After taking criticism for not planning to build any new parking for the downtown Petaluma commuter rail station, officials with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency last week reversed course and voted to add 50 temporary parking spaces and 25 bike racks.

The parking spaces will be built in a gravel lot on East Washington Street, adjacent to the SMART station on Lakeville Street. Four of the stalls will be paved and reserved for drivers with disabilities.

At the agency’s Jan. 4 meeting, Bill Gamlen, SMART chief engineer, said that the parking solution at Petaluma’s station would cost $175,000.

“It would be a simple gravel parking lot with a little bit of paved ADA-compliant parking,” he said.

The lot will sit on land that SMART owns and currently uses as a storage site for construction materials. Officials are working on a deal that would use the property as part of a land swap with the owner of a parcel at Corona Road and North McDowell Boulevard, which SMART leaders hope will result in a second Petaluma station that includes a parking garage.

The east Petaluma station was included in SMART’s original plan, but was placed on hold during recession-era cuts. The Cloverdale to Larkspur line was also scaled back and will initially operate between north Santa Rosa and San Rafael. Plans for a launch of service in December 2016 were late last year pushed back into this spring due to troubles with the diesel engines on the rail cars.

Supervisor David Rabbitt, a SMART board member from Petaluma, said he was happy the agency could provide Petaluma commuters with parking on the first day of service.

“The good thing is we have 50 spaces,” he said. “It’s a quick and dirty plan to get people to park. It’s a welcome move.”

Rabbitt said he did not think the east Petaluma station would be build by the launch of service. Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, said negotiations are still taking place with the developer, and it could be up to 18 months before parking at the east side station could be built. Any development at the Corona Road property would require cleanup of the soil, he said.

“We continue making progress on the negotiations,” Mansourian said. “The developer needs to go through the cleanup and the city process.”

The SMART board also approved a temporary 50-space parking lot at the station on Airport Boulevard north of Santa Rosa.

In addition to vehicle parking, the SMART board also voted to add more bike parking at the 11 stations. The downtown Petaluma station will receive 13 new U-racks and 12 electronic secure spaces, which are like lockers for bicycles.

The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition praised the move to add more bike parking.

“I’m really pleased with this process and the collaborative spirit overall in the past few months,” Alisha O’Loughlin, the executive director, told the SMART board.

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