Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
A deal stuck last month between commuter and freight rail agencies could lead to the development of an east Petaluma rail station and a downtown mixed use project.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit authority, which is preparing to launch commuter train service from Santa Rosa to San Rafael later this year, reached the deal with the North Coast Railroad Authority, which operates freight trains on the same stretch of tracks.
As part of the sweeping operating agreement, the NCRA agreed to vacate the downtown rail yard adjacent to the train station on Lakeville Street. NCRA had an easement to park freight trains on the property, complicating SMART’s efforts to develop the land.
“It’s a positive step and a victory for Petaluma,”said Supervisor David Rabbitt, a SMART board member. “It does clear the way for things to move forward.”
With NCRA ceding its interest in the property, SMART is now free to pursue a deal with a developer to sell the downtown land in exchange for construction of a second Petaluma commuter rail platform at Corona Road. The long envisioned second station was promised to voters who approved the commuter rail agency in 2008, but was removed from the initial plans as the agency faced budget uncertainty during the recession.