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TRANSPORTATION PLAN PROBED ASSEMBLY DISSECTS ARNOLD'S PROPOSAL.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - The state Assembly delved Monday into Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's multibillion-dollar transportation plan, raising questions about construction methods, including the one proposed for the 405 Freeway car-pool lane.

Specifically, Assembly Transportation Committee members questioned the administration's desire to expand the use of the design-build method of construction, in which the same contractor handles the project from design through completion.

That method was approved recently in fast-tracking the 405 project to ensure that it receives federal funds, and supporters say the project will be a testing ground for design-build. But it remains controversial because it reduces the role of Caltrans engineers in the final product.

The administration is pushing to use the method on other projects, something Democratic committee members questioned, wondering why the administration wants to expand design-build before it sees the 405 project results.

``Instead of waiting for the statute to be fully implemented, the administration is asking us to go on faith,'' said committee Chairwoman Jenny Oropeza, D-Carson.

But state Department of Transportation Director Will Kempton said he doesn't want to use design-build on every project. Instead, he wants to expand its use to give the state more experience with it, without having to lay off state engineers.

He also said design-build would be effective ``for focused, selected projects where it makes sense.''

Schwarzenegger has proposed a $222 billion, 20-year infrastructure project called the Strategic Growth Plan. Of that, about $107 billion is dedicated to transportation.

The administration is looking to place the first round of what will eventually be $68 billion in bonds on the ballot this year, in either June or November.

The Transportation Committee is planning a second hearing for Wednesday on the transportation element of the plan. Other committees will study the plan's other elements over the next several weeks.

Harrison Sheppard, (916) 446-6723

harrison.sheppard(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 31, 2006
Words:310
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