Mid-Year Policy Progress Report 2017 — Part I

High drama.  We’ve seen plenty of it in Washington DC in the first half of the year, generating more heat than light.  At the state and local level, however, the drama’s led to some remarkable policy outcomes through the first six months of 2017.

Today we’re reporting on transportation, where much of the good stuff has happened.  With commute times that are second only to New York City among key U.S. tech hubs, Silicon Valley needs all the good transportation news it can get.

In February, 14 House Members protested the payment of $650M in a federal matching grant for the electrification of Caltrain, in an effort to scuttle California’s High Speed Rail project (though, we should note, Caltrain electrification makes great sense independent of any other projects). The federal funds were critical to the electrification effort, which promises to double Caltrain’s capacity to 120,000 daily trips.

With the project very much in doubt, Senator Dianne Feinstein led an armada of public, private and nonprofit leaders that in May prevailed on U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to release the funds, matching more than $1B in local and state funds.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Governor Brown and State Senator Jim Beall were struggling to resurrect a desperately needed transportation infrastructure package.  In a politically risky move, the Governor imposed a short deadline for measure’s passage and lobbied wavering legislators hard in the effort to reach the two-thirds threshold required for passages.  In a vote that could define this legislative year, the measure secured the supermajority it needed, to provide an estimated $5.2M annually to improve California’s deteriorating roads and bridges.

Neither Senator Feinstein nor Governor Brown would generally draw comparisons with Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, but both leaders ran through multiple tackles and threw some wicked stiff arms this year to secure big, meaningful victories.  There are very few political leaders who could have pulled off either of these wins.

We hope you’ll give them a shout out @JerryBrownGov and @SenFeinstein.

Oh, and by the way, the new Warm Springs BART station opened in March, another key step in the steady march toward connecting BART with Caltrain in San Jose and Santa Clara.

It’s been a banner year for transportation in Silicon Valley.

Coming up:  In the search for talent, it’s one step forward and two steps back….