Senator Wiener Introduces Legislation to Jumpstart and Expedite Sustainable Transportation Projects and Aid in COVID-19 Economic Recovery

June 15, 2020

Sacramento - Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced the introduction of Senate Bill 288, which expands CEQA statutory exemptions to streamline approval of sustainable transportation projects — public transportation, bike safety, and pedestrian projects — thus speeding up their approval in order to get them moving. After the 2008 financial crash, the Obama administration passed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which — though imperfect in the projects it funded — was a stimulus package that focused on increased funding for important infrastructure as a way to rebuild the economy and create jobs. Facing the most serious economic downturn in a century, California needs bold, state-wide policy solutions that similarly help us improve our infrastructure, address climate change, and help put people back to work. SB 288 will make sustainable transportation projects more affordable and efficient with less expensive administrative delays.

SB 288 adds a number of different types of projects to CEQA statutory exemptions. Exempted infrastructure projects will include: safer streets for walking and biking; updated and new transit stations; faster, more efficient bus service with new bus rapid transit lines; bridge repairs and transit storage facility repair; and the installation of new zero emission vehicle charging infrastructure. These environmentally friendly projects are essential not only because transit and walking and biking infrastructure are important for the general well-being of our state, but because more people are walking and biking more now than ever, due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

Any recovery plan must also focus on addressing climate change, environmental concerns and public health. When more people use alternatives to cars — like transit, walking and biking — greenhouse gas emissions go down and our communities’ health improves. Projects like these will ensure that investment in our infrastructure and economy doesn’t come at the expense of our environment and our health, and in fact helps lower carbon emissions and lessen our states’ carbon footprint.

Infrastructure projects, like those which would be exempted from CEQA regulations under SB 288, are also important job creators. Now more than ever, with record-breaking unemployment, we need to put people back to work and create good jobs, and we need to do so quickly.
Large projects eligible for exemption must include active public participation and support community-led decisions. These projects must also be located in already urbanized areas and on public rights-of-way to ensure they have limited physical and environmental impacts. Additionally, any larger projects must be in a regional transportation plan or other plan that has had a programmatic environmental review. 

SB 288 is sponsored by SPUR, the Bay Area Council, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. 

“To recover from this economic disaster, we must prioritize economic recovery and investment,” said Senator Wiener. “SB 288 will put people back to work on projects that improve our outdated transit, walking and biking infrastructure. It will also reduce carbon emissions by expediting the approval and construction of environmentally sustainable transportation projects. We can’t just cross our fingers and hope that jobs come back. Rather, we need to be intentional about jump-starting our economy. SB 288 will help move us toward economic recovery.”

“Striping bike lanes or transit-only diamonds onto San Francisco’s existing asphalt does not pose a threat to California’s environment. In order to address climate change, social equity, and the COVID health and financial crises, we need more projects that put people first. And we need them fast,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “SB 288 removes pointless delays and will allow government to get its essential work done efficiently.”
"SB288 accelerates our most sustainable transportation projects and supports community-led decision-making,” said Alicia John-Baptiste, President and CEO of SPUR. “SPUR applauds SB288 from Senator Wiener, which will result not only in less pollution and fewer carbon emissions but in safer, more affordable and more reliable ways to get around when the Bay Area reopens."

"Fast-tracking some of California’s most sustainable transportation and complete streets projects would bring jobs, revive local economies, and result in improved safety, less pollution, reduced traffic and enhanced public health, said Carl Guardino,  President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

"Speeding up the delivery of environmentally friendly and sustainable public transportation projects will help put the brakes on polluting traffic as the region’s economy begins to reopen and commuters return to work," said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. "SB 288 will not only bring dramatic improvements to our transportation system, it will help create jobs and ensure we’re using precious taxpayer money wisely and efficiently. The Bay Area Council applauds Sen. Wiener for his vision and leadership in advancing this important and necessary legislation."