(SACRAMENTO) --- Senator George Runner’s (R-Antelope Valley) legislation to speed up delivery time for transportation projects by eliminating the federal government’s role for review, expediting federal permitting, and improving local government access to federal decision-makers passed Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.
“This legislation will seize the opportunity provided by the federal government to complete critical highway projects up to six months sooner. Our goal is to get roads built faster to shorten traffic congestion,” said Runner. “We are all frustrated with the delays in road construction on Highway 138, and Highway 14 and 15. This legislation will complete these projects faster.” Senate Bill 1812 would authorize Caltrans a limited waiver of sovereign immunity to allow them to accept the assignment of certain federal responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal environmental laws. California has been identified in recent federal legislation (SAFETEA-LU) as one of five states eligible to participate in a six-year pilot program. This legislation will allow California to participate in this pilot thus eliminating up to 180 days or more of bureaucratic delays. Runner added, “We need to get Californians moving and this legislation will get them moving up to a half of a year sooner.”
This legislation will translate into faster delivery of transportation projects. For the simplest environmental review approvals, an average of 12 days would be saved per project. Currently, Caltrans processes approximately 650 of these per year statewide and are used in approximately 90 percent of all highway projects. The overall expected time savings would be approximately 7,800 days. There are an estimated average of 100 categorical exclusions are produced annually by local and regional transportation agencies producing a total savings of 1,200 days. For more complex approvals like environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, an estimated timesaving of 120-180 days per project is expected under the pilot. There is an average of 25 of these approvals yearly resulting in an expected time-savings of 3,750 days. It is estimated that five to eight higher level documents produced by local and regional transportation agencies per year resulting in an overall time savings of 600-960 days annually.
SB 1812 passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee by a 10-0 vote. The legislation will be heard in Senate Appropriations Committee in the next few weeks.