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March 25, 2002

Any attempt to acquire ownership of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad "North Coast" corridor will be complicated due to the overlapping multiple of ownerships involved.  The present complexity of ownership is the result of two decades of efforts by various local, state and federal policy makers to preserve the North Coast corridor for future generations. 

The North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) owns the section from Healdsburg north to Korbel, with directors from Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties.  Healdsburg south to Lombard is owned by the Northwestern Railroad Authority, with directors from Marin County, the NCRA, and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District "Bridge District", with Directors representing the Counties of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Del Norte.  Novato to San Rafael and Corte Madera to Larkspur is owned by the Bridge District, and San Rafael to Corte Madera is owned by  Marin County and the Bridge District. 

Adding to this complexity is the recently introduced legislation AB2224 (Nations, D-San Rafael) at the request of the Sonoma/Marin Area Rail Transit Commission (SMART).  This legislation would create yet another entity; the Sonoma-Marin Rail District to acquire the transfer of various segments of the present ownerships.  

And if all this weren’t complex enough, there are numerous overlapping right of way and operating agreements between the various entities.  It would appear that Niemeyer and Associates of Illinois' recently reported quest to acquire the entire North Coast rail corridor could be accomplished quickly or easily.   

Ted Niemeyer's presentation at the NCRA's March 20th Board of Directors meeting in Healdsburg included a lengthy dialog with the Board, staff, and the public.  But, the lengthy airing of the issue still seemed to leave everyone questioning what was planned or when one might expect it to happen. 

"I can't quite get a fix on exactly what Niemeyer does want",  said Board Chairman Dave Ripple.  He then went on to say, "the only thing that seems certain is that Niemeyer feels very strongly that he can raise large sums of money to take over all or some portion of the North Coast rail corridor.  His first public statements were about taking over the entire line, but his latest statements seem to indicate that he may only be interested in acquiring the rail line from Willits north." 

The NCRA is preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an operator, and Niemeyer was  invited to respond with one or more possibilities, which might include the purchase of all or part of the NCRA. 

"My belief in the importance of the railroad to the future prosperity of this area has brought me to the point where I eat, sleep and breath its return", said Director Leo Sears.  "And quite frankly, I care not one whit whether the final result is in private or public hands.  I only care about what is best for the prosperity of our area. 

"The official position of the NCRA is that any forthcoming proposals will be treated with one overriding concern - what best serves the future prosperity of our area.  In the mean time, NCRA's responsibility is to pursue its present course in reopening the rail corridor.


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