Proceed with caution.
The only opposition so far to a bill that would require Caltrans to cooperate with broadband projects and notify companies and local governments when opportunities arise to install conduit is coming, not surprisingly, from Caltrans itself.
Assembly bill 1549 by Jim Wood (D – Healdsburg) has so far sailed through the California legislature unanimously. But with the bill sitting in the senate appropriations committee, the final stop before a full floor vote, the state finance department is pushing Caltrans’ bizarre argument that it’s not needed because its record keeping is so screwed up that fixing it would only make it worse…
Caltrans does not keep a complete and up-to-date inventory of all existing conduits within its existing right-of-way. This is partially due to difficulty in obtaining information from utilities that perform work within the right-of-way, and partly due to a backlog in updating Caltrans encroachment permit data. Caltrans is currently exploring an update to the existing encroachment permit system and database, which would capture data regarding conduits carrying fiber-optic cables. As such, a legislative solution to this issue is unnecessary at this time.
The second line of defence is a ballooning estimate of the cost of competent asset management. Caltrans original figure of $100,000 jumped to $915,000 and then rocketed to “millions annually” in the latest published analysis. Of course, no one is mentioning the billions that would be saved by installing conduit cheaply now and not cutting into roadways later: besides the cost of construction, anytime pavement is chopped up, its remaining useful life is reduced by at least 10% and, depending location and circumstances, as much as 40%.
It’s time to stop exploring and start doing.
I’ve advocated for and helped to draft AB 1549. I’m involved and proud of it. Take it for what it’s worth.