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A Draft Technical Advisory Offers Guidance on Streamlining CEQA Review for Sustainable Transportation 

by Robin Baral

Published: July, 2021

Submission: July, 2021


The Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released a draft technical advisory earlier this month that outlines new and existing provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that can streamline the environmental review of sustainable transportation projects.

The new streamlining options arose from S.B. 288, a bill that Governor Newsom signed last year exempting from CEQA certain transportation projects:

  • Bus rapid transit projects, light rail service projects, and projects creating bus-only lanes;
  • Transit prioritization projects improving customer information and wayfinding for transit riders, bicyclists, or pedestrians;
  • Public transit agency projects constructing or maintaining infrastructure to charge or refuel zero-emission transit buses, projects carried out by a city or county to reduce minimum parking requirements, and projects for pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

Agencies, however, must satisfy additional criteria to take advantage of this CEQA exemption. For example, projects must be located on the existing right-of-way and cannot increase automobile capacity. In addition, for projects that exceed $100 million, such as new bus rapid transit, bus, or light rail projects, the exemption requires additional measures. Among these additional measures are completing and considering the results of a project business case and a racial equity analysis. The draft technical advisory provides guidance on how lead agencies may satisfy those requirements.

OPR offers this guidance with an eye toward California meeting its long-term climate goals. These goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Streamlining sustainable transportation projects is one way the State can meet these goals, and OPR encourages agencies to take advantage before sunset on January 1, 2023.1 View OPR’s draft technical advisory for more.


1 The section exempting certain bicycle transportation plans will sunset on January 1, 2030. Pub. Res. Code, § 21080.20(d).


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