The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit sold $191 million in bonds Tuesday morning to help pay for the construction of a train and pathway between Sonoma and Marin counties.
The sale of the bonds will net SMART $171 million, SMART officials said. The money will be used to build crossings, bridges, stations and buy trains.
Judy Arnold, Vice Chair of the SMART Board of Directors, said the financing "will be used to create 900 jobs beginning in the New Year."
Voters in both counties approved a quarter-cent sales tax in 2008 to help finance the proposed 70-mile train and bike and pedestrian path between Cloverdale and Larkspur. Adverse economic conditions, including less than anticipated sales
tax revenue, caused SMART to downsize the project. Board members decided instead to build the project between Railroad Square in Santa Rosa and downtown San Rafael by 2016 at a cost of $360 million.
The bond sales proceeds, sales tax revenue and funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will finance the revised 39-mile project.
RepealSmart is circulating petitions to put the sales tax measure before voters in 2012, arguing the truncated line and bike path are not what voters approved three years ago. RepealSMART also wanted the board of directors to delay selling
bonds for the project.
The proceeds from the bond sales will be put in an escrow account pending the results of RepealSmart's petition drive and any re-vote on the sales tax measure.
"When the unsuccessful repeal effort deadline is passed at the end of next month, the bonds will be converted to fixed interest rate and the money will be put to use to fund SMART construction," SMART said in a press release.
"Our finance team did a superb job," SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian said. "We apprised them of the risk associated with a potential repeal effort and they still managed to complete the deal. With historic lows for financing and tremendous construction bids, delaying the sale would have cost SMART and taxpayers many times that."
The SMART Board of Directors meets today, Wednesday, in San Rafael at 2:30 p.m. SMART supporters will be holding a rally, called SMART Jobs for the Holidays, at noon in front of the San Rafael City Hall.
-- Bay City News