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STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Public Utilities Commission
April 2, 2008
(Meeting of April 10, 2008)
Pamela Loomis, Deputy Director
Office of Governmental Affairs (OGA) - Sacramento
AB 2500 (Strickland) - Grade separation projects.
As introduced: February 21, 2008
LEGISLATIVE SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION: SUPPORT
SUMMARY OF BILL:
AB 2500 would increase the annual budget allocation for grade separation projects that are included in the Grade Separation Priority List prepared by the Public Utilities Commission (Commission) from the current level of $15,000,000 to $165,000,000.
SUMMARY OF SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS FOR RECOMMENDATION:
As part of its mission to reduce hazards associated with at-grade crossings, and in support of the national goal of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Commission's policy is to reduce the number of at-grade crossings on freight or passenger railroad mainlines in California. The existing annual allocation of $15 million was established over 25 years ago and is no longer adequate. Increases in the cost of land acquisition (particularly in urban areas) and construction have resulted in the fixed allocation funding fewer projects over time. By increasing the program fund to $165 million, more projects can be allocated funds to improve railroad crossing safety and meet the original intent of the legislature.
SUMMARY OF SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS:
DIVISION ANALYSIS (Consumer Protection and Safety Division):
· The current funding level is inadequate to fund meaningful contributions to grade separation projects. Under Streets and Highways Code Section 24521, the Commission is responsible for establishing the grade separation priority listing of crossing projects. In the current proceeding I.07-07-006, the 121 nominated projects have an average project cost of $42 million.
· The existing annual allocation of $15 million was established over 34 years ago and has not been raised to keep pace with inflation. Increases in the cost of land acquisition (particularly in urban areas), materials and construction have resulted in the fixed allocation funding fewer projects over time.
· The legislature's Joint Legislative Audit Committee recently requested the Bureau of State Audits (BSA) review the Section 190 Grade Separation program. BSA found that the Legislature should continue the program and increase the annual budget of $15 million (and allocation limits per project) if it desires to continue providing a specific source of funding focused on grade separation projects.
· Decision 98-06-072 indicated that the Commission's priority list of 41 crossing projects eligible for Grade Separation program funds for the 1998-99 fiscal year had a total cost approaching $600 million. The Decision in that proceeding stated "(w)ith so many projects proposed for grade separation, the Commission considers the fund in desperate need of an increase to keep pace with inflation and to adequately fund grade separations at locations with potential safety hazards." (D.98-06-072, issued June 18, 1998, p.4).
· The legislative proposal of AB 2500 is based on a Commission Staff evaluation of the Section 190 funding level that was undertaken in early 2007 to show the funding level needed now to fund the similar number of grade separation projects as the $15 million funded in 1974, when it was established. In 1974, the legislature increased the grade separation fund to $15 million which funded an average of 7.8 new projects for the first four fiscal years; therefore, the intent of the legislature was for the grade separation program to fund multiple projects; approximately eight projects per fiscal year.
· The optimal safety improvement for a highway-rail crossing is the complete separation of the railroad tracks from the highway. Although costly, a grade separation maximizes safety by eliminating train-vehicle collisions and reducing highway congestion and delay. By increasing the program fund to $165 million, more projects can be allocated funds to improve railroad crossing safety and meet the original intent of the legislature. This would result in more at-grade crossings being eliminated and further the Federal and State policy enumerated in General Order 75-D, Section 2.
· With the increased funding, more projects on the Commission's Grade Separation Priority List, generated every 2 years in a formal proceeding, would be funded. Currently the $15 million required to be included in the CTC budget is not sufficient to provide substantial contribution to projects, the shortfall of which must be made up by the local agency. Given the local agency funding sources, worthy grade separation projects cannot be completed.
· Section 190 of the Streets and Highways Code requires the State's annual budget to include $15 million for funding these grade separation projects. Section 2450 et seq. of the Code requires the CPUC to establish the prioritization listing and establishes the procedure for administering these funds, and Section 2453 gives the California Transportation Commission (CTC) responsibility for allocating (distributing) the funds to qualified projects.
· The $15 million program continues to provide a specific source of funding focused on grade separation projects; however, as the bill and the recent BSA audit demonstrated, the funding level is inadequate.
· S&H Code 2452 requires the Commission by July 1 of each year to establish the priority list for projects and furnish it to the CTC for use in the fiscal year beginning on that date. The Commission's procedure is to open a proceeding every two years to accept and evaluate nominations and establish the priority list. The list for the second year of the process is established by deleting those projects for which funds were actually allocated in the first year. The Commission adopts the revised list by final decision in the second year of the proceeding, and begins the nominating cycle again the following year by instituting a new proceeding. For example, the Commission opened the current Order Instituting Investigation in July 2007, with nominations due October 19, 2007. 121 nominations were received which were then analyzed and ranked. Hearings to examine the nominations were held in March 2008, with the Commission's Decision issuing the Priority List due by June 30, 2008.
· California voters approved the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006 (Proposition 1B), which provides $250 million to improve railroad crossing safety. Of the $250 million Proposition 1B funds, $150 million are available for allocation using the process established for the Grade Separation Program. The Proposition 1B Highway-Rail Safety Account Crossing Guidelines are being developed by the CTC with the cooperation of the Commission and the High Speed Authority and are slated to be adopted soon. The authors of Proposition 1B recognized the Commission's known and well developed open process in developing a priority list and eliminated any duplication in efforts by requiring its use in allocating Bond funds2.
The following legislation proposals pertain to the Section 190 program and its funding.
· Originally AB 1067 (Frommer) included provisions to increase the Section 190 from $15 million to $30 million. That legislation was also amended after legislative debates to remove funding level provisions and amends Section 2454 of the S&H Code and gives the CTC authority to allocate up to fifteen million ($15,000,000) to a single project if that project is the highest ranking project on the priority list established by the Commission pursuant to Section 2452. This bill also requires a 20% match on a rail passenger service operated by a city or county from the operating agency.
· AB 357 (1999) was sponsored by the Commission and would have increased the annual appropriation for grade separation projects from $15 million to $60 million. Due to opposition from local governments, AB 357 failed to pass the Senate Transportation Committee.
· AB 1067, approved on October 7, 2005, changed S&H Code 2454(g)(2) to allow the highest ranking project on the priority list eligible for an allocation of up to $15 M. The next project in ranking which meets the allocation requirements receives the next allocation, and so on, until the FY's available funds are exhausted, and if technically the first project requested $15 M and only the required $15 M was allocated for that FY, then no money would be available for any other projects.
· AB 453 - Chartered on September 22, 2005, amends Sections 2456 and 2458 of the S&H Code. This bill now requires that local agencies furnish evidence satisfactory to Caltrans that all matters prerequisite to the award of a construction contract can be accomplished within two years after an allocation, instead of the previously required one-year time period.
· AB 1157, introduced by Assembly member Frommer in the 2005-2006 session, went from Senate committee without further action. Known as the Rail Safety and Traffic Mitigation Bond Act of 2006. The bill would have provided for a general obligation bond act for $500 million dollars to be presented to voters for approval in 2006. The Commission would have had to submit to the Legislature within six months of the bonds approval by voters, a priority list of railroad-highway grade crossings most dangerously in need of elimination with funds only available to those eligible projects on the priority list.
· AB 1785, introduced by Assembly member Bermudez (co-authors: Assembly members Benoit, Bogh, Shirley-Horton, Huff, Karnette, Matthews, Mountjoy, Ridley-Thomas, and Salinas; Senators Dutton and Lowenthal) introduced in 2005-2006 session would have increased the program funds from $15 million to $70 million. The bill was not enacted.
· AB 2630, approved September 22, 2006, changed S&H Code 2454(h) making an agency eligible for an allocation if funds are available within the ten year waiting period, by Caltrans if that agency received funds through this section, which states a project may qualify for up to a maximum of $20 million, if it meets certain requirements payable in $5 M installments per FY (within 5 years) and then the agency must wait 10 years after receiving an allocation to be eligible for another award from the funds for another grade separation project.
· AB 633, introduced by Assembly member Galgiani on February 21, 2007 would bring before the California voters a $500 million bond for the Rail Safety and Traffic Mitigation Bond Act of 2007. The Commission would have been required to submit to the Legislature a priority list of railroad-highway grade crossings most dangerously in need of elimination.
· AB 660, introduced by Assembly member Galgiani on February 21, 2007 would make numerous changes to the Section 190 program S&H Code by streamlining, clarifying and eliminating obsolete language.
· AB 353 currently proposed will provide for the Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) top five grade separation priority projects to be eligible for $15 million of funding in a single fiscal year in the Section 190 grade separation program.
· AB 1853 (2006) would have required the Commission to account for emergency vehicle blocking delays when calculating a project's ranking on the grade separation priority list. Author held her bill at Commission's request, and introduced ACR 151 instead.
· Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 151, authored by Assembly Member Barbara Matthews and approved by the Legislature in September 2006. (Res. Ch. 133, 2006) requested that the Commission revise its prioritization formula for grade separation projects to include a factor for blocking delays that disproportionately affect emergency vehicles. The measure also requested the Commission to notify the Assembly Committee on Transportation and the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing when it has considered this revision. ACR 151 report responded to that legislative directive.
· AB 1845 introduced by Assembly members Duvall and Horton on January 28, 2008 would transfer the responsibility of developing the priority list for the Section 190 Grade Separation Program to the California Transportation Commission after the expenditure of the Proposition 1B bond funds.
AB 2500 is scheduled to be heard before the Assembly Committee on Transportation on April 7, 2008.
Office of Governmental Affairs (916) 327-8441
Date: April 2, 2008.
BILL NUMBER: AB 2500 INTRODUCED
INTRODUCED BY Assembly Member Strickland
FEBRUARY 21, 2008
An act to amend Section 190 of the Streets and Highways Code,
relating to highways.
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST
AB 2500, as introduced, Strickland. Grade separation projects.
Existing law requires the Department of Transportation to prepare
and submit to the Governor a proposed budget that includes
$15,000,000 for allocation to grade separation projects, as
This bill would increase the amount required to be budgeted for
allocation to grade separation projects to $165,000,000.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes.
State-mandated local program: no.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Section 190 of the Streets and Highways Code is amended
Each Every annual proposed
budget prepared pursuant to Section 165 shall include the sum of
fifteen one hundred sixty-five million
($15,000,000) ($165,000,000) ,
which sum may include federal funds available for grade separation
projects, for allocations to grade separation projects, in accordance
with Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 2450) of Division 3. The
for such purposes pursuant to this
section each fiscal year, or by any other provision of law, shall be
available for allocation and expenditure without regard to fiscal
1 "Prior to July 1 of each year, commencing with 1974, the Public Utilities Commission shall establish a list, in order of priority, of projects which the commission determines to be most urgently in need of separation or alteration. Such priority list shall be determined on the basis of criteria established by the Public Utilities Commission. Where a project involves the relocation of railroad tracks or highways and the closure of grade crossings, the Public Utilities Commission shall indicate on the priority list which of the grade crossings eliminated would have been considered urgently in need of a grade separation." (Cal. Streets & Highway Code § 2452)
2 Relevant Proposition 1B language:
(j) (1) Two hundred fifty million dollars ($250,000,000) shall be deposited in the Highway-Railroad Crossing Safety Account, which is hereby created in the fund. Funds in the account shall be available, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to the Department of Transportation for the completion of high-priority grade separation and railroad crossing safety improvements. Funds in the account shall be made available for allocation pursuant to the process established in Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 2450) of Division 3 of the Streets and Highways Code, except that a dollar for dollar match of nonstate funds shall be provided for each project, and the limitation on maximum project cost in subdivision (g) of Section 2454 of the Streets and Highways Code shall not be applicable to projects funded with these funds.