Mostly clear

Return of Sonoma County rail service prompts safety concerns

After years of driving blithely over idle railroad crossings, Sonoma County residents are being urged to be extra cautious now that freight trains are rumbling down the tracks again.

"Are trains going again? I didn't even realize it," said driver Susan Dormant, stopped at a light recently near the D and Lakeville street crossing in Petaluma. "I'll have to pay more attention."

Freight trains coming to Petaluma


Two weeks ago, freight trains began hauling their first commercial cargo in a decade in Sonoma County. There had been no cargo service on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad since 2001, when federal transportation regulators halted traffic because of storm damage on the tracks.

In May, after the North Coast Railroad Authority spent $68 million to repair 62 miles of track between Windsor and Napa County, the Federal Railroad Administration lifted its embargo, clearing the way for freight hauling to begin again from Napa to Windsor.

Rail personnel are starting slowly and getting acclimated, said Mitch Stogner, executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority.

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