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Oooohhhhhh busted...From Railway Age Magazine...

Thurs. June 24th 2014

By Douglas John Bowen

The general counsel for Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co. (NWP) has moved to defuse complaints from NWP's Vice President Jacob Park related to implementing passenger rail service in Sonoma and Marin counties in northern California.

In a letter dated July 4, 2014, Park cited "past and proposed actions taken by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) that are hurting local businesses, obstructing NWP's rightful use of the railroad, and are in direct conflict with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's (MTC) goal of promoting efficient and shared use of rail lines for commuter and freight services." MTC is the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Bay Area.

But in a July 15 letter to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger, NWP General Counsel Douglas H. Bosco downplayed any friction between NWP and SMART, stating, "These issues, though important, are ones that could be expected between the building of a state-of-the-art passenger system that will share the same track with freight services. Procedures for the resolution of all issues between SMART and [North Coast Railroad Authority and NWP] are carefully laid out in the Operating Agreement, entered into between the parties in June 2011."

Bosco notes, "Since agreed-upon procedures are in place, I have informed Mr. Park that raising these issues with the MTC was not appropriate or authorized."

A second letter, dated July 16, was sent by North Coast Railroad Authority Executive Director Mitch Stogner to SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian, also reassuring SMART and its allies that the authority, like the short line, did not expect such a letter objecting to SMART's activities.

Stogner said the letter by Park "was sent without my knowledge or consent, or the knowledge or consent of the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) Board of Directors." He added, " I think the letter to [MTC's] Mr. Heminger was ill-advised and I intend to notify Mr. Heminger personally to let him know that NCRA disapproves of the letter and, instead, will continue to work with SMART in a spirit of cooperation."

NCRA, formed in 1989, notes on its website, “The Mission of the North Coast Railroad Authority is to provide a unified & revitalized rail infrastructure meeting the freight and passenger needs of the region.”'

A source close to Petaluma, Calif.-based SMART, noting earlier Railway Age coverage of the story, said Wednesday, July 23, that the letter had “led to a misperception that SMART is damaging local business,” with local media putting the initial story “on the front page.” No such coverage of the two letters affirming support for SMART has yet received local coverage, the source said. 

SMART seeks to construct a 70-mile line serving Sonoma and Marin counties, north of San Francisco, linking Cloverdale and Larkspur, Calif., with ferry connections planned to link Larkspur with San Francisco. The project also includes a bicycle and pedestrian path.

The $203 million initial operating segment between Sonoma County Airport and San Raphael is scheduled to open in late 2016, served by 18 diesel multiple-units (DMUs) produced by Sumitomo Corp. and Nippon Sharyo, equipped with Cummins, Inc.'s Tier 4 Final-compliant QSK19-R diesel engines.

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Uh oh...

Aaah  come on and find your nuts NWP, SMART is clearly hampering your efforts to operate efficiently. this has become ridicules. SMART is not doing the NWP right.

Ah, the fix is in.

Will Park and Stogner (and spouses) soon be going on an all expense paid month long junket through Europe to study rail operations???

I just returned from a trip to Healdsburg, Mendocino and then Cloverdale and back to Healdsburg.  The people that I talked to in Healdsburg and Cloverdale are furious about having to pay SMART a $0.0025 tax on every dollar they spend for purchases especially like cars and trucks etc and are ready to sue SMART to fullfil its promise.  When I told some friends in Cloverdale (which has built a beautiful station for SMART trains but sits idle) that the Healdsburg rail bridge needs less than $400,000 to renovate, they were amazed.

I don't receive the Press Democrat but is the PD telling its readers the real story about SMART vs the NCRA or is this arm of the NY Times too busy with politics?.  Healdsburg is booming and needs a passenger rail service as do the other cities north.

I was a major supporter of the SMART concept but like the residents in Sonoma Cty that I have talked to am fed up. 

It appears that someone has bought off the NCRA counsel and I for one smell a rat.

FYI the 18 wheelers are still clogging up 101 even on Saturday.  Get the RoW finished to Healdsburg and then NCRA can address points north.

So frustrating!!!!!

True true so true.

  

     The NWP may side with the San Francisco Giants.....strong beginning.....and then..... Whoops.....Only the future will tell whether SMART and NWP are in bed together.  Giants.....no offense, fumbling defense.....NWP.....weak offense.....weak defense..... may need some very good lawyers in the not so distant future.

Too early to call.  What is interesting, but unknown, is the nature of the interplay between the three players.  It's a three-way game.  IIRC, the Joint Operating Agreement is between SMART and NCRA.  NWP has a contractual relationship with NCRA, but is there any sort of enforceable agreement directly between NWP and SMART, or is NWP just the third party beneficiary of the Operating Agreement between SMART and NCRA?  NWP and NCRA have an agreement that obliges NWP to pay NCRA for operating on NCRA's ROW (all of which, at present, NCRA holds an easement on from SMART, which owns it to Cloverdale.)  So, if NCRA were to fail to jump on SMART for interfering with NWP's freight service, NWP would have a reason not to pay NCRA their fees?  I have no idea what the circumstances are, but unless anybody's a "fly on the wall," this dust up could have simply been somebody pulling the trigger prematurely, which I have some difficulty believing... such things generally get discussed beforehand,  or it could be a very carefully choreographed dance.  Anybody know?

Bob:

Good points but for clarification you say SMART owns the RoW to Cloverdale.  It's been stated on this site several times that NCRA owns the RoW north of Healdsburg.  And assuming Healdsburg is the answer, is that the lever that NCRA holds over SMART when SMART finally decides to head further north to Cloverdale.

Also what is the agreement between NCRA and SMART that allows NCRA's agent(s) such as  NWP to traverse the SMART RoW from Healdsburg to Shellville?

Right, I recall now also reading here that it's to Healdsburg, as you say.  The Operating Agreement is between SMART and NCRA.  http://www.northcoastrailroad.org/Acrobat/Monthly_Report_July_2011f...  NWP is in contract with NCRA to conduct freight operations and has nothing to do with SMART.  http://www2.sonomamarintrain.org/userfiles/file/14_whitepaper_freig...

For some reason, however, the SMART/NCRA Operating Agreement doesn't seem to be posted on either outfit's website.  So much for government transparency...

So what branch of the government need to be kicked to produce the document? And how hard?

While it is not the de-facto finalized document, I did manage to find a draft copy from 2011 that outlines track rights and responsibilities:

Draft Agreement

Communications RE: Turnouts (June 2014)

Also asking you Marinites on this site as the RoW is upgraded south of the Ignacio wye, if there is any potential NWP freight business in San Rafael?  Any lumber yards, ready-mix or sand and gravel customers?  Would be great to see NWP locos once again down that way.

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