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Brown’s new jobs czar will sit on HSR board, too

Michael Rossi, whom Gov. Jerry Brown named as a jobs czar last week, was named by the governor today to also serve on the board of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Rossi, 67, of Pebble Beach, is a former officer or senior member at financial institutions including Cerberus Capital Management LP, Aozora Bank, GMAC Residential Capital LLC and BankAmerica Corp. This board position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem; Rossi is a Democrat.

Brown also last week had named former BART director Dan Richard of Piedmont to serve on the HSR authority’s board. The board is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow in Sacramento City Hall.

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Under: Jerry Brown, Transportation | 2 Comments »

Ex-BART director returns to California post

Dan Richard

Former BART director Dan Richard of Piedmont has been appointed to the California High Speed Rail Authority.

I covered Richard while he sat on the BART board and he is a good choice for the rail authority. He knows transportation and trains. He is smart and politically savvy. Whether he is sufficiently talented to overcome the project’s major hurdles is an unanswered question.

Gov. Jerry Brown made the announcement a few minutes ago:

Dan Richard, 60, of Piedmont, has been appointed to the Board of the High Speed Rail Authority.

Richard has been a principal of Dan Richard Advisors since 2010. He was managing partner and co-founder of Heritage Oak Capital Partners, an infrastructure finance firm, from 2007 to 2009 and was senior vice president of public policy and governmental relations at Pacific Gas and Electric Company from 1997 to 2006. Richard was an elected member of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District from 1992 to 2004, where he served twice as president of the Board.

At the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Richard led efforts to secure $4 billion in capital for system rehabilitation projects, the transit system’s expansion to the San Francisco Airport and seismic retrofit programs. Richard was a principal at Morse, Richard, Weisenmiller & Associates from 1986 to 1996, a firm serving the independent power industry and project finance lending community.

He was vice president of Independent Power Corporation from 1983 to 1986. Richard served as Governor Brown’s deputy legal affairs secretary from 1982 to 1983 and deputy assistant for science and technology from 1978 to 1979. He was adviser to the chairman of the California Energy Commission from 1978 to 1982.

Richard began his career at National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where he was assistant to the deputy associate administrator from 1972 to 1978. Richard received his Juris Doctor degree from McGeorge School of Law. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Richard is a Democrat.



Posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011
Under: Transportation | No Comments »

Congress’ inaction halts Oakland control tower

Contractors building the new air traffic control tower at Oakland International Airport have been told to stop work today on the $31 million project because Congress missed its Friday-night deadline to reauthorize routine funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.

artist's rendering of new Oakland control towerThe Oakland tower, for which ground was broken last October, is just one of dozens of stop-work orders issued all over the nation, worth a total of about $148.5 million.

“Construction workers across America will lose their jobs and local communities will be hurt the longer this goes on. Congress needs to pass an FAA bill to prevent further economic damage,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a news release issued this morning. “This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said the longer Congress waits, the more work will grind to a halt. “Work is stopping on construction and planning projects, NextGen system testing, and airport certification. The list goes on and on and this is just the beginning.”

As the Washington Post reported, the funding extension would have been the 21st since the FAA’s long-term funding authorization expired in 2007, but House Republicans added provisions to their extension bill that the Senate would not accept.

House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., said he included the provision to which Democrats objected due to his frustration over the pace of negotiations to reach agreement on long-term FAA funding plans passed by the House and Senate this year. It cut about $16.5 million in federal subsidies for air service to several small airports in rural areas.

The Senate refused this because these stop-gap extensions normally are bare-bones legislation to simply extend funding at current levels while Congress irons out differences over a longer term.

Construction workers, engineers and planners were told to stay home today after the FAA lost its Congressional authorization to pay a variety of airport construction, rehabilitation and modernization projects. Nearly 4,000 FAA personnel, many needed to oversee various aspects of these projects, were furloughed on Saturday. The delays could significantly increase the projects’ final costs, officials say.

Other major projects halted today are at Las Vegas’ MccCarran International Airport; Palm Springs International Airport; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pa.) International Airport; Battle Creek (Mich.) International Airport; Gulfport-Biloxi (Miss.) International Airport; and New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. The FAA also halted $370 million in contracts with Jacobs Engineering of Pasadena, which is under contract to do all the architectural, design, engineering and planning services for existing and future air traffic facilities.

The FAA had been prepared to contracts for new air traffic control towers in Cleveland and in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but now is no longer authorized to access the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

Besides building major aviation facilities such as control towers, the FAA is a main funding source for other airport projects through the Airport Improvement Program, which can’t run without congressional reauthorization; that leaves the agency unable to get roughly $2.5 billion out the door for airport projects in all 50 states, meaning delayed or lost jobs.

Nearly 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been furloughed and forced to go without pay; California is among the eight-hardest hit states. This includes engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners. Public safety is not being affected, the agency insists.

Posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011
Under: Transportation, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Officials crow over State Route 4 Bypass

A flock of federal, state and local officials took a victory lap out in Brentwood this morning at the site of the State Route 4 Bypass project, which they said will create hundreds of jobs, reduce traffic congestion and improve driver safety.

The project recently received $25 million in funding from the California Transportation Commission, which will be spent on converting a 2-lane, 2-way expressway to a 4-lane freeway from north of Laurel Road to south of San Jose Avenue, as well as the construction of an interchange at the intersection of the SR 4 Bypass and Sand Creek Road.

The SR 4 Bypass is an approximately 12.5 mile long transportation corridor in Eastern Contra Costa County starting at the SR 4 Bypass/SR 160 interchange in Antioch, passing along the western edges of the cities of Oakley and Brentwood, then rejoining SR 4 in unincorporated Contra Costa County east of Brentwood. Its purpose is to remove the existing SR 4 from the historic downtown areas of Oakley and Brentwood.

Officials toured the area and then proclaimed victory.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, called the project “critical to the future of East Contra Costa County. The construction of the latest phase of the bypass project will create hundreds of jobs and the completion of the overall project will help spur economic development throughout the region, decrease traffic and make our roads safer to drive. I was glad to be a part of the effort to secure $25 million in funding for the State Route 4 Bypass project.”

Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor said “never in my wildest dreams did I think this project was going to happen, but it’s “a great day to be mayor.”

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said the project “will help Contra Costa commuters spend less time in traffic. The $25 million award recognizes that this project reduces congestion on a highly travelled corridor and improves traffic safety. I am pleased that the California Transportation Commission and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority were able to make this happen.”

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, praised “effective management and leadership demonstrated by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority” that has led to taxpayers saving about $32 million from the Highway 4 widening and Caldecott Tunnel projects combined. “I will continue to work with the California Transportation Commission to ensure these savings are reinvested back into the community.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, said it has been “an honor to support the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, under the leadership of Randy Iwasaki, and the many local leaders who have worked hard to secure this funding.”

And Oakley Mayor Jim Frazier, who chairs the State Route 4 Bypass Authority, said it’s been “pleasure working with the Building Trades on this. They were instrumental in getting the funding for this project.”

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Contra Costa County, Jerry McNerney, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla, Transportation, U.S. House | No Comments »

Two great transporation forums coming up

We’ve got two great opportunities coming up for all you public-transportation buffs.

For a local view, the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club will host a community forum luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, June 17, on public transportation featuring AC Transit Directors at Large Chris Peeples and Joel Young as well as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District 4 Director Robert Raburn.

They’ll be sharing information and insight on how Alameda County public agencies are addressing the growing need for infrastructure development in local and regional transportation, the growing importance of public transportation in urban planning, fiscal austerity in state and local budgets, and environmental justice.

The event is at Everett & Jones Barbecue, 126 Broadway between Second Street and the Embarcadero near Oakland’s Jack London Square. It includes a buffet lunch and tickets cost $25; space is limited, so attendees are encouraged to sign up online, or RSVP to club treasurer Guy Bryant at 510-836-7563 or

For a broader view, the Commonwealth Club of California will host a free public forum from 9 to 10:30 a.m. next Friday, June 24, in its offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco on “From Point A to Point B: Fixing America’s Transportation Problems.” Taking part in a panel discussion will be Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger; American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director John Horsley; American Public Transportation Association President Bill Millar; and Mineta Transportation Institute National Transportation Finance Center Director Asha Weinstein Agrawal. Mortimer Downey, chair of the MTI board of trustees and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation, will moderate.

Immediately following the panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. will be a keynote address from Polly Trottenberg, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation; this is free and open to the public as well.

“If you have ever been stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge, late to meetings, or have had a ruined weekend because you couldn’t comfortably and efficiently make it to a destination in time, you know that California suffers from a major transportation infrastructure problem,” the Commonwealth Club’s news release says. “From pot holes jarring people’s necks and backs, to bridges collapsing nationwide, thousands of commuters are being affected every day by America’s inadequate and faltering transportation infrastructure system. At the upcoming FREE Commonwealth Club transportation infrastructure summit, experts will examine what can and must be done to ameliorate this dire situation.”

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: Transportation | No Comments »

Pavement is green, seriously

California may be known for its sunshine but its greatest source of green energy could be its unending streams of traffic, if a pilot study of generating power from the vibrations of cars on pavement proves true.

A Southern California lawmaker — naturally — wrote Assembly Bill 306, which calls for the research into using piezoelectric technology to generate energy. When a truck or car passes over pavement, according to Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, the pavement vibrates. When piezoelectric sensors are placed beneath the road, the vibrations can be converted to electricity.

Israel already does it and Italy has signed a contract to place the sensors on a stretch of the road to Venice.

The bill passed the Assembly 65-3.

What a great idea!

Read on for Gatto’s full news release.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Under: Transportation | No Comments »

California gets $368 million for rail projects

California landed about $368 million for rail projects today, part of a $2 billion pot redistributed by the Obama Administration after Florida’s new Republican governor turned it down in February.

But the debate over the wisdom of California’s high-speed rail aspirations will heat up even more tomorrow with the release of a crucial legislative analysis.

The Golden State gets $300 million for a 20-mile extension along the Central Valley Corridor, part of the project that ultimately aims to provide 220 mph high-speed rail service from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Work funded in this round will extend the track and civil work from Fresno to a “wye” junction connecting to San Jose to the west and Merced to the north. It also gets $68 million to buy 15 high-performance passenger rail cars and four quick-acceleration locomotives for the Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, and Capitol corridors.

“It is a testament to the strength of California’s project that we have won 40 percent of every federal dollar awarded for the development of high-speed rail,” California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Curt Pringle said in a news release. In the past 15 months we have won the lion’s share of federal dollars, unlocked state bond funds and began engaging the private sector to secure their future participation, so that we can begin construction and begin creating thousands of quality jobs next year.”

The White House reported that Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called Gov. Jerry Brown this morning to congratulate him on the award.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, noted a strict “Buy American” requirement will be applied to these awards, so that U.S. manufacturers and workers will receive the maximum economic benefit. “Investments in transportation are key to unlocking this country’s economic potential,” he said in a news release. “I commend this decision to direct money to a proven job creator and to require that the equipment is made in this country. If America is going to make it, we have to Make It In America again.”

Garamendi also said that by strengthening a modern infrastructure network, this investment will create thousands of California jobs, advance environmentally responsible transportation, connect commercial markets, and unleash economic growth. He cited the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that every $1 invested in infrastructure adds $1.57 to the economy.

Tomorrow, however, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office will release a new report on California’s HSR project, covering “some major challenges the state faces in developing the project and new approaches that could increase the odds of its success.” Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor will meet with reporters early tomorrow afternoon to discuss the findings and recommendations.

Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011
Under: John Garamendi, Obama presidency, Transportation, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Boxer and DiFi want Fla.’s high-speed rail money

California’s U.S. Senators today urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect to California more than $2 billion federal funds for high-speed rail that have been turned down by Florida.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott earlier today nixed an HSR project in his state. Last year, LaHood had redirected $624 million to California after senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both D-Calif., made a similar request as several states cancelled their HSR projects.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, earlier today said Florida’s loss could be California’s gain.

“It’s a cloudy day in the Sunshine State for the millions of Floridians who truly want to see jobs created in their state, but Florida’s deep loss is likely to be California’s tremendous gain,” he’d said in a news release. “When the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin surrendered their federal high speed rail money, destroying thousands of jobs in Ohio and Wisconsin, President Obama and Transportation Secretary LaHood shifted much of their money to California. I encourage the Administration to do the same with Florida’s previously allocated $2.4 billion.”

“Planning and construction of California’s high speed rail system is already underway, creating good jobs in the Golden State. We’re prepared to show the rest of the country what a modern transportation network looks like and will gladly invest every penny the federal government is willing to provide,” he said.

Read the senators’ letter to LaHood, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Transportation, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Lawmakers tout $10.2 mil for East Bay trails

House members at Coliseum BART 10-27-10 -- photo by Josh RichmanFour of the East Bay’s five House of Representatives members gathered in Oakland this afternoon to tout a $10.2 million federal grant to improve the region’s pedestrian and bicycle trails and reduce local traffic congestion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant last week through its Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery II (TIGER II) program, bankrolled by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus law. It’ll fund seven projects in Alameda and Contra Costa counties that are part of the East Bay Regional Park District’s Green Transportation Initiative, closing gaps in the nearly 200-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail system that can bring people to BART, Amtrak, bus and other transportation modes. From an overview of the initiative:

Providing low-cost, healthy transportation choices in crowded urban areas will improve the nation’s economic competitiveness by reducing transportation and health-care costs while increasing the mobility of the labor force. Walking and bicycling are the most environmentally sustainable forms of transportation, are energy efficient, and generate no greenhouse gasses or other pollutants. The EBGTI will help achieve these goals while creating hundreds of good-paying American jobs constructing and maintaining portions of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

One of the seven projects is the East Bay Greenway, a proposed bicycle and pedestrian pathway running under the BART tracks from the Coliseum station to 105th Avenue in Oakland. And so Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, gathered today at the Coliseum BART station. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, held his own news conference announcing the grant last week.

EBRPD Board President Doug Siden introduced the lawmakers, noting $19 billion worth of projects competed for $600 million in TIGER II funding, and it was the East Bay’s House members’ efforts that helped seal the deal to bring some of the money here.

“We wanted the Secretary of Transportation and our entire federal government to understand the possibilities of what a TIGER II grant would do for the Bay Area,” Lee said – not only a means of getting people out of cars and onto their feet or bicycles on their way to work, but also a source of up to 500 new jobs as the projects get underway.

Garamendi said his call to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came after those of several of his colleagues. “He said, ‘My God, how many represent this area?’ I said, ‘Enough to get you to do this.’”

Miller said the sell was made somewhat easier by the park district’s reputation as “one of the most respected park agencies in the world.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Under: Barbara Lee, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, Transportation, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Garamendi pushes for Highway 4 money

It’s YouTube meets Earmarks.

Rep. John  Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, has posted a YouTube video of his testimony in Washington, D.C., before the House Appropriations Committee where he speaks in favor of sending $40 million to Contra Costa for Highway 4 expansion.

Garamendi has submitted 22 earmark requests, which he lists on his web site. He barred from consideration all requests directly from for-profit companies, a source of frequent consternation for other colleagues who receive campaign contributions from people tied to earmarks.

Of course, asking and getting are two different things. Every member of Congress has a big list of his or her own.

For the masochistic wonks out there, click through for Garamendi’s full news release:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010
Under: Congressional District 10, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Transportation | No Comments »