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SMART To Resume Overnight Train Testing To Dismay Of Some Residents

SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) – Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit will resume overnight testing Friday and Saturday for its rail crossing warning equipment and train control system between San Rafael and Larkspur.

The testing means the train horn will sound at the crossings multiple times as required by the Federal Railroad Administration, SMART said on its website.

The overnight tests are scheduled between 9:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m.  on weekdays and 9:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekends. The testing that began Aug.  23 is expected to last two to three weeks, according to SMART.

At the San Rafael City Council meeting Tuesday night, two women told Mayor Gary Phillips, who also is chair of SMART's Board of Directors, and the City Council that the overnight testing is causing sleep deprivation, blood sugar instability and other adverse health effects.

One woman said she had not slept three nights in a row for the past two weekends. She said she heard the horn sound at 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.

"It's intolerable. You need to intervene, it's just not acceptable," she said.

Phillips said SMART spent $50 million on the positive train control system that automatically stops a train before certain accidents occur.

Phillips said he is aware the train sounding at night presents "a pain in the neck to a lot of people."

"The community is rightly upset about this," Phillips said.

The SMART Board of Directors meets Wednesday afternoon, and Phillips said he will ask SMART's General Manager Farhad Mansourian about the status of the testing and whether there are other options, perhaps curtailing service during testing days.

SMART says the testing can't begin until around 11:30 p.m. after the daily runs between north of Santa Rosa and San Rafael are complete.

San Rafael will seek designation as a quiet zone that restricts sounding the train horn after the testing is finished, Phillips said.

"We want a quiet zone for the next 20 years, and this may be the price that we pay," Phillips said about the overnight testing.


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