At the end of the 2006-07 fiscal year, California became the only state to participate in a pilot program allowing the department to take responsibility for federal environmental approvals on transportation projects. With support from our state’s congressional delegation, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) delegated that authority to Caltrans under the federal transportation bill. This delegation allows the department to assume FHWA responsibilities for federal approvals under NEPA and other environmental laws for most highway projects in the state that are processed with an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment. It also provides the ability to negotiate and respond directly to federal permitting and regulatory agencies. Allowing Caltrans to grant federal environmental approval saves time by accelerating project production and is an important piece of the governor’s plan to streamline government and expedite completion of transportation projects. Under the program, the median time for completing the environmental process for routine environmental documents has been reduced by nearly 17 months. The NEPA Delegation pilot program terminates in August 2011. Caltrans is working to extend the program.
The Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) Program is administered by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and was created under the National Energy Act of 2005 to encourage energy conservation, develop energy infrastructure and increase domestic energy production and the use of alternative energy sources. In 2006, Caltrans was approved for 93 facilities to install photovoltaic panels under the CREBs Program. Caltrans did a further review of the approved facilities for soundness of the concept and adjusted the scope at each facility, reducing the number of facilities to 70. The department has budget authority to spend $20 million from the sale of the CREBs that will fund the 70 photovoltaic installation projects at various Caltrans facilities. The savings from potential energy generated from the photovoltaic systems will repay the 1.45 percent interest rate bonds over 15 years. It's anticipated that 70 photovoltaic installation projects will be generating electricity by the end of fiscal year 2010-11.
In June 2010, Caltrans established policies and procedures to address Governor’s Executive Order S-14-08 and the Legislature’s California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32). Caltrans is leading the way to promote the installation of solar power facilities in its right-of-way, in a safe and reasonable manner.
Caltrans has entertained a proposal from Republic Cloverleaf Solar LLC (Republic) to install a commercial-scale solar power park on real property owned by the department, located in Santa Clara County. In May 2010, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) conceptually approved Caltrans to directly negotiate with Republic for a solar power park pilot project. This will allow Caltrans to negotiate terms for a developmental lease and revenue/profit share operations agreement that would permit Republic to install and maintain solar panels within several parcels of the state’s operating right of way in Santa Clara County. In return, the state will earn an income stream from traditionally nonrevenue-producing properties.
Caltrans is partnering with the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) to develop a solar energy production pilot program in the Sacramento Region. SMUD is proposing two locations along U.S. Highway 50 in the Sacramento and Rancho Cordova areas. The CTC provided conceptual approval at its June 2010 meeting, and Caltrans continues working with SMUD to develop a solar power park.
Assembly Bill 375 was signed into law in 2008, requiring the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to be achieved from the automobile and light truck sectors for 2020 and 2035. The California Transportation Commission adopted the California Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines in April 2010, which provides guidance to 18 metropolitan planning organizations in California as they prepare a “sustainable communities strategy” that demonstrates the ability for regions to attain CARB’s targets.
Draft targets were released in June 2010 and public workshops were held throughout the state to present the proposed draft targets for years 2020 and 2035.
In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, Caltrans became one of the first state agencies to successfully certify its greenhouse gas emissions inventory with the California Climate Action Registry.
Senate Bill 391, passed in October 2009, requires the California Transportation Plan (CTP) to define the statewide integrated multimodal transportation system that would meet our climate change goals under Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375. The CTP is a statewide, long-range transportation plan for meeting our future mobility needs by defining goals, policies and strategies to achieve our collective vision for California’s future transportation system. The interregional blueprint will communicate California’s vision for an integrated, multimodal, interregional transportation system that complements regional transportation plans and land use visions.
Caltrans will develop the interregional blueprint in two phases. The first phase integrates existing state modal plans and describes how these plans relate to regional transportation and land—use plans. The second phase, to be completed in 2012, builds on the first phase’s narrative analysis by applying modeling and data programs, including the Statewide Integrated Interregional Model to model and evaluate alternative transportation scenarios.
Ultimately, the interregional blueprint will become the foundation of the 2040 update to the state’s CTP.
The Regional Advance Mitigation Plan (RAMP) is a regional or statewide plan that estimates the potential future compensatory mitigation requirements for one or more planned infrastructure projects and identifies mitigation projects, sites or credits that would fulfill some or all of those requirements.
Since spring 2008, a working group of state and federal agencies, including Caltrans, Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish and Game, Department of Parks and Recreation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Nature Conservancy, have been exploring the potential for implementing regional advance mitigation in California. Assembly Bill 2665 seeks to further advance the concept of RAMP by giving the Natural Resources Agency express authorization to prepare and implement RAMP.