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Posted on Feb 28, 2015 in Kitchen Sink, SMART | 3 comments

Success: Citizens make a difference

Success: Citizens make a difference

Photo above shows one tree that was buried in the berm, now dug out with a chance to survive.

Since a group of concerned residents started looking at the SMART construction operation in San Rafael, we have some victories to report:

Creosote ties are out of the watershed

For the last two years, old timber ties have been lying in the water at the South Fork of Las Gallinas Creek in violation of SMART’s permits. They are gone! Read the story. Additionally, SMART will have to move the gravel and ballast back onto the tracks when the protective fencing is taken down. That is our priceless watershed being protected. We sent our concerns and photos to the SF Bay Area Water Quality Control Board. A week later they were inspecting the tracks.

Creosote ties improperly stored on Los Ranchitos right-of-way are gone

Exposed piles of creosote ties have been improperly stored on the right-of-way for two months, creating misery for nearby residents who couldn’t even open their windows because of the toxic fumes. Read our creosote primer Those ties have been moved, but we don’t know where. However, the timber ties now stored in the Lincoln corridor are properly covered. Read the story.

Creosote ties at the crossings have been inspected

It is confirmed that SMART failed to disclose that they were going to use creosote ties at grade crossings (or anywhere else). While we can’t get them out of the ground, they were inspected by the SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. Every crossing from Petaluma to San Rafael was inspected and SMART is being required to take measures to minimize leaching of creosote into nearby protected waters. Thank you.

At least one oak has been dug out of its puddle

The dirt berm on the Los Ranchitos right-of-way was literally drowning one oak. SMART has been out to move the dirt away from the crown of that tree. One tree down, but more to go. Residents aren’t going to let SMART off with just saving one of the few remaining trees. We will keep on with the effort to restore this area, remove the berm, and replace the 19 trees that were erroneously removed. Read the story.

Berm on Los Ranchitos

The berm along Los Ranchitos track bed reduces privacy of residents and shows lack of vegetation.

Sensitive Puerto Suello Tunnel is on regulator’s radar screen

In our meeting with the Regional Quality Control Board Thursday, February 26, the inspector confirmed that only concrete ties would be used at the north end of the tunnel. This area is also home to a protected creek that would be harmed by creosote leaching from ties. The South end, however, will unfortunately use more creosote ties.

What’s next?

There is a lot more to be done to ensure that SMART complies with its permits and operates in a manner that is respectful of our communities. After all, they work for us – we are the ones paying the bills.


  1. Glad to hear the positive news!! But the fight isn’t over! It’s obvious that we need to babysit SMART’s progression to ensure they’ll do the job right the first time. Thank you all for addressing the board!!

  2. Any word on restoring all the promised pedestrian/ bike paths to the plan?

  3. Awesome work by We Are San Rafael!

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