New Laws Address Climate Change Impacts, Worker Safety

Photo of the California State Capitol building with California State Flag in the foreground.

Lawmakers, Governor Set State Transportation Priorities

Transportation-related bills dealing with climate change, active transportation and highway worker safety were among those approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor last year. The following are several significant new laws affecting Caltrans in 2021:


AB 2800 — Climate Safe Infrastructure Working Group


This bill makes the Climate-Safe Infrastructure Working Group permanent within the Natural Resources Agency. Caltrans is a member of the working group and has been proactive in planning for climate change effects on transportation facilities. This new law requires the group to continue to consider climate change impacts on state infrastructure and to support state agencies’ consideration of related economic damages and financial liabilities.


AB 2285 — Move Over/Slow Down

(Assembly Committee on Transportation)

This bill expands an existing requirement for vehicles on freeways to move over or slow down for maintenance and emergency vehicles on all highways and local roads. This expanded application of the law to all public roads is intended to improve the safety of roadside vehicles, tow truck, and emergency personnel throughout California. This bill builds on the “move over or slow down” campaign by Caltrans, the Office of Traffic Safety, and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to protect essential roadside workers.


SB 288 — Active Transportation Project Streamlining


This bill exempts certain types of pedestrian, bicycle, transit, and utility relocation projects from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) until Jan. 1, 2023. Exemptions from CEQA review generally reduce the time and costs associated with delivering transportation projects. The bill also extends an existing statutory CEQA exemption for projects already included in approved bicycle transportation plans until Jan. 1, 2030.


SB 146 — COVID-19 Adaptations for Regional Transportation Plans


This bill temporarily authorizes metropolitan planning organizations to use digital and telephonic methods as alternative means for public engagement on the development of sustainable communities strategies in regional transportation plans until Jan. 1, 2023. State law otherwise requires metropolitan planning organizations to conduct at least two informational meetings in each county within the region for a proposed sustainable communities strategy or alternative planning strategy. This bill allows metropolitan planning organizations to continue regional transportation planning while observing current public health directives requiring physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID 19.


AB 2731 — San Diego Old Town Center Redevelopment


The bill authorizes the San Diego Association of Governments and the U.S. Navy to accelerate the preparation of an environmental analysis that satisfies National Environmental Policy Act and California Environmental Quality Act requirements to meet the federal time frame. The project intended to benefit from the accelerated environmental analysis aims to improve regional transit interconnectivity and support economic development near the San Diego International Airport. Ultimately, this bill is expected to improve mobility and provide multimodal transportation options in the San Diego urban core, while also creating mutually beneficial partnerships, supporting economic development, and preserving community engagement.


SB 1231 — Endangered Species: Taking of Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander


This bill authorizes the Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue a permit to Caltrans to allow for construction within the habitat of the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander, a fully protected species, with appropriate mitigation and other measures in place. This will allow construction to move forward on the West Corridor project on State Route 156 in Monterey County.


AB 2172, AB 2006, SB 921, SB 1459 — Highway Relinquishments

(Petrie-Norris, Fong, Dahle, Caballero)

These bills authorize Caltrans to relinquish almost 10 miles of state highway serving as local streets to localities interested in improving them to meet their needs once each city and Caltrans reach agreement, which also must be approved by the California Transportation Commission. The authority applies to State Route 133 in Laguna Beach, SR 184 in Kern County and Bakersfield, SR 174 in the city of Grass Valley, and SR 183 in Salinas.


Source: Caltrans Office of Legislative Affairs