SMART bonds sell but not everybody on board

It’s not BART, it’s SMART. And it’s one step closer to reality after selling almost $200 million in bonds to finance the first portion of the line between Santa Rosa and San Rafael.

Voters in Marin and Sonoma agreed to a quarter-cent sales tax in 2008 to build a $690 million, 70-mile rail line from Cloverdale to Larkspur. After revenue projections for the line were scaled back, planners decided to build the line in stages.

The first 37-mile stage of the line would run from Railroad Square in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael. The $191 million in bonds just sold make up about half of the construction cost, with local, state and federal funds chipping in the rest.

The heavy-rail commuter line has been argued about for years in Marin County. And the arguing continues, with a group called RepealSMART poised to submit signatures in its continued effort to do what its name implies.

On Jan. 9, the SMART board is expected to award the construction contact for the Santa Rosa-San Rafael stage to a yet-unidentified contractor that the district has completed negotiations with. The first contract is expected to come in at $107 million.

The RepealSMART guys aren’t happy about that, telling the P-D that bond sale was “foolish” and a “wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.” But they’re still collecting signatures in front of a January deadline. And though they sound confident they’ll reach their goal, clearly they haven’t yet, or they wouldn’t still be collecting signatures.