SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) – Drivers in the North Bay are getting bogged down in heavier than usual traffic as SMART train construction slows down commuters around San Rafael and Larkspur.
When the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (or SMART) train pulls into the San Rafael station it is, literally, at the end of the line. The transit service is designed to get Sonoma and Marin County commuters to San Francisco via the Larkspur Ferry, but it ends about three miles short of that goal.
“I know a lot of people who commute to the City and that little bit right here keeps them from doing it,” said regular SMART commuter Devon Delzell.
Currently, commuters catch a shuttle at the bus station across the street to connect the ferry to the train. But work is ongoing to correct that, as many driving into downtown San Rafael have discovered.
Francisco Boulevard West used to be a busy street, but now it is essentially a construction zone. It will be closed until February of next year.
“You know, we’re going through construction right now, so we’re gonna have a lot of detours. So please forgive the next few months, but remember: once we build this, it’s for generations to come,” said SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian.
Crews are busy burying new electrical lines and preparing the road bed in preparation for the rails. On the Larkspur side, the new train platform is being constructed from which riders will begin their long hike to the ferry landing. But those who already ride SMART say it beats being stuck in traffic.
“This is fun. I mean, we sit in here and have a glass of wine instead of sitting in front of Costco on the highway, you know?” said San Anselmo resident Dan Pieri.
The trains can already get pretty crowded during evening commutes and SMART has four more cars on the way. So they know it will be a challenge to accommodate all the riders who may be waiting until the train makes it to Larkspur.
“And once they can get all the way to there, it’s gonna open up a whole lot. Not only for those commuters, but those who go to Giants games and things like that. I think it’s really gonna be a good thing in the long run.”
SMART officials say it all goes according to plan, the connection to Larkspur should be finished around Christmas of 2019.