Update: at today’s special meeting, the board members voted unanimously for the resolution to commit $20M from San Francisco, with revised oversight protocols to protect partners’ interests. The vote was 7-0, with Avalos, Campos, Cohen, and Farrell absent.
Today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are coming back on their break for a special one-item meeting to decide on committing $20M for the last local contribution to fund Caltrain electrification.
The Supes’ decision was delayed last week due to concerns raised by the Mayor’s office that the oversight protocol, which had been earlier agreed to by all the funding partners, needed strengthening given the scathing results of an early July peer review report on Caltrain’s troubled train control system.
This week, board members will review a version with stronger oversight provisions. The stronger oversight is welcome and warranted. But the specific recommendations for stronger oversight language weren’t made until late last week.
It’s not clear whether adding these changes now will affect the project timeline, including timing of $647 million in federal grants where the decision is expected by the end of the year, and the finalization of $1.2 billion in contracts for the railcars and the electrification construction.
The additional oversight provisions (in this document, search for “oversight protocol”) include auditing of project information, notification of additional risks or potential cost increases, and quarterly reporting on project status to funding partners.
Another concern raised by the staff report, Supervisor’s Peskin and Campos, is that the City has ~$4m identified toward the $20Million. The source of the remaining $16M has not been identified, but the funding from 2016 transportation ballot measure could be used for this purpose. The Supervisors could vote for additional delay to see if the ballot measure passes.
It would be deeply ironic if the Supervisors made decisions claimed to be for the purpose of fiscal prudence, which result in adding delay to the project and extra cost for the City. The meeting will be broadcast at 2pm on sfgovtv.