May 08--Lengthy pieces of rail designed to provide a smoother and quieter ride were hauled into Novato on Wednesday as work continues in Marin on the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit commuter train project.
With horn sounding, a track vehicle pulling four, 1,600-foot sections of track from Petaluma cruised into Novato just after noon, halting movement briefly at Rush Creek Place, Golden Gate Place and at the Grant, Olive and Franklin avenue crossings.
Rail lines of yesteryear were generally built on tracks that were 48 feet long, creating the iconic "clickity-clack" sound as train wheels hit joints. The SMART trains, however, will run on the longer stretches of continuous welded rail -- manufactured in Pueblo, Colo. -- resulting in less noise.
"These will be taken down to be used at the Roblar (Drive) to Ignacio wye section" near Highway 37, said Matt Stevens, SMART spokesman. "We need this rail right now to do work. There is a lot of rail to be constructed in a relatively short time frame."
A train will arrive later in the month to haul more of the long pieces in greater numbers as track continues to be put down toward San Rafael, Stevens said.
Work in Marin, which began in March, is going well so far as it moves from north to south, said Farhad Mansourian, SMART's general manager.
About a half-dozen railroad crossings in Novato have been completed providing for a smoother ride over tracks. Two other crossings -- Roblar Drive and Hanna Ranch Road -- will see work in June, as the North Marin Water District first needs to relocate water lines, Mansourian said.
The San Jose Creek Bridge has been rebuilt and work will soon start on the Novato Creek Bridge.
"And we are continuing to take up old track," Mansourian said.
Existing track can only handle train speeds of up to 25 mph, perfect for freight but not a commuter service. The new SMART rails will be able to accommodate speeds of up to 82 mph, although the SMART plan calls for a top speed of 79 mph.
Much of the rest of 2014 will be dedicated to putting rails in Marin as part of the $427.9 million project linking downtown San Rafael to the Sonoma airport.
Marin SMART stops will include downtown San Rafael, the Marin Civic Center and stations in Novato at Hamilton and Atherton Avenue. Most of the 17 miles of track in Sonoma has already gone in. There will also be 17 miles of track in Marin, with a likely addition of extension to Larkspur soon after service begins in 2016, officials said.
Contact Mark Prado via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2014 - The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.