BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     AB 157


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          Date of Hearing:  March 23, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION


                                 Jim Frazier, Chair


          AB  
          157 (Levine) - As Introduced  January 20, 2015


          SUBJECT:  Richmond-San Rafael Bridge


          SUMMARY:  Requires environmental review to be completed  
          concurrent with design work for a project to open a third lane  
          in each direction on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, under  
          certain conditions.  Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Makes legislative findings and declarations regarding the  
            history of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and of a planned  
            project to improve traffic flow on the bridge by re-opening a  
            third lane to vehicle traffic in the eastbound direction and  
            to bicycle traffic in the westbound direction.



          2)Requires, to the extent possible, environmental work and  
            design work be done concurrently on the project if the  
            Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the  
            California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) develop  
            such a project.  



          3)Includes urgency provisions.
          EXISTING LAW:  










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          1)Created MTC as a local area planning agency to provide  
            comprehensive regional transportation planning for the region  
            comprised of the City and County of San Francisco and the  
            Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo,  
            Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.



          2)Created the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) as a public  
            instrumentality governed by the same board as that governing  
            the MTC. The authority is, however, a separate entity from the  
            MTC.  



          3)Vests with the BATA the responsibility to administer all toll  
            revenues from state-owned toll bridges within the geographic  
            jurisdiction of the MTC.



          4)Requires state and local agencies, pursuant to the California  
            Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), to identify significant  
            environmental impacts of discretionary projects and to avoid  
            or mitigate those impacts, if feasible; requires lead agencies  
            to prepare a negative declaration, mitigated negative  
            declaration, or environmental impact report (EIR) for the  
            project.
          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown


          COMMENTS:  The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge originally opened in  
          1956 with three lanes of vehicular traffic in each direction.   
          In the 1970s, one lane of the bridge was temporarily closed to  
          allow for an aqueduct to transport water to a drought-stricken  
          Marin.  Even though the aqueduct was later removed, the bridge  
          continues to operate with two traffic lanes in each direction. 


          The author introduced this bill to address growing concerns  
          about congestion delays in the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge  
          corridor.  According to BATA, regional population growth and  








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          local business developments in Marin County have resulted in  
          significant traffic increases on eastbound Interstate 580  
          (I-580) and the bridge approach during evening peak commute  
          periods.  BATA also reports that the congestion in the bridge  
          corridor backs up traffic on northbound US 101 in Marin County.   



          In addition to traffic congestion, the current configuration on  
          the bridge (two-lanes in each direction) does not allow for  
          bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  As a result, there is a  
          significant gap in the 270-mile Bay Trail, reportedly one of the  
          most heavily used recreation and non-motorized transportation  
          assets in the region.  


          Last month, BATA voted to proceed with the I-580 Access  
          Improvement Project.  The project includes improvements for  
          motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians in the Richmond-San  
          Rafael Bridge corridor.  Proposed improvements include opening a  
          third lane of vehicular traffic in the eastbound direction of  
          I-580 from Marin County to Contra Costa County (across the  
          bridge) and converting an existing shoulder in the westbound  
          direction of the bridge to a barrier-separated path for  
          bicyclists and pedestrians. 


          BATA's February action authorized its staff to proceed with a  
          "design-at-risk" strategy (i.e., begin design in advance of  
          environmental clearance) to shorten the timeframe for opening  
          all improvements.  BATA's stated goal is to complete the final  
          design and be able to advertise for construction at the  
          completion of the environmental review.


          According to the author, the design-at-risk strategy will  
          expedite completion of the project by as much as 18 months.  


          Committee concerns:  










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          1)The author's stated intent with the bill is to speed  
            completion of the project by proceeding with the  
            design-at-risk strategy.  However, since BATA is already  
            pursuing this approach, it is not clear why the bill is  
            necessary to expedite the project.



          2)Typically, the goal of an EIR process is to evaluate project  
            alternatives with the aim of avoiding or minimizing impacts to  
            the environment.  Most lead agencies are careful to complete  
            this process before beginning design work.  One advantage for  
            doing so is to avoid inviting a legal challenge that the EIR  
            is inadequate because the outcome was pre-determined and  
            therefore biased.  
            Agencies do, however, occasionally proceed with design prior  
            to completion of the EIR, just as BATA has with the I-580  
            Access Improvement Project.  Arguably, it may make sound  
            business sense for an agency to proceed with a design-at-risk  
            strategy when, for example, the number of alternatives is  
            limited and the project schedule needs to be accelerated.  


            The author indicates that his intent in introducing this bill  
            is to specifically ensure that BATA has clear authority to  
            proceed with the design-at-risk strategy.  However, this bill  
            goes beyond authorizing a design-risk strategy by, instead,  
            mandating that BATA use this strategy if it pursues this  
            project.  In so doing, this bill could effectively absolve  
            BATA of legal risks related to pre-determining the outcome of  
            its EIR, a consequence that goes beyond the author's stated  
            intent and one for which there is no justification presented  
            as to why BATA should uniquely enjoy this protection.  


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:


          Support


          American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,  








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          AFL-CIO
          Bay Area Council
          Marin County Board of Supervisors
          State Building & Construction Trades Council


          Opposition


          None on file


          Analysis Prepared by:Janet Dawson/TRANS./(916) 319-2093