The designation grants SMART funding to complete the federal environmental review process as well as final engineering and design for this critical segment, SMART said.
Federal funding would help SMART achieve its long-term goal of constructing a 70-mile railroad through Sonoma and Marin counties in northern California, connecting Cloverdale, Calif., with the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, where marine connections could be made for travel to San Francisco.
"When we started this process some said it couldn't be done," said SMART board chair Judy Arnold. "But here we are, and it's because every board member representing every community is determined to complete the entire project to both the north and to the south in the shortest time possible. We're set to work with our other regional partners to get this done."
The Small Starts designation puts SMART among a small group of projects nationwide that can be considered for federal construction dollars.
SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian lauded staff at both the FTA headquarters in Washington, and FTA regional office, as instrumental in navigating the federal funding process, noting FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff told him "the progress we have made on the Larkspur Extension warrants a place for the project at the federal table."
Work began in February 2012 on the $103 million initial segment of SMART, stretching about 42.5 miles. The initial segment will link Santa Rosa and San Raphael, Calif. Service is likely to begin in early 2017.