SMART Project Victory First Phase of 2nd to Andersen Path Approved

For the last three years – dating back to our Save the SMART Pathway campaign in 2015 – MCBC tirelessly advocated for a pathway parallel to SMART’s Larkspur rail extension. We are delighted to announce that on Wednesday, SMART Board of Directors authorized this pathway to be built from Rice Drive to Andersen Drive in San Rafael.

The pathway, which will bridge the southern half of the gap between Downtown San Rafael and Cal Park Hill Tunnel, is expected to be complete sometime in 2019.

“This is truly a win for everyone who values safe, active travel through San Rafael and along the North-South Greenway,” said Jim Elias, MCBC’s Executive Director. “Wednesday’s decision demonstrates the power of our collective voice.”

The issue rose to prominence in 2015, when it became clear that SMART did not plan to build a pathway parallel to its Larkspur rail extension. However, in a deal brokered by US Congressman Jared Huffman, SMART, MCBC, and Transportation Alternatives for Marin signed a legal agreement in which SMART agreed to allow the pathway to be constructed within its right-of-way, if feasible.

The County of Marin quickly moved forward with a feasibility study that proved the pathway would fit within the right-of-way, and the City of San Rafael was tasked with securing funding, environmental clearance, permitting, and designs – all before SMART was too far along with construction of Larkspur rail extension.

“We have to acknowledge Mayor Phillips and the City of San Rafael’s Council, staff, and consultants for all of their work in bringing the pathway up to this crucial point,” said Bjorn Griepenburg, MCBC’s Policy and Planning Director. “They were given a short timeframe to make this project shovel-ready, and they delivered.”

The project was endangered over the past few weeks amid concerns about rising cost estimates due in large part to poor soil conditions. As a result, the City of San Rafael had to split the project into two phases and prioritize the stretch between Rice Drive and Andersen Drive (shown in the map below in yellow) due to proximity to the rail line, which is currently under construction.



The northern half of the project, between Rice Drive and 2nd Street (shown in red), will be along a new roadway and does not present the same engineering or construction challenges. That segment will cost $2m and is now unfunded.

“From the outset of this project, we’ve shared your frustration, and the frustration of others who ask why SMART is not contributing funds towards this pathway,” Griepenburg told San Rafael’s Council at their May 21 meeting. “Thankfully, the project continues to attract local and regional funds, demonstrating its importance to the community and region.”

MCBC and the City of San Rafael now turn our attention to the northern half of the pathway, which is expected to be a strong candidate for state and regional grant funding.

“We very much look forward to celebrating the completion of a rail and pathway extension to Larkspur that enables people to walk, bike, and take the train as intended by those who voted for SMART’s Measure Q,” said Elias.

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