BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                       AB 157


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          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING


          AB  
          157 (Levine)


          As Introduced  January 20, 2015


          2/3 vote. Urgency


           ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Committee       |Votes |Ayes                     |Noes                |
          |                |      |                         |                    |
          |                |      |                         |                    |
          |----------------+------+-------------------------+--------------------|
          |Transportation  |15-0  |Achadjian, Baker, Bloom, |                    |
          |                |      |Campos, Chu, Daly, Dodd, |                    |
          |                |      |Eduardo Garcia, Gomez,   |                    |
          |                |      |Kim, Linder, Medina,     |                    |
          |                |      |Melendez, Nazarian,      |                    |
          |                |      |O'Donnell                |                    |
           ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 



          SUMMARY:  Requires an 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.








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          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 an urgency clause, allowing the bill's provisions to  
            take effect immediately.
          
          EXISTING LAW:


          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, however, a separate entity from the MTC;  
            vests with the BATA the responsibility to administer all toll  
            revenues from state-owned toll bridges within the geographic  
            jurisdiction of the MTC.



          3)Required 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; required lead agencies to  
            prepare a negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration,  
            or environmental impact report (EIR) for the project.








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          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown.  This bill is keyed non-fiscal by the  
          Legislative Counsel.


          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 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 U.S. Highway 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.  








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          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.  


          Assembly Transportation Committee staff concerns:  


          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  








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            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.  




          Analysis Prepared by:                                               
                          Janet S. Dawson / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093  FN:  
          0000084