SMART Update: Los Ranchitos
As SMART railway construction continues along Los Ranchitos, residents continue their efforts to make SMART responsive to local concerns.
Saving the remaining trees
Residents were successful in getting SMART to send out an arborist to inspect the trees that were buried by construction dirt. The good news is that the trees were partially unburied, but not enough to restore the original ground level. We did a walk-through with SMART Chief Engineer Bill Gamlen and Ahmed Thieiji, the assistant engineer in charge of this section of the railway. Both assured us the arborist would be back to reassess the trees. The arborist did recently return and we are awaiting a report. Meanwhile, the tree closest to Walker Place was damaged by equipment again.
A large pile of new dirt appeared alongside Los Ranchitos near Ranch Road. After repeated questions as to what this was for and if it was being removed, we were told last week that it is not permanent and will be removed “at some point”. If they had needed dirt, we already have a berm just to the north that we don’t want.
Weeds in fire season
Very, very dry weeds cover the berm behind the neighborhood and the ground between Los Ranchitos and the tracks. This was called “re-vegetation” by SMART, but we know what weeds look like. Residents expressed their concern about fire risk to the SMART Board at the beginning of the year and to SMART staff during their onsite visit this spring. The weeds were supposed to be cleared July 1, but work just began on July 27. We did notice that when the workers took a lunch break, they left their hot, gas powered weed whackers on the dry brush. Not the SMART-est move.
We appreciate that SMART conducted a site visit with residents to hear our concerns and explain their plans. Once the tracks are finished, they will start working on the multi-use path in this same area. We impressed upon Bill Gamlen the importance of ensuring neighborhood input into the siting of the path to minimize further loss of large trees. We have learned that we have to be vigilant to ensure that our concerns are heard.
Utility building installation caused flooding
We did a story on the flooding caused by the placement of this building. Ahmed said the sub-contractor was asked to come back and fix the drainage. We reviewed this with Ahmed onsite and pointed out that the “fix” will require water to travel uphill to be properly drained on the asphalt sidewalk. The contractor is tied up with other responsibilities in the project downtown, but we’ll keep on this to ensure it is not forgotten.
It has been a good thing to be able to communicate directly with the engineer responsible for this segment, as it has been difficult to get timely information or attention from SMART. We appreciate the contact and answers to our questions. With the possibility of an El Nino this winter, we are certain SMART is going to have many more issues in this area.