A bill by Assemblyman Ted Lempert, D-Palo Alto, to force the California Department of Transportation to speed up the approval of a tunnel through Devil's Slide sailed through the state Assembly last week on a vote of 72-1.
Lempert, who has criticized CalTrans for not moving fast enough on the project, introduced the bill last fall to keep up the pressure on the agency. The bill would mandate that CalTrans immediately design and complete all project development work for construction of a tunnel, complete a cost estimate by July 1, and pursue all avenues of federal funds.
"Even though CalTrans has expressed (its) support for a tunnel, I believe we need to ensure the tunnel's completion by forcing CalTrans to act," Lempert stated in a press release.
The bill, AB 93, next heads to the Senate Transportation Committee, which is chaired by state Sen. Quentin Kopp, I-San Francisco, San Mateo counties.
Kopp, too, has been critical of CalTrans' slow action on the tunnel since last November's nearly 3-1 vote in favor of Measure T. Last month, he, Lempert and Assemblyman Lou Papan, D-Millbrae, fired off a letter to CalTrans District Director Harry Yahata accusing the agency of not managing the tunnel project "systematically and efficiently."
They cited a field visit in early March to Shamrock Ranch during which CalTrans personnel were not familiar with the project's design, and a lack of coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of the agencies involved in environmental review of the tunnel.