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Bay Area House members laud FAA noise plan

Three Bay Area House members are praising the Federal Aviation Administration for launching an initiative to address concerns about noise from air traffic above San Francsico, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.

Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Sam Farr, D-Carmel, released the FAA’s action plan to the public.

“My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to engage the FAA’s leadership to take concrete steps to mitigate and address the noise from aircraft in our respective congressional districts,” Eshoo said in a news release. “As a result of our collaboration, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FAA Regional Director Glen Martin met with local elected officials, community groups and individuals from our congressional districts to discuss the impacts of NextGen and additional issues prior to its implementation, including Surf Air at the San Carlos Airport.

“I welcome this important first step the FAA has developed. The FAA leadership will follow up with community meetings, coordinated through our offices, to explain in detail the FAA’s plan to address the noise problems being experienced in our region.”

Speier said her constituents long have been affected by noise from San Francisco International Airport and more recently from the San Carlos and Half Moon Bay airports. The FAA’s initiative “is a compilation of the ideas that were offered by the public regarding SFO at the FAA’s recent meetings in our three congressional districts, as well as requests made by the SFO Airport Community Roundtable. Some of these ideas may be deemed workable by the FAA and some may not.

“However, having previously been resistant to taking community suggestions, the FAA, for the first time in many years, has committed to studying ideas submitted by the affected communities,” Speier said. “I am gratified that the FAA is rolling up its sleeves to come up with solutions. The health of those who live under constant bombardment of airplane noise is being seriously compromised and the FAA has a responsibility to take action to address it.”

Farr said the action plan “is evidence the FAA is willing to consider the changes proposed by the community. For months, the commercial aircraft noise in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area has been terrible. From the beginning, I have told the FAA that they created this mess so it is up to them to fix it.”

“This is only a first step but it is a good one,” he said. “It shows everyone is committed to developing some real solutions. I hope the FAA will continue to listen to the communities it serves and work with them to solve any problems that arise from the switch to the NextGen flight plan.”

Posted on Monday, November 16th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, Sam Farr, Transportation, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Pelosi cites California as need for highway fund

California’s crumbling roads are a prime example of why Congress must pass long-term legislation to reauthorize and reinvigorate the Highway and Transit Trust Fund, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

Nancy Pelosi“With scant days left until the Highway Trust Fund expires in the middle of the summer construction season, Republicans have wasted this entire week tying themselves in knots to protect the Confederate Battle Flag,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release.

“Our nation’s infrastructure needs are too serious for another Republican manufactured crisis, or another meager, short-term extension,” she said. “We must have a long-term bill to invest in our roads, transit and bridges, and protect the good-paying jobs of hundreds of thousands of construction workers across the country.”

Pelosi cited Department of Transportation data showing that 68 percent of the Golden State’s roads are in mediocre or poor condition. This forces drivers to spend almost $13.9 billion a year – an average of $586 per motorist – on otherwise unnecessary automotive repairs, creating costs for commuters and businesses moving their goods to market. And almost 28 percent of California’s bridges also structurally deficient, too.

“Americans are tired of the potholes, the traffic delays, and the danger of our crumbling roads and bridges,” Pelosi said. “Hard-working American families deserve a long-term Highway bill that invests in world-class infrastructure and creates good-paying jobs.”

Posted on Friday, July 10th, 2015
Under: Nancy Pelosi, Transportation, U.S. House | No Comments »

Dublin Republican’s BART strike bill still alive

An East Bay lawmaker’s ban to limit BART labor strikes surprisingly wasn’t killed outright Wednesday by Assembly Democrats.

The Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee heard Assemblywoman Catharine Baker’s AB 528 but didn’t vote on it, instead making it a two-year bill. Chairman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, agreed to work with Baker’s office to “facilitate discussions… on how to address the issue,” a staffer said.

Catharine Baker“I was pleased with the outcome today, I’m pleased with the progress this bill has made so far – it’s the first time the Legislature has even heard a bill regarding BART strikes,” Baker, R-Dublin, said later Wednesday. “The road continues to be a rocky one, but I’m going to be tireless in finding a solution to BART strikes.”

Bonta couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. (See update at bottom.)

A bill to impose a statewide ban transit strikes, authored by state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, quickly died in committee early last year. Baker’s AB 528 instead would bar BART workers from striking as long as they continue to get wages and benefits – in other words, if an existing contract has a no-strike clause and management keeps honoring the pact’s financial terms after it expires, unions couldn’t strike.

Baker campaigned last year on pursuing a bill like this after two 2013 strikes brought BART to grinding halts, snarling Bay Area traffic and costing the local economy $73 million per day by one business group’s estimate.

Baker said Wednesday she believes Assembly Democrats had little choice but to give the bill a hearing, because “BART strikes are a significant issue affecting the state’s economy, not just the Bay area, and it would be irresponsible to ignore that.” Her bill might’ve had an easier time because it “is a little bit different from approaches in the past… and I think that gave it a better chance of being heard.”

UPDATE @ 5:30 P.M.: Bonta’s office just emailed me this statement, which indicates this bill’s supporters shouldn’t get their hopes up:

Rob Bonta“During the Committee hearing today, Assemblymember Baker agreed to make AB 528 a two-year bill. As a result, there was no need for any members to vote on it today. I, as Committee Chair, and my Committee staff offered to help convene a meeting between all the impacted parties.The right to strike is the cornerstone of workers’ rights. And I believe this bill, as written, would further shift the balance of power in labor negotiations even more in favor of employers. Instead of looking for ways to eliminate or reduce the rights of BART employees, we should be using this time to heal and repair the relationship between employees and management so that going forward the labor negotiation process is improved for all parties.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
Under: Assembly, Catharine Baker, Rob Bonta, Transportation | 4 Comments »

Barbara Boxer praises BART’s plan to ban e-cigs

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is thanking BART for its plan to ban use of e-cigarettes on trains and in stations.

Barbara Boxer“Research has raised major concerns about secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Thomas Blalock. “This is particularly relevant in small, enclosed spaces such as trains and stations, leading the World Health Organization to recommend that steps be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public and work places.”

The BART Board of Directors will hold a final vote to approve the ban on Feb. 12. Boxer last June wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to ban the use of such devices on airplanes.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill this week that would ban use of e-cigarettes in all public spaces.

For the full text of Boxer’s letter to BART, read after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Mark Leno, Transportation, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

John Garamendi seeks T&I ranking member post

A Northern California congressman is making a play to become the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s ranking member.

Current ranking member Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., was defeated Tuesday in his bid for an 18th term. The panel’s next-most-senior Democrat is Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., already is the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member but reportedly now more interested in this slot.

After DeFazio come 15 more Democrats (two of whom won’t be back next year) – and then comes Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove.

John Garamendi“A demonstrated ability to preserve Democratic ideals while working across the aisle to get things done will be crucial in the next Congress, and particularly in this Committee,” Garamendi wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the Democratic Caucus.

“With major legislative initiatives on the horizon that include surface transportation, FAA, and Amtrak reauthorization, the Democratic transportation agenda calls for a strong, inclusive, proactive leader who looks beyond divisive dualities to facilitate opportunity, momentum, and results,” he wrote. “This is the leadership I aim to bring.”

Garamendi’s letter cites his work in Congress on water infrastructure, domestic shipyards and the U.S. Merchant Marine, but also harkens back to his California work.

“Most notably, in 1990, I authored SCA 1, which became California Proposition 111,” wrote Garamendi, who at that time was a state senator. “Among the most important transportation propositions in California history, this measure ensured government expenditure limits would not unnecessarily restrict the infrastructure improvements needed to keep pace with California’s population and economic growth.”

“The initiative led to voter approval of an $18.5 billion transportation package that helped improve roads and transit corridors throughout the state,” he wrote. “For this work, I was named Legislator of the Year by the League of California Cities, and to this day, Prop 111 provides funding for cash-strapped highways and public transit systems in California.”

The other California Democrats on the Transportation Committee are Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, who has more seniority than Garamendi, and Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, who has less.

The Democratic Caucus is expected to vote on ranking-member appointments in December.

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Under: John Garamendi, Transportation, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Buchanan & DeSaulnier battle over license plates

Their East Bay Districts overlap, but Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier certainly weren’t seeing eye to eye at Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee hearing.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was there to speak on behalf of his SB544, which would require the California Department of Education to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for creation of a specialized license plate program to generate funds for school violence prevention programs.

DeSaulnierThe problem is, DeSaulnier – who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee – earlier this year helped push through a resolution, SR28, that puts a moratorium on new license plate types until a task force made up of California Highway Patrol, DMV and local police can issue a report by July 2015 “on license plate designs appropriate for traffic safety and effective law enforcement in today’s environment.”

And that resolution essentially put the kibosh on Buchanan’s AB49, which would require the Department of Health Care Services to apply to DMV for a special license plate promoting breast cancer awareness – what supporters call the “pink plate” bill. AB49 now languishes in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Could you please explain to me why you should not have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and why this plate and any other should not be subject to the pending results of the study?” Buchanan, D-Alamo, asked DeSaulnier on Monday. “Because it seems to me that when we write a bill that kills one, it should apply to everybody, especially the author of that resolution.”

The difference, DeSaulnier replied, is that “the full-plate pink plate had a problem, in my conversations with the CHP” – police were concerned that the fully colored plate might be hard to distinguish from other states’ plates, especially under twilight conditions. His school-violence prevention plate, he said, merely has a logo on one side, not a fully different color.

But Buchanan insists SR28 applies to all specialty license plates. And “if we’re going to pass a resolution that clearly states it applies to all specialty plate types… we should be applying that equally to all license plates and not making special carve-outs,” she said.

Replied DeSaulnier: “If someone comes together with a plate that complies with our rules then it will get out of our committee.”

“Right now, my opinion is, your plate does not,” he told Buchanan. “In my discussions with CHP, they had some questions, so that’s why we’re doing the study. … My whole difficulty with your plate was whether public safety could see or not.”

Buchanan held her ground. “I believe for us to approve a bill that’s in conflict with an existing senate resolution that came out of the senate transportation department is not responsible,” she said. “I think that if they want to change it, it should be changed first.”

The Assembly Transportation committee voted 10-3 to advance DeSaulnier’s bill, which is now pending before the Assembly Education Committee.

The California Channel has video of the exchange here (starting at the 50-minute mark).

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 9 Comments »

House votes to cut off money for high-speed rail

Rep. Jeff Denham’s amendment to would cut off federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project was approved by the House on Tuesday.

Denham introduced H.R. 3893, the Responsible Rail and Deterring Deficiency Act, in January with support from all California House Republicans. The House passed it Tuesday as an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, H.R. 4745.

“Without a viable funding plan like the one voters supported, California’s high speed rail project is going nowhere fast,” Denham, R-Modesto, said in a news release. “I’m pleased to have the support of so many of my House colleagues who recognize that we shouldn’t be spending any more taxpayer money on a project without a future.”

The roll call was 227-186. Among the six Democrats who voted for it were four Californians who face tough fights to keep their seats this November: Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks; Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

Here’s what Denham said about it on the floor:

But before you get too excited: This has happened before. Denham offered the same amendment to the same THUD (!) appropriations bill in June 2012, and that one passed on a 239-185 vote; all California Democrats (and all but four House Democrats) had voted against it.

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Under: Jeff Denham, Transportation, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

CA11: Parsing Mark DeSaulnier on high-speed rail

Lupe Schoenberger from Mark DeSaulnier’s congressional campaign called this morning to dispute my story’s assertion that DeSaulnier wants to cut off federal funding for high-speed rail.

She said he supports such funding but he believes the project needs to be radically reworked so that it starts in densely populated areas with rider safety upgrades and track improvements and then spreads into the Central Valley, rather than vice versa.

Here’s video and a transcript of what DeSaulnier said when asked at our editorial board meeting a few weeks ago whether he supports federal funding for California’s high-speed rail, starting at approximately 38:35:

“No, not as it’s currently construed. As you know I was one of four Democrats who voted against authorizing our bond moneys to match the federal funds. As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I’ve been very involved in this, I’m currently meeting with the plaintiffs in the state lawsuit, I’ve tried to engage the governor and the administration to see if we can fix what is very seriously broken.

“It’s a huge boondoggle, in my view; it’s going to suck the air out of the state budget. I’ve met, I’ve been in multiple meetings with Secretary LaHood leading up to this, and Secretary Lahood – the ranking person, the Secretary of Transportation during most of the Obama Administration – told me that they were going to come up with a third of the money for the overall program which is now $68 billion, but we’ve been told by experts it will probably be two to three times that. The federal government doesn’t have the funding for it. Representative Denham, a former colleague of mine in the senate, a Republican, has moved to take the money back – we’re in danger of having to pay money back for an isolated facility that will never give real function to the state of California.

“So I’m very engaged in it, I believe in a world-class passenger rail system over the next 30 to 50 years in California, but we’re doing it the exact opposite of every other industrialized country. Japan has the best model, I’ve talked with them…”

It seems clear that DeSaulnier does oppose federal funding for this high-speed rail project, the one California is actually implementing, though he might support such funding for some other version that he agrees with.

DeSaulnier in 2012 advocated an alternate high-speed rail plan that focused first on big commuter rail upgrades in greater Los Angeles and the Bay Area, but the Legislature rejected it as experts said adopting such a plan probably would lead to the federal government diverting its funding to other states. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg had to use significant muscle to get enough votes to win final approval for the existing plan after DeSaulnier and a few other Democrats vowed to oppose it.

DeSaulnier said in February 2013 that he was “still looking for Plan B” on high-speed rail, and he and other senators also questioned whether the state could build the bullet train without neglecting other, badly needed transportation work, such as highway reconstruction.

Other candidates seeking to succeed Rep. George Miller in the 11th Congressional District are Democrats Tony Daysog, Ki Ingersol and Cheryl Sudduth; Republican Tue Phan; and independent Jason Ramey.

Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
Under: Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Swalwell wants airport perimeter security check

A Bay Area congressman wants an updated assessment of the nation’s airport perimeter security needs following a Santa Clara teen’s stowaway voyage in the wheel well of a jetliner taking off from Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The 15-year-old jumped a fence to get into the airport Sunday, and miraculously survived a five-and-a-half hour flight to Hawaii despite freezing temperatures and low oxygen levels.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, the only California congressman on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, notes there have been several such breaches since the Government Accountability Office last evaluated airport perimeter security in 2009. Several Democrats on the committee requested an update in February, and Swalwell wrote to the agency Tuesday to bolster that request.

“While we have made significant progress in airport security since 9/11, this latest incident near my congressional district in the Bay Area raises serious concerns affecting passenger safety,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in a news release. “I join my colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee to call for an updated assessment of airport perimeter security so we can identify vulnerabilities, protect our perimeters, and prevent future breaches.”

Read the full text of Swalwell’s letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, Transportation, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Neel Kashkari wants ‘Crazy Train’ derailed

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari launched a “Crazy Train” online petition and video today taking aim at Gov. Jerry Brown’s unwavering support of the high-speed rail project to connect the Bay Area with Los Angeles.

With California ranking among states with the highest unemployment and poverty rates, the rail project is evidence of Brown’s misplaced priorities, Kashkari contends – one of the clearest differences so far between him and the Democratic incumbent.

I’m guessing they couldn’t buy the rights for this:

Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, Transportation | 1 Comment »