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Connector JPA revises EIR, approves expanded financing study

At the Jan. 13 meeting of the Capital Southeast Connector Joint Powers Authority, held at Rancho Cordova City Hall, the directors formally rescinded certification of the Program Environmental Impact Report, prepared to re-certify an amended report and approved a financial study to fund construction of the project, including consideration of using tolls.

Chairman John Knight, from the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, Don Nottoli, from Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, and Jeff Starsky, Folsom City Council, voted unanimously to approve the resolutions. Pat Hume, Elk Grove City Council, and David Sander, Rancho Cordova City Council, were absent.

The connector project was initiated by the Sacramento County Council of Governments in 2002. In the November 2004 election Sacramento County voters approved Measure A, which extended the county’s half-cent transportation sales tax for 30 years. The purpose was to relieve traffic congestion, improve safety and match state and federal funds. The connector was included as one of the projects that would receive funding under Measure A, as was Folsom Lake Crossing, which opened in March 2009.
In December 2006, the five-member Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was formed by facilitate the planning, environmental review, engineering design, development and construction of the Capital Southeast Connector project.

Program Environmental Impact Report

By last fall it looked like the initial planning steps would be complete. The connector project’s draft Program Environmental Impact Report had gone through a 60-day public review period in the spring and on Aug. 12, 2011, the board certified the document.

The revised project description for the connector is: “a four-lane thoroughfare segment on White Rock Road from the Sacramento County/El Dorado County line to Latrobe Road, and a six-lane thoroughfare segment from Latrobe Road to the US 50/Silva Valley Parkway Interchange.”

On Oct. 14, 2011, the board selected a general alignment for the project.

However, several factors prompted the directors to take a step back and reconsider their actions. After they had certified the PEIR and adopted the general alignment, two appellate court decisions were published: Madera Oversight Coalition v. Madera County and Pfeiffer v. City of Sunnyvale. Both cases involve the issue of “baseline conditions” to be analyzed in an EIR.

The Sacramento County General Plan update was adopted in November 2011. It contains indirect impacts to the connector project related to agricultural land conversion.

On Dec. 9, 2011, the directors voted to decertify the Program DEIR and directed staff to clarify certain statements in Chapter 16, “Traffic and Transportation,” and Chapter 18, “Cumulative and Growth-Inducing Impacts.” The 45-day public review period for the two revised chapters began Dec. 19, 2011, and extends to Feb. 1.

On Jan. 13 the directors approved rescinding four previously-adopted resolutions: 1) certifying the Program EIR; 2) adopting findings of fact and overriding considerations; 3) adopting a mitigation monitoring and reporting program; and 4) adopting a general alignment for the Capital Southeast Connector project.

Chairman Knight said the board will certify the PEIR and select a general alignment at its March 9 meeting.

In a separate action the directors approved a six-month extension of the contract with ICT International for environmental services.

Funding options

Allocation of funds to build the connector from Measure A funds would not cover the costs, even with state and federal supplements. To find out what options there are for additional funding, the board requested that a work plan be done.

At the Dec. 9, 2011, meeting, financial consultant KPMG reported on an initial screening of tolling options. The directors expressed a desire that the prospects for tolling not drive funding for the project and asked for a broader scope of study. Other concerns they had were the effect of converting a public roadway, or portions of the road, to a tolled use, access in the Sheldon area, the range of the initial infrastructure, additional costs, and potential for another type of user fee, such as a HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lane.

At the Jan. 13 meeting Executive Director Tom Zlotkowski said the expanded work plan should be complete in August, and that it would include input from legal and environmental parties.

Knight recounted an earlier option, one that would depend on the five jurisdictions constructing the roadway segment by segment. Knight said  in today’s economy that approach would take many years and is no longer a viable option.

The directors asked that the consultant consider procurement options, such as design/build and design/bid/built. They also asked for a review of risk elements, particularly bond rates, federal funds and low-cost loans.

Following the presentation by Zlotkowski, Knight said, “I think it’s a great plan [to study the funding options].” Director Starsky said, “It’s important to do this analysis now.”

During the public comment period, Sharon Lynes from Sheldon said the connector should be a public road. Referring to the idea of tolling, she said, “I hope it’s nixed.”

The board unanimously voted to expand the analysis of a work plan “that will assist in narrowing the financial decision making process and will lead to the eventual development of a Plan of Finance.”

For more information visit connectorjpa.net.

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Posted by on Jan 16 2012.
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