One component of the SC2 Team work plan in Fresno was to provide technical assistance to the city to conduct high speed rail (HSR) planning. Early in the SC2 pilot, team members noticed that there was not adequate coordination among the many entities involved in aspects of HSR planning. Fortunately, at about the same time, the California HSR Authority identified the need to collaborate across federal agencies on this project. A representative from the HSR Authority approached the city and a team member asking them to help facilitate this interagency coordination in order to kick-start the station area planning in Fresno. This request catalyzed the collaboration across agencies, which all had a joint interest in successfully stewarding the implementation of this first leg of the HSR line.
The assigned EPASC2 team member initiated and coordinated outreach to Washington, DC-based Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration (DOT-FTA) staff members and a regional DOT staff member for guidance on the HSR infrastructure (e.g., track work, engineering, and public art elements). She also put together the daylong convening in April 2012, which included various Fresno city staff (i.e., planning staff, public works staff, engineering staff, city manager), various individuals from the state level (i.e., HSR Authority representatives, design consultants, and Strategic Growth Council representatives), and a number of federal staff (i.e., San Francisco-based EPA staff, HUD and DOT regional staff, and DOT-FTA staff from Washington, DC). The result was that the HSR Authority collected necessary input on the HSR infrastructure guidelines, and the city gathered the right information to issue an RFP to hire a consultant to lead its HSR station area master plan. Additionally, the daylong convening started a worthwhile relationship between the HSR Authority and the city of Fresno, using the EPA team member as an intermediary.
Under the Partnerships for Sustainable Communities (PSC), EPA, DOT, and HUD coordinate federal housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure investments and policy to help regions and communities develop in a more resilient and sustainable manner.4 The SC2 pilot helped to operationalize and implement interagency programs such as the PSC, through a place based effort in Fresno that engaged staff from the agencies in a different way, working on the ground in the community and focusing on a particular set of local issues. The team collaboration streamlined the process of collecting input from multiple agencies and provided each agency with the opportunity to offer its own input during the convening. The collaboration also provided a venue for the agencies to consider the perspectives of other agencies and other regulations pertinent to HSR. The team member ensured that the right agencies, both locally and in DC, were involved in the conversations. The team member was new to the area, with no previous interactions with or allegiance to any of the on-the-ground partners involved, and she had the bandwidth to spearhead this effort. Both these factors contributed to her ability to successfully facilitate interagency collaboration as a neutral broker.
The success of the HSR coordination has led the Fresno team members from multiple federal agencies including, but not limited to, DOT, EPA, and HUD, to explore how they can duplicate the successful collaboration in Fresno in other California regions that will be building HSR stations.