Gov. Newsom signs bill to fast-track climate-friendly transportation projects

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would fast-track approval of bicycle, rapid bus, light rail and pedestrian projects in California was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, the bill’s sponsor announced Friday.

The bill by state senator Scott Wiener (D-S.F.) allows communities to get climate-friendly sustainable transportation projects by exempting them from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

SB 922 builds on previous legislation from Sen. Wiener (SB 288) to waive such infrastructure projects from environmental and litigation hurdles that could add years of delays to green transportation projects. While SB 288 sunsets on Jan. 1, 2023, SB 922 would extend the law for another seven years.

“Expanding public transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure puts people to work and mitigates the worst impacts of climate change,” said Wiener in a statement introducing the bill earlier this year. “Our federal and state governments are making huge investments in infrastructure and we need to get these projects going much faster than we have in the past. We’ve seen just how successful SB 288 has been in jumpstarting sustainable transportation projects — we need to keep this momentum up. Streamlining new transportation infrastructure is a climate issue, it’s a jobs issue and it’s an equity issue. That’s why SB 922 is so important for the future of our state.”

Wiener says the projects that apply for a CEQA waiver must now meet one of the following requirements:

• Make streets safer for walking and biking

• Speed up bus service on streets

• Make it possible to run bus service on highways

• Expand carpooling options

• Build new, or modernize old light rail stations

• Support parking policies that reduces drive-alone trips & congestion

• Improve wayfinding for people using transit, biking or walking

To ensure that the exemption is not misapplied to projects with detrimental impacts, these projects must also:

• Be located in an existing public right of way

• Must not add new auto capacity

• Must not demolish affordable housing

• Must use a skilled and trained workforce or have a project labor agreement in place

 Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) is a co-author of SB 922, as is Senator Josh Becker (D-San Mateo).

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