BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING
                              Senator Jim Beall, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:          AB 157            Hearing Date:     7/7/2015
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          |Author:   |Levine                                                |
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          |Version:  |6/25/2015                                             |
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          |Urgency:  |Yes                    |Fiscal:      |No              |
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          |Consultant|Christine Hochmuth                                    |
          |:         |                                                      |
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          SUBJECT:  Richmond-San Rafael Bridge


            DIGEST:  This bill allows an environmental review to be  
          completed concurrently with the design work for a project  
          opening the third lane in each direction on the Richmond-San  
          Rafael Bridge.

          ANALYSIS:  
          
          Existing law:
          
          1)Creates the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) as  
            the transportation planning, coordinating, and financing  
            agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

          2)Creates the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) to administer the  
            base $1 auto toll for the San Francisco Bay Area's seven  
            state-owned toll bridges.  BATA operates under the same board  
            that governs MTC; however, they are separate entities.  In  
            2005, BATA's responsibilities were expanded to include  
            administration of all toll revenues and joint oversight of the  
            toll bridge construction program along with the California  
            Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California  
            Transportation Commission.

          3)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.  Lead agencies are  







          AB 157 (Levine)                                    Page 2 of ?
          
          
            required to prepare a negative declaration, mitigated negative  
            declaration, or environmental impact report (EIR) for the  
            project.

          This urgency bill:

          1)Authorizes MTC and Caltrans to complete the design work at the  
            same time as the environmental review for a project opening  
            the third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to automobile  
            traffic on the eastbound level and to bicycle traffic on the  
            west bound level.

          COMMENTS:

          Purpose.  According to the author, this bill is necessary to  
          reduce the amount of time to completion for the Richmond-San  
          Rafael Bridge project and therefore significantly reduce  
          commuter congestion.
          
          Background.  When the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge originally  
          opened in 1956 it served traffic in six 12-foot-wide lanes -  
          three lanes in both the eastbound and westbound directions.  In  
          1977, a then-underutilized third lane was closed to allow for a  
          pipeline to transport water from the East Bay to Marin County.   
          In 1978, the pipeline was removed and the third lane was  
          restriped as an emergency shoulder.  In 1989, following the Loma  
          Prieta earthquake and the closure of the San Francisco Bay  
          Bridge, the third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was  
          opened in both directions for one month to help ease traffic  
          flow across the bay.  
          
          CEQA challenges.  Environmental studies and design work for  
          projects are typically separated, but they needn't be.  Lead  
          agencies can choose to "design-at-risk," meaning that design  
          work precedes environmental clearance, to shorten completion  
          time of projects.  This strategy is not unheard of; however, it  
          can open the door to legal challenges under CEQA because it may  
          appear that the EIR is biased and tailored to fit a  
          pre-determined outcome, namely a finished design.  
          
          The circumstances surrounding the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge  
          project are different, as the newly proposed third traffic lane  
          has been open to vehicles in the past, so a design can be based  
          off this proven, previously functioning model.
          








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          Necessity of the bill.  In February, the BATA Oversight  
          Committee approved a contract for the completion of final plans  
          for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge project.  These plans are to  
          occur concurrently with the effort to obtain project approval  
          and the environmental review activities.  This recent action  
          shaves time off the project, which calls into question the  
          necessity of this bill and how it will actually help in  
          achieving the author's stated intent.  However, supporters  
          believe that this bill will help the project to be further  
          expedited.
          
          Double referred.  This bill has also been referred to the Senate  
          Environmental Quality Committee.

          

          Assembly Votes:

            Floor:    75-0 
            Trans:    15-0 
          
          FISCAL EFFECT:  Appropriation:  No    Fiscal Com.:  No    Local:  
           No


            POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the committee before noon on  
          Wednesday,
                          July 1, 2015.)
          
            SUPPORT:  

          American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
          Bay Area Council
          Bay Area Toll Authority
          City of San Rafael
          Marin County Board of Supervisors
          Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers
          North Bay Leadership Council
          State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
          Transportation Authority of Marin
          United Contractors

          OPPOSITION:

          None received








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