General Manager's Board Report

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 9:10pm
SMART Project Update: Provided by SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian

Forty-three miles of total reconstruction of tracks; 24 bridges; one moveable bridge that was reconstructed, which replaced a 100-year-old bridge that took 15 minutes to turn, with one that turns, locks and loads in 180 seconds; 63 at-grade crossings; seven miles of bike path; and the creation of a 60-acre Mother Nature preserve has brought us to today’s meeting.
 
I am pleased to report that we have reached a significant milestone: We are ready for our passenger service. Here’s what comes next. Our readiness has triggered two significant events that will occur prior to the start of full passenger service:
 
1.) We have asked for and have received confirmation for a full, final multi-discipline audit by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Their team will arrive this coming Sunday and is expected to conclude their inspections and audit by June 15th.
 
2.) U.S. Congress requires all passenger trains be equipped with Positive Train Control (PTC) by end of 2018, and in certain cases, by end of 2020.  SMART’s Board directed staff to proactively embrace this safety requirement and incorporate PTC into our project. Our PTC’s design, hardware, software and testing has cost us around $50M. This enhanced safety feature is designed to prevent derailment due to excessive speed, and will in fact prevent excessive speed due to human error or criminal acts, and thus prevent speed-related collisions.  These tragedies will simply not take place on our railroad. We must however remain vigilant and safety conscious.
 
Here’s what that means: We have completed over 2,000 individual PTC tests, more than 550 individual at-grade crossing tests, and over 10,000 pages of test documentation. We are now awaiting the FRA’s review and final approval, and that is in the works.
 
Recently I was told that there are many other railroads watching and cheering for our success so that they can use a similar design—we have moved into the #1 spot in terms of pending approval.
 
While this short and final PTC approval is underway, and as a sign of their confidence, once next week’s FRA audit is completed, it is my pleasure to announce that the FRA has authorized us to begin a “soft opening”, which will preview our passenger service in a ramp up fashion while we wait for them to conclude their final PTC review. 
 
We are inviting the public to give us feedback on what days would work best for themThey can share their suggestions with us through Facebook, on Twitter, or Instagram by using #SMART preview. People can also email us at SMARTpreview@SonomaMarinTrain.org, or call us at (707) 794-3330. We’ll announce that preview schedule, based on that feedback, next week.
 
Previously your Board decided to provide a free period, followed by a half-price period from July to Labor Day. Since we are waiting for final FRA approval we recommend that we extend the free period to opening day; then half-price through Labor Day.
 
We have done our part, and we now need final permission to open our doors. Under your direction, we have been working on the ceremony that will kick-off the start of our full passenger service. 
 
I want to thank the FRA, for working with us in partnership and with investment in our success, and the CPUC, whose team has been there to guide us, provide insight and to ensure the safety of all our passengers. They have done a phenomenal job.
 
Finally, Madam Chair, and members of the Board, thank you for your leadership. Thank you for having our backs.  Please meet the SMART family that made this possible.  All Aboard!