Utilities, State Agencies and Law Enforcement Make Strong Progress to Improve Power, Internet and Communication Services for San Mateo County Coastside Communities

July 08, 2019

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – Monday, July 8, 2019

Utilities, State Agencies and Law Enforcement Make Strong Progress to Improve Power, Internet and Communication Services for Communities on the San Mateo County Coast

State and Local Leaders Applaud Collaborative Efforts and the Commitment to Success

SAN MATEO – The utilities, state agencies and law enforcement units that together are tackling connectivity challenges in San Mateo County’s coastal communities say they have taken important strides forward – to the delight of state and local leaders who had urged formation of the work group.

In a follow-up to a community forum on coastal connectivity held this spring, representatives of AT&T, Comcast, PG&E, Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department summarized their progress in a recent meeting with state Senator Jerry Hill, Assemblymembers Marc Berman and Kevin Mullin, county Supervisor Don Horsley, Half Moon Bay Deputy City Manager Matthew Chidester and Pacifica Assistant City Manager Lorenzo Hines Jr.

“I am very impressed with the work accomplished since the forum in April,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “The steps taken already, and the plans for further improvement, all point toward success. The organizations deserve credit for acknowledging the problems, working to address them and making solutions a priority.”

“I’m so pleased by the quick and thorough response from all the agencies and entities involved. I see a true commitment to addressing community concerns and creating a reliable infrastructure,” said Assemblymember Mullin, D-South San Francisco. “This has been accomplished in a collaborative manner, and I look forward to continued efforts to create resiliency on the Coastside to improve safety.”

“The ongoing collaboration between utilities, state agencies and law enforcement is a testament to the seriousness of our connectivity issues along the coast and the determination of all parties to keep the Coastside connected and resilient,” said Assemblymember Berman, D-Palo Alto. “I am grateful for thoughtfulness and expediency with which steps have been made since April to reduce the number of disruptive and harmful power and internet outages that impact the Coastside.”

A series of power and communication service outages beset coastal communities earlier this year. One of the power failures led to a lengthy closure of the Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide, a crucial link for coastal communities and for motorists traveling to and from central San Mateo County. The tunnel closure revealed gaps in interagency communications. Taken together, the problems prompted community concerns about frequent utility outages, the length of time it took to resolve them and public safety.

In response, the legislators held the forum to open talks about resolving the issues. In a meeting with lawmakers on June 28, the utilities and state and local agencies summed up their work thus far.

Redundant lines to provide electrical power to the Lantos Tunnels are now in place, according to PG&E’s Darin Cline, who attended the meeting. The improvement, he said, greatly reduces the likelihood of outages due to power failures, which can lead to closure of the tunnels.

Caltrans Bay Area Director Tony Tavares told the group that Caltrans is exploring ways to secure an onsite power generating station to provide backup power to the tunnels in case PG&E needs to initiate a Public Safety Power Shutoff, or a major emergency occurs.

Angela Kung of AT&T, Lee-Ann Peling of Comcast and PG&E’s Cline said their companies are working on several projects to increase the resilience of their systems as part of near- and long-term efforts.

Caltrans’ Tavares, California Highway Patrol Captain Jim Allen, San Mateo County Assistant Sheriff Gregory Rothaus and Kevin Rose, manager of county’s Office of Emergency Services, a unit of the Sheriff’s Office, said they have strengthened their interagency communications and cooperation.

They also offered a refresher on traffic and alert terms. SIG Alerts, which are about incidents that are expected to tie up traffic for 30 minutes or more, are issued by the CHP in partnership with Caltrans’ Traffic Management System. SMC Alert is a free notification service provided by San Mateo County OES to tell users about urgent as well as emergency situations via email, text or calls. SMC OES’ Rose said SMC Alert has become more proactive and wants more people to sign up for the service that currently has about 100,000 users. Senator Hill said legislative offices on the Peninsula can help by providing information to constituents on how to receive SMC Alert. SMC Alerts ongoing efforts include exploring language translation technology for the service, Rose added.

San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley, a former county sheriff, spoke of the dual responsibilities local governments have to represent and serve the residents of their communities.

“We recognize that the Coastside is concerned about being cut off in the event of an emergency, and we have made some real progress to be sure that won’t happen,” said Supervisor Horsley. “Residents are also concerned about telephone and internet service, and we are working with the agencies to strengthen the network and connectivity.”

Here are further comments from the cities, government agencies and utilities working to improve Coastside connectivity:

“The City of Half Moon Bay is grateful for the leadership our state representatives have shown in improving communications and collaboration between the government agencies and utilities serving the Coastside. The progress that has been made over the last few months is commendable. We’ll continue to be a partner in this work to make Half Moon Bay and the entire Coastside a safer and more self-reliant community for our residents and visitors.” – Half Moon Bay Mayor Harvey Rarback

“The City of Pacifica is very pleased with the cooperative efforts of Comcast, AT&T, the California Department of Transportation, the California Highway Patrol, Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office/Office of Emergency Services to enhance the lives of our coastal communities and citizens. The Coastside Forum chaired by California Senator Jerry Hill, California Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin Mullin and Assemblymember Marc Berman has served to further strengthen the connection between our Legislators and our coastal citizens.” – Assistant City Manager Lorenzo Hines Jr.

“The California Highway Patrol is committed to the efficient management of traffic and emergency incidents. We have heard the concerns of those who live, work and play in the area and will continue to work with our state partners and local stakeholders to address the specific needs of the coastal communities in this region.” – CHP Captain Jim Allen, Commander, Redwood City Area

“Caltrans is committed to working with our partners to keep coastal residents and visitors safe and able to evacuate in an emergency. An integrated communication plan and power redundancy solution are the direct result of Caltrans, its partners and the community working in collaboration to keep the roads in our coastal communities safe and open to the public and to ensure fire and life safety devices in the Tom Lantos tunnels remain operational in the event of a power outage.” – Caltrans Bay Area Director Tony Tavares

“The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is committed to providing the residents of San Mateo County with outstanding customer service. It is imperative that our communication with the public is clear, detailed and delivered in a timely manner. The Sheriff’s Office is taking more responsibility in working with all agencies to deliver quality messaging during events that negatively affect the public, regardless of the jurisdiction where the event is taking place.” – San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos

“We applaud the support and leadership from Senator Hill, Assemblymember Berman and Assemblymember Mullin to help improve communications along the coast by bringing together the community, multiple public agencies and the industry – all of whom must work together to find ways to streamline the process and create a robust network that best serves the community.” – Tedi Vriheas, AT&T Assistant Vice President, External Affairs

“Having served Half Moon Bay and the adjacent coastal communities for nearly 20 years, Comcast is deeply committed to the area and we always strive to provide the best possible experience for our customers. In collaboration with local and state government leadership, Comcast is working on several projects that should provide greater reliability throughout the area. Also, working in partnership with Caltrans, Comcast is exploring alternate routes to serve the community, which will further enhance service delivery and reliability. We will continue to work diligently on these projects and can provide future updates as the work progresses.” – Jeff Votaw, Comcast California Vice President, Engineering and Construction

“We appreciate the opportunity to participate, listen and create solutions for this important local issue. PG&E’s most important responsibility to all of its customers is safety, and we are committed to providing safe and reliable energy service to Half Moon Bay and the greater Peninsula. We share the same goal as state and local stakeholders to continue to collaborate on coordination during emergencies and communicate with our customers, while our crews work safely and as quickly as possible to restore power during an outage.” – Jason Regan, PG&E Director of Electric Operations.

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Media contacts:

For Senator Hill, Leslie Guevarra, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov, 415-298-3404 cell

For Assemblymember Berman, Kaitlin Curry, kaitlin.curry@asm.ca.gov, 916-319-2024 office

For Assemblymember Mullin, Susan Kennedy, susan.kennedy@asm.ca.gov, 650-349-2200 office, 925-437-2510 cell