BILL ANALYSIS Ó SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY Senator Wieckowski, Chair 2015 - 2016 Regular Bill No: AB 157 ----------------------------------------------------------------- |Author: |Levine | ----------------------------------------------------------------- |-----------+-----------------------+-------------+----------------| |Version: |6/25/2015 |Hearing |7/15/2015 | | | |Date: | | |-----------+-----------------------+-------------+----------------| |Urgency: |Yes |Fiscal: |No | ------------------------------------------------------------------ ----------------------------------------------------------------- |Consultant:|Joanne Roy | | | | ----------------------------------------------------------------- SUBJECT: Richmond-San Rafael Bridge ANALYSIS: Existing law: 1) Under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. Actions include making decisions on permit applications, adopting federal land management actions, and constructing highways and other publicly-owned facilities. (42 United States Code §4321 et seq.). 2) Requires lead agencies with the principal responsibility for carrying out or approving a proposed discretionary project to prepare a negative declaration, mitigated declaration, or environmental impact report (EIR) for this action, unless the project is exempt from CEQA (CEQA includes various statutory exemptions, as well as categorical exemptions in the CEQA Guidelines). (Public Resources Code (PRC) §21000 et seq.). 3) States, "The environmental document preparation and review should be coordinated in a timely fashion with the existing planning, review, and project approval processes being used by each public agency. These procedures, to the maximum extent feasible, are to run concurrently, not consecutively, when included as part of the regular project report if such a report is used in its existing review and budgetary process." (CEQA Guidelines §15004(c)). AB 157 (Levine) Page 2 of ? 4) Provides that public agencies should reduce delay and paperwork by integrating the CEQA process into early planning. (CEQA Guidelines §15006). 5) Creates the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (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. (Government Code §66500 et seq.). 6) Creates 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. (Streets and Highways Code §30950). 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) Authorizes, to the extent possible, environmental work and design work be done concurrently on the project if the MTC and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) develop such a project. 3) Includes an urgency clause in order to open the third lane of the bridge to traffic at the earliest possible date. Background 1) NEPA. NEPA was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting the environment. NEPA's basic policy is to assure that all AB 157 (Levine) Page 3 of ? branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking major federal action that significantly affects the environment. NEPA requirements are invoked when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other federal activities are proposed. Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements, which are assessments of the likelihood of impacts from alternative courses of action, are required from all federal agencies. 2) CEQA: Environmental review process. CEQA provides a process for evaluating the environmental effects of a project, and includes statutory exemptions as well as categorical exemptions in the CEQA guidelines. If a project is not exempt from CEQA, an initial study is prepared to determine whether a project may have a significant effect on the environment. If the initial study shows that there would not be a significant effect on the environment, the lead agency must prepare a negative declaration. If the initial study shows that the project may have a significant effect on the environment, then the lead agency must prepare an EIR. Generally, an EIR must accurately describe the proposed project, identify and analyze each significant environmental impact expected to result from the proposed project, identify mitigation measures to reduce those impacts to the extent feasible, and evaluate a range of reasonable alternatives to the proposed project. Prior to approving any project that has received an environmental review, an agency must make certain findings. If mitigation measures are required or incorporated into a project, the agency must adopt a reporting or monitoring program to ensure compliance with those measures. If a mitigation measure would cause one or more significant effects in addition to those that would be caused by the proposed project, the effects of the mitigation measure must be discussed but in less detail than the significant effects of the proposed project. 3) CEQA: What is analyzed in an environmental review? Pursuant to CEQA, an environmental review analyzing the significant direct and indirect environmental impacts of a proposed project, may include water quality, surface and subsurface AB 157 (Levine) Page 4 of ? hydrology, land use and agricultural resources, transportation and circulation, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, terrestrial and aquatic biological resources, aesthetics, geology and soils, recreation, public services and utilities such as water supply and wastewater disposal, cultural resources, and tribal cultural resources. The analysis must also evaluate the cumulative impacts of any past, present, and reasonably foreseeable projects/activities within study areas that are applicable to the resources being evaluated. A study area for a proposed project must not be limited to the footprint of the project because many environmental impacts of a development extend beyond the identified project boundary. Also, CEQA stipulates that the environmental impacts must be measured against existing physical conditions within the project area, not future, allowable conditions. 4) Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. 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. Comments 1) Purpose of Bill. According to the author, "Traffic gridlock on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is one of the worst in the Bay Area. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was originally constructed and operated with six 12-foot wide lanes, three in the eastbound and three in the westbound directions. Third lane was closed in 1977 to allow for a pipeline to transport water during drought. Since that time the third lane has been used as an emergency should with the exception of the month following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake when the lane was opened to help ease traffic across the bay from the closure of the Bay Bridge. "Performing the design work simultaneously with the environmental work will expedite the Richmond-San Rafael AB 157 (Levine) Page 5 of ? third lane project by as much as 18 months. This bill makes clear that the design work can be done concurrently with the environmental review." 2) Congestion. 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 US 101 in Marin County. The project proposes to convert the shoulder along the span's lower deck (eastbound direction) to a peak-period lane to relieve traffic congestion. 3) Bicycle and pedestrians. 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 gap in the 270-mile Bay Trail, which is reportedly one of the most heavily used recreation and non-motorized transportation assets in the region. The project will install a concrete barrier system on the upper deck (westbound direction) of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to convert the existing freeway shoulder to a barrier-separated path for bicycles and pedestrians. 4) What's the plan? In February, 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. AB 157 (Levine) Page 6 of ? By overlapping elements of the process, CalTrans states that 1- 1 years have been shaved off the timeline of this project. Originally construction was expected to start in 2017; and complete and open to traffic the third lane in late 2018. With the accelerated schedule underway, CalTrans plans to start construction in 2016 and open the third lane to traffic in late 2017. 5) Potential public safety issue with third lane. Part of the project area curves and has a retaining wall. The proposed third lane would be located on the inside of the curve - this poses a potential safety issue because of the limited line of sight. For example, a car stalls on the far end of the curve in the third lane; but cars approaching the stalled car from behind may not be able to see the stalled car, due to the curve, and end up crashing into it. One of the issues analyzed in a CEQA environmental review related to transportation/traffic is whether a project substantially increases hazards due to design feature, such as sharp curves. The traffic study has not been completed yet. Is it prudent to encourage the expedition of the environmental review process considering there is a known, potentially significant hazard to public safety? 6) NEPA. Because the highway is part of the federal Interstate system, environmental approval is not only required pursuant to CEQA, but to NEPA as well. For purposes of NEPA, the project must be in the Metropolitan Planning Organization's conforming Regional Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge project is not currently in these planning documents. The purpose of this bill is meant to expedite the project. However, this bill does not have any effect on mandates required at the federal level and would not speed up the NEPA environmental review process. A question arises as to whether this bill would actually bring the project to the construction phase more quickly considering this project is subject to NEPA as well as CEQA. 7) Is this bill necessary? This bill authorizes, to the extent possible, environmental work and design work to be done concurrently on this project. CEQA Guidelines 15004(c) states, "The environmental document preparation and review AB 157 (Levine) Page 7 of ? should be coordinated in a timely fashion with the existing planning, review, and project approval processes being used by each public agency. These procedures, to the maximum extent feasible, are to run concurrently, not consecutively, when included as part of the regular project report if such a report is used in its existing review and budgetary process." In addition, CEQA Guidelines 15006 states, "Public agencies should reduce delay and paperwork by?[i]ntegrating the CEQA process into early planning." In general, CalTrans, which is the lead agency for this project, states that environmental studies begin when it has enough information to begin studies. Depending on each project, this could begin when 10% to 20% of the design exists. The purpose of this bill is to make clear that design and environmental review can be done concurrently. However, a question arises as to whether current law and practice already serve the purpose of this bill. DOUBLE REFERRAL: This measure was heard in Senate Transportation & Housing Committee on July 7, 2015, and passed out of committee with a vote of 11-0. SOURCE: Author SUPPORT: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Bay Area Council Marin County Board of Supervisors Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers Metropolitan Transportation Commission OPPOSITION: Sierra Club California -- END -- AB 157 (Levine) Page 8 of ?