California bill headed to governor seeks to reduce highway traffic

August 26, 2022

Keith Goble


CalifOne bill headed to the California governor’s desk would extend a transportation rule that is intended to reduce travel on the state’s roadways.

Expediting ‘sustainable’ transportation projects

In 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill to speed up California transportation projects considered to be “sustainable.” Specifically, the rule exempts transit projects from stricter review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The exemptions are touted to shave project timelines by six months to four years.

Affected projects include adding bus rapid transit lines, the installation of zero-emission bus charging infrastructure, and walking and biking infrastructure.

The 2-year-old rule has a Jan. 1 sunset date.

Although the rule is not intended to aid in getting road work done, it can help reduce congestion for professional drivers and others who must use roadways.

Extension nears passage

With the expiration date looming, Senate lawmakers have given final approval to a bill to extend the sunset date for seven years.

The bill, SB922, now heads to the governor. The Senate approved it in May but needed to endorse Assembly changes for the bill to move to Newsom’s desk.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, says his California transportation bill also would improve on the 2-year-old law.

“We can and must make it easier and faster to build sustainable transportation projects that help get people out of their cars,” Wiener said in a news release. “Increasing walking, biking and public transit option is a great way to reduce carbon emissions and improve the livability of our communities.”

Since the rule has been in place, he says 15 projects have been streamlined in various parts of the state. Another 20 projects are under consideration for the same treatment.

Weiner adds that SB922 would allow the state to continue to cut down on approval time and costs for sustainable transportation projects.

The bill also would modify the types of projects eligible for streamlining.

Critics have said the 2020 law allows a long list of transportation projects that are likely to bring significant environmental impacts to be greenlighted without a thorough review. As a result, the projects are allowed to circumvent the California Environmental Quality Act’s meaningful public participation and environmental health requirements. LL

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