The following is a copy of a memorandum distributed from County Counsel Thomas Casey to San Mateo County Supervisors last week.
Our office has had a discussion with Fred Hempel, Division Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, regarding the Board's letter to him on the Devil's Slide reevaluation. This conversation gives a preliminary indication that the response may be favorable to many of the Board's requests. He states that they will be developing a formal response soon and that the County can expect a written response within two weeks.
Emphasizing that his discussion must be taken as preliminary only, he responded very favorably to most of the Board's requests. He had no disagreement about the scope of the study; in this regard, he anticipates that the reevaluation will be a broad one that will address whether a tunnel could be the best option. With the exception of the annual cost of maintenance, which would be a CalTrans' determination, he anticipates that the study will address all the issues on the tunnel; they will be consulting with various of their Washington offices, such as environmental policy, legal and safety to address the specific issues. Their technical expert on tunnels from D.C. will also be involved and he views this as ensuring that the study will properly consider the tunneling technology and design. He also points out that the study will be broader than tunnel issues and will involve consultants on biology as well as tunnel issues.
At this point he is anticipating that the Board would be given an opportunity to appoint a person to a committee and it is through this appointment that he views that the Board would have the opportunity to ensure the participation of a particular person, e.g., the Dean of an engineering school. He was informed that the Board has not yet received any invitation to appoint a person to any committee.
He does not assure that every aspect of the Board's request on the criteria for the hiring of the consultant will be followed. While he does not anticipate that the person hired will have experience in standards since the tunnel experts are geotechnical, he feels assured that this aspect will be very thoroughly documented. Likewise, he feels that they cannot legally provide lack of prior experience with CalTrans as a prerequisite for the job, but they can stipulate that the company have no involvement in the project. A final response regarding the existence of a Committee has not been determined. His concept on this would be an advisory group which would meet at periodic points but would not have the authority to dictate how the study was performed.
Thomas F. Casey, III,