CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 07/08/2011

Transportation

AB 345 (Atkins) – Support
As Amended on June 29, 2011

AB 345, by Assembly Member Toni Atkins, would codify in statute a long-standing advisory committee, the California Uniform Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC), created by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The measure would also add two additional representatives to the CTCDC representing non-motorized users of the road, selected from the Caltrans Active Transportation and Livable Communities Advisory Group (ATLC).

CSAC, with two representatives on the CTCDC since 1968, is an active participant working to ensure local government input into Caltrans decisions’ regarding rules and regulations prescribing uniform standards and specifications for all official traffic control devices in California. Counties serve an important role on this committee as we are subject to and oversee implementation of changes to standards resulting from developing science and new technology. We remain important governmental partners as owners and operators of 38 percent of the state’s road mileage. 

CSAC supports the goals of AB 345 – to expand the membership on the CTCDC to ensure that all users of the roadway system impacted by decisions regarding traffic control device standards are represented. We believe the ATLC Advisory Group is a good resource from which to appoint the non-motorized representatives to the CTCDC. 

AB 345 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 15. 

AB 720 (Hall) – Opposition Removed
As Amended on June 27, 2011

AB 720, by Assembly Member Isadore Hall, as amended on June 27, would limit the ability of a county under the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act from utilizing an alternative contracting procedure (Road Commissioner Authority) for new road construction and road reconstruction projects, while preserving a counties ability to perform maintenance and emergency work by force account.

Our opposition to AB 720 was based on the fact that Road Commissioner authority is critical to ensure our ability to respond to needs of the public and perform work on county highways in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner. We oppose any effort to eliminate that authority outright. However, we believe that the bill as amended provides a workable solution that limits force account work for new construction and reconstruction, while retaining our ability to meet maintenance and emergency needs on the county transportation system.

After having worked on this measure with the author and the sponsors for the past six months, as well as during the previous two-year legislative cycle, we are pleased to have finally negotiated a reasonable compromise and are removing our opposition to AB 720. Assembly Member Hall is providing a letter of intent to the journal in order to clarify that AB 720 is not intended to limit force account work for facilitating private contracts (i.e. design, engineering, inspection, etc.). We also intend to work with the sponsors to pursue a change in the State Controller’s Guidelines regarding how force account work is reported in the Annual Streets and Roads Report.

AB 720 was passed out of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on July 6 by a unanimous vote. The measure now awaits action by the entire Senate. 

AB 892 (Carter) – Support
As Amended on May 10, 2011

AB 892, by Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter, would extend the State of California’s existing limited waiver of its sovereign immunity, which is necessary to allow the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to continue its assumptions of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) responsibilities under Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). Specifically, the measure extends the limited waiver of sovereign immunity until January 1, 2019, or until a termination of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the California Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. 

Caltrans has been participating in the “Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program” (Pilot Program) under a MOU since July 1, 2007. To assume these federal responsibilities, Caltrans was required to accept the jurisdiction of the federal courts, necessitating the limited waiver of sovereign immunity. 

The Pilot Program is intended to streamline the process for approving transportation projects by allowing Caltrans to assume FHWA’s responsibility for approvals and consultations under NEPA and other federal laws while maintaining all federal environmental protections. The program requires Caltrans to comply with all FHWA NEPA regulations, environmental policies and formal guidance. Under the program, one layer of bureaucracy, related to FHWA’s review of environmental documents, is removed, decreasing the time required for environmental approvals. 

Based on the first 3.5 years of the Pilot Program, Caltrans has achieved a median time savings of 14 months in preparing and approving routine environmental documents, measured from when environmental studies begin until the final environmental document is signed. These time savings are based on almost 70 projects for which Caltrans independently made environmental approvals for both the draft and final environmental document under the Pilot Program. 

This legislation is a key element in helping Caltrans streamline the environmental review process for critical transportation projects. For these reasons, CSAC supports AB 892.

AB 892 was passed out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on July 6 by a unanimous vote.

Indian Gaming 

AB 1417 (Hall) – Support
As Amended on June 22, 2011

AB 1417, by Assembly Member Isadore Hall, would appropriate $18.2 million from the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund (SDF) for grants to local governments to help off-set the impacts on infrastructure and public services from tribal gaming.

While the grants offered via the SDF program do not mitigate all of the affects Indian gaming has on California’s local communities, the funding is still very critical to local jurisdictions affected by gaming. Counties experience a myriad of costly impacts on local infrastructure and services ranging from transportation to wastewater to public safety. 

Additionally, these are special funds and have no impact of the State’s General Fund or budget. This appropriation will help local governments and Tribes put this dedicated revenue towards its intended purpose. These funds are even more vital during such difficult budget and economic times and could even stimulate some economic activity as a result of investing the money in infrastructure mitigation projects. 

AB 1417 was passed out of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee on July 6 by a vote of 11 to 0. The measure is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 15.

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