Lawmaker Proposes Permanent Environmental Review Exemptions for Transit Projects

A 2020 law that exempts transit, bike, and pedestrian projects from California's strict environmental review process could become permanent.

1 minute read

February 15, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Metro Train Station

Walter Cicchetti / Shutterstock

A proposal from California Senator Scott Wiener could make permanent a 2020 law that exempts certain transit projects from environmental review in order to accelerate the construction process for public transit, reports Jerold Chinn.

The current proposal would extend Senate Bill 288, which expires in 2023 and exempts transit, bike, and pedestrian safety projects from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. According to Wiener, the bill supports "sustainable, climate friendly, transportation projects" that often get delayed for years by environmental review. "We need to make our streets safer yesterday. Not in a year, not in five years, not after seven years of appeals and lawsuits. Now," said Wiener. 

Jeffrey Tumlin, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s director of transportation, praised the bill for its ability to streamline projects and, for example, allow the agency to quickly re-stripe traffic lanes for buses.

Designed to assess the environmental impacts of new projects, CEQA often receives criticism for causing significant delays in the construction of projects like affordable housing developments. Recently, a lawsuit brought by a neighborhood group called for the University of California, Berkeley to reduce its planned enrollment for next fall because they did not conduct a new environmental review taking into account a larger freshman class.

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