase in tolls on state bridges to pay for transportation projects that was approved by voters in 2004, is the second jolt of good news in a week for SMART's plans to build the length of rail it originally promised voters in 2008.
SMART officials said last Tuesday that the Federal Transit Administration had determined that the commuter rail project, originally planned to extend from Cloverdale to Larkspur, is eligible to enter the project development stage for the "Small Starts" program and is able to apply for a federal government grant for the work. SMART officials said its inclusion in the program allows them to use a $2.5 million federal grant to pay for environmental and engineering work for the San Rafael-to-Larkspur segment.
SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian said he hopes to have the environmental review and engineering studies for the San Rafael-to-Larkspur leg finished by the end of 2014.
Of the $11.4 million, up to $3 million will be dedicated by SMART to a permanent crossing at Andersen Drive in San Rafael. Mansourian said the $11.4 million puts SMART in a great position to building the San Rafael-to-Larkspur leg, as the Small Stars program requires at least 20 percent of non-federal matching funds, and the TAM recommendation eclipses that portion of the $40 million extension project.
Once the environmental review and engineering studies are done, he said, SMART can then apply for a federal construction grant.
“A few feet there and a few here, and we’ll be closing to getting this train to Larkspur,” Mansourian said.
In a statement, SMART board chair Judy Arnold applauded the TAM board's decision.
“The TAM board has crafted a truly multi-modal approach to the congestion in the Greenbrae Corridor,“ she said. “Over the past two years, I have been repeatedly impressed by the clear-sightedness of both TAM and SMART board members, who are working to ensure that the train and pathway integrate fully with our overall transportation infrastructure – roadways, bus transit, bike and ped facilities – so the public gets the full benefit of all of the elements.”
SMART has estimated that the San Rafael-to-Larkspur leg will cost around $35 million. The $360 million San Rafael-to-Santa Rosa portion is under construction and is expected to be finished by early 2016.
Mainline track construction is finished between Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa and downtown Petaluma, and construction south toward San Rafael will continue next year.
The recommendation to allocate $11.4 million to SMART was just one piece of the larger $39.6 million Greenbrae Interchange plan backed by the TAM board last week. Here's the rest:
- $250,000 to study Hwy. 101 undercrossings on Wornum Drive
- $500,000 to study a connection from Hwy. 101 to the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge
- $500,000 to extend bicycle path from Fifer Avenue to Wornum Drive
- $500,000 to widen eastbound Sir Francis Drake Boulevard onto southbound lanes
- $2 million to make sidewalk and pedestrian improvements for Redwood Highway
- $2 million feasibility study to widen east Sir Francis Drake from one to two lanes
- $4 million to extend eastbound auxiliary lane from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to near the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge
- $4.5 million to build new regional and local bus stops
- $4.5 million to study completing a primarily auto-free "North-South Greenway"
- $9 million to widen bicycle pathway over Corte Madera Creek