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Plans for a Rail-with-Trail facilities in Marin and Sonoma Counties

There are over 60 existing rails-with-trails facilities in the United States today.

From the Marin County Bicycle Coalition

"At least 150 rails WITH trails projects have been proposed throughout America in recent years."

Bicycle and pedestrian access along the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way has been considered for years by both Marin and Sonoma counties. Several general plans and bikeways plans that exist in Marin County and Sonoma County currently call for shared use of the rail corridor with a bicycle/pedestrian path.

Plans for Rail-with-Trail facilities in Marin and Sonoma Counties

Shared-use of the railroad right-of-way with a bicycle and pedestrian path has been called for in the following plans.

Marin County

The draft Marin County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan (January 2000) states that "The Plan recommendations include potential shared use with future rail service where feasible". The final plan will be release in May 2000, after which time it will go to the County of Marin and each city for adoption.

The Novato General Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in 1996 states under TR Program 15:5, "Explore development of a multimodal facility(ies) along the Railroad Corridor". TR Policy 17 states, "Support the acquisition of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way for future transit and possible bike route use, with the mode of transit to be subject to further study".

The 1994 North-South Bikeway Feasibility Study calls for shared use of the NWPRA with a Bicycle/Pedestrian Path.

The San Rafael General Plan, adopted by the City Council in 1986, states that for bicycle routes, "priority should be given to sections of routes designated in the circulation background and to the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way route". (page c-7, circulation policy c-23). The map titled "Bicycle Routes" (GP-8) also shows a "proposed class I separated path" along the NWPRA.

The 1974 Marin Bicycle Plan calls for a bicycle/pedestrian path on the NWPRA. This plan was adopted by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

Sonoma County

The Sonoma County Bikeways Plan, adopted by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in April 1997 and which is considered part of the Sonoma County General Plan, states under Policy A12, "Review railroad rights-of-way proposed for transit use for potential multiple use as Class I bikeways". The map for this plan also shows a proposed Class I bikeway along the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way in the unincorporated areas between the southern Windsor town limits and the Sonoma/Marin County line.

The Santa Rosa Bicycle Master Plan, which was adopted by the Santa Rosa City Council in June 1994, states under 2.4.1 Design Guidelines, Recommendation 5, "Following resolution of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way ownership, it is recommended that the potential for a bike path be explored along this corridor. The bike path should be located on either edge of the right-of way and not preclude the corridors use as a future transit line". The map for this plan also shows a proposed Class I bikeway along the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way between the northerly Santa Rosa city limits near Dennis Lane and the southerly city limits near Todd Road.

Adopted by the Rohnert Park City Council in October 1993, the map for the Rohnert Park Bicycle Path Master Plan shows a proposed Class I bikeway along the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way between the northern city limits and the southern city limits. The Circulation Element of the City of Rohnert Park General Plan, which was adopted by the Rohnert Park City Council in May 1990, also states under 3.8 Rail Service, "If use of the railroad right-of-way for transit purposes is not realized, it should be converted to a landscaped bicycle/pedestrian way."

The Draft City of Petaluma Bicycle Plan (October 1999), states under Chapter 6 North/South Connections, Railroad Access Opportunities, Policies 10 and 11, "The City shall develop a railroad bicycle path, referred to as the Rail Trail in this document, along the entire Railroad right-of-way within Petaluma's jurisdiction. The City shall support efforts to extend the Rail Trail north and south to connect to adjacent cities and beyond, and shall support the vision of a unified bicycle/ pedestrian Rail Trail extending through both Marin and Sonoma Counties". The map for this draft plan also shows a proposed Class I bikeway along the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way between the northern and southern Petaluma city limits.

The Sonoma County Countywide Bicycle Plan, adopted by the members of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority in April 1998, states under Policy f., "Where available and appropriate, make use of active railroad rights-of-way for non-motorized transportation modes".

Conclusion

Development of future rail transit in Sonoma and Marin County should consider shared used with a multi-use trail, assuming that safety, environmental, and other factors can be resolved. The SMART rail plan should be planned and designed with consideration of a rail-with-trail in mind.

April 2003

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