California extends rule to aid certain transportation work

October 10, 2022

Keith Goble


California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a bill to extend a transportation rule intended to reduce travel on the state’s roadways.

In 2020, Newsom signed into law a bill to speed up transportation projects considered “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 includes a Jan. 1, 2023, sunset date.

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

Revisions to rule

With the expiration date looming, the California Legislature approved sending a bill to the governor to extend the sunset date for seven years.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, says SB922 also improves on the 2-year-old law.

“Increasing sustainable transportation options – like biking, walking, and public transit – is incredibly important when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change,” Wiener said in a news release. “SB922 continues our work to make it easier to build these projects more quickly and at lower cost, and will get people out of their cars.”

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 the rule extension allows the state to continue to cut down on approval time and costs for sustainable transportation projects.

SB922 also modifies the types of transportation projects eligible for streamlining.

The rule extension is not without criticism. Some have said the 2020 law allows a long list of transportation projects 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 important public participation and environmental health requirements. LL

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