A bump in the road to secure electrification funding; and more Sacramento updates

Senator Jerry Hill’s bill to nail down funding for Caltrain electrification, SB557 hit a snag today in the Senate Transportation hearing. The bill ensures that money dedicated toward the Northern and Southern California bookends would be spent for that purpose without being diverted. An amendment was proposed to set a sunset for the provision to bring it in line with the existing 2018 sunset for the High Speed Rail funding appropriation in SB1029.  According to Jerry Hill staffer Nate Solov, the amendment isn’t necessary (apparently because it modifies SB1029 without superceding it), and the bill will be back a week from today in the Senate Transportation Committee for a vote.

Thanks to everyone who sent a letter in support of the bill.  At the hearing, Senator Hill mentioned that the bill has support from Caltrain riders and constituents.  If you support the bill and haven’t sent a letter yet you can do so here, since the bill will be up again next week.

So far in response to a Friends of Caltrain alert, participants are 62:2 in favor, with letters of support from all three Caltrain counties, plus several other supporters in the East Bay.  62 Caltrain supporters sent letters in favor the bill, one sent a letter opposing it (wanting more flexibility for the High Speed Rail authority to change its spending plans), and one sent a letter to Friends of Caltrain opposing the bill due to opposition for High Speed Rail.

Meanwhile, progress on a few other bills relating to transit funding in Sacramento:

* a bill to reauthorize the Carl Moyer program,  SB11 (Pavley), which is part of the electrification funding package, passed Senate Transportation on April 9 and has been referred to the Appropriations Committee.  The senate bill has a minor amendment unrelated to Caltrain electrification. The corresponding House bill, passed Assembly Transportation on April 8 and AB8 been referred to Natural Resources.

* two bills to reduce the threshold for transit funding from 2/3 to 55%, SCA-4 and SCA-8, are up for hearing on May 15 in Senate Government and Finance Committee

*  AB797, a bill to streamline the management of complex projects by contracting with a “Construction Manager/General Contractor, passed committee 12:4 on a party line vote. Caltrain wants to use this process for electrification.