BY: Cheryl DeMucci and Julie Del Rivo, Transportation Chairs

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. Here are some of the recent laws of 2020 and 2021 [Caltrans]. In Los Angeles, Metro improvements Projects offer the potential to reduce traffic that impact us all.

AB 47  — Driver records: points: distracted driving. Existing law prohibits using a cell phone in a handheld manner while driving. As of July 1, 2021, a point will be added to a driver’s record for the second violation of the hands-free law within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense.

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 2285 — “Move Over/Slow Down” Law requires drivers on freeways to slow down to a reasonable speed and move to another lane if possible when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights. This includes tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles.

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.

Metro Update:

SR-57/SR-60 Interchange Improvements Project

In transit, Metro has a plan to make it easier to get around, including easing traffic for a better drive where the 57 meets the 60. This project includes building multiple on- and off-ramps, widening Grand Avenue and reconstructing the Grand Avenue bridge overcrossing. These improvements will increase freeway capacity to address traffic congestion, increasing access to opportunity for the region.