Coastal Program

Caltrans' Division of Environmental Analysis has established a Coastal Program to assist District staff in understanding the requirements and complexities of the Coastal Act and coastal permitting process. The Coastal Program trains, educates, and coordinates with Caltrans staff working on projects in the coastal zone—as well as supports coordination on transportation planning as it relates to coastal resources.

The Caltrans Coastal Program was established in 2012 to provide Caltrans District staff with guidance, training, and information for working on projects in the California coastal zone that must comply with the California Coastal Act. Coastal Program staff coordinate closely with staff from the California Coastal Commission on project development, permit applications, and key focus areas, such as Sea Level Rise and the California Coastal Trail. This coordination is aimed at ensuring Caltrans projects in the coastal zone are protective of coastal resources, and meet both agencies' common goals of natural resource protection, sustainable development, multi-modal access, sensitive design to enhance public access and recreation, and adhering to avoidance and minimization strategies.

Caltrans and the Coastal Commission signed the Caltrans & Coastal Commission Plan for Improved Agency Partnering (PDF) in 2016. The Plan contains recommendations to increase and improve coordination and communication between Caltrans and the Coastal Commission. Two key focus areas identified in the Plan for further agency coordination are: Sea Level Rise and the California Coastal Trail. Click the links below for detailed consideration about incorporating Sea Level Rise and the Coastal Trail into Caltrans projects.

Visit the Coastal Act Policy Resource Information page for information related to specific California Coastal Act policy information resources like wetlands, public access, or coastal hazards, and key considerations for developing projects and preparing coastal development permit applications.

View these fact sheets for more information about developing projects in the coastal zone:

Participate in online training courses to learn more about developing transportation projects in the Coastal Zone.

California Coastal Commission

The California Coastal Commission’s website contains important information for planners working on transportation projects in the coastal zone, such as links to the Coastal Act, Local Coastal Programs (LCPs), guidance on federal consistency, climate change and sea level rise, and links to staff reports for Caltrans coastal development permits.

The Commission oversees development along the coast through six District offices located throughout coastal California, and the headquarters office located in San Francisco. The Commission’s Districts are shown here in relation to the Caltrans districts. You will notice that while the Districts align in some areas, several Caltrans Districts encompass more than one Commission District. 

 The image is a map of California. Coastal Commission Districts are color-coded to indicate the 15 Caltrans counties served along the coast.

General Resources

Resources related to environmental planning, case studies, and example plans and programs for projects and resources in the coastal zone can be found at the following links:
Assembly Bill (AB) 1282 (Mullin, 2017) established the Transportation Permitting Task Force. The Task Force is charged with developing and implementing recommendations to meet transportation project delivery goals that develop a structured process for early engagement of all parties, reduce permit processing time, establish reasonable deadlines for permit approvals, provide for greater certainty of permit approval requirements, and improve environmental outcomes. The Task Force’s final report was released in 2019. 

The SER is an on-line resource to help state and local agency staff plan, prepare, submit, and evaluate environmental documents for transportation projects. The SER contains information appropriate to all transportation projects developed under the auspices of Caltrans, and to all local agency highway or local streets and roads projects with funding or approvals by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). SER Volume 5 provides detailed information on the coastal permitting process.

The Environmental Document Annotated Outline (AO) is a guide for preparing environmental documents addressing both the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The AOs provide a consistent document format for the presentation of required content and give guidance on information to include for projects in the coastal zone.

The Bridge Rails and Barriers Reference Guide (PDF) was developed in collaboration by Caltrans and the Coastal Commission as a tool in designing rails and barriers in the coastal zone for successful coastal development permitting.

The North Coastal Corridor Public Works Plan/Transportation and Resource Enhancement Program includes highway, rail, transit, bike/pedestrian, environmental, and coastal access improvements along the 27-mile North Coast Corridor in San Diego County. The Program is an example of a comprehensive transportation and environmental program that includes coordination and approval with the Coastal Commission for project permitting.

The Big Sur Coast Highway Management Plan is a collaborative document that outlines a Corridor Management Plan (CMP) for the Big Sur Highway and a series of Management Guidelines that address corridor aesthetics, landside management and storm damage response, and vegetation management. The Plan is a framework for ongoing collaboration for the corridor, and is useful for reviewing resource considerations in the coastal zone.

The Sonoma State Route 1 Repair Guidelines (PDF) provide Caltrans staff and stakeholders with a consistent vision and direction when working on or reviewing damage repair (permanent restoration) projects along that portion of California State Route 1 (Highway 1) traversing Sonoma County.

The Marin State Route 1 Repair Guidelines (PDF) provide Caltrans staff and stakeholders with a consistent vision and direction when working on or reviewing damage repair projects along the portion of Highway 1 that traverses Marin County within the California Coastal Zone.