Bill Expedites, Reduces Costs for Roadway Repair/Maintenance

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SupportThe Assembly Natural Resources Committee has approved a California Chamber of Commerce-supported bill that streamlines certain roadway infrastructure improvements.

AB 323 (Olsen; R-Modesto) extends, until January 1, 2020, the current California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for certain roadway repair and maintenance projects.

The exemption applies for the repair, maintenance, or minor alterations to an existing roadway if the project is carried out by a city or county with a population of less than 100,000 persons. Without action, this exemption is set to expire on January 1, 2016.

Requirements

Importantly, the exemption AB 323 proposes to extend applies only if certain requirements are met, including: the project must not cross a waterway, there must be negligible expansion of use, the site must not contain wetlands or riparian habitat, and there must be no impact to cultural resources.

Ensuring that minor roadway maintenance and repair projects in small to mid-size jurisdictions move forward expeditiously is critically important from a public safety standpoint.

Although such projects may fall within certain categorical exemptions under the CEQA Guidelines, AB 323 ensures that roadway repair and maintenance projects would continue to be statutorily exempt from CEQA and thus would not be subject to exceptions that may defeat their use. Accordingly, if a proposed project fits within the terms of AB 323’s stated exemption, then that is the end of the inquiry and the exemption applies.

CEQA was initially passed to ensure that California’s environment is considered before moving forward with a project. Over time, however, CEQA has become a hook for litigation and a means to delay worthy projects for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment.

Until changes are made to the underlying process, CalChamber supports legitimate CEQA exemptions, such as AB 323, which will encourage the expeditious approval and implementation of minor but important roadway projects.

Key Vote

AB 323 passed Assembly Natural Resources on March 23 with unanimous support.

Ayes: Williams (D-Santa Barbara), Dahle (R-Bieber), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach), Harper (R-Huntington Beach), Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), McCarty (D-Sacramento), Rendon (D-Lakewood), Wood (D-Healdsburg).

The bill will be considered next by the Assembly Transportation Committee.

More Information

For background information, see the 2015 CalChamber Business Issues and Legislative Guide article on CEQA.

Staff Contact: Anthony Samson

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Anthony Samson
About Anthony Samson
Anthony Samson, CalChamber policy advocate for environmental regulation, housing and land use issues from November 2013 through 2016, is senior attorney/policy advisor for Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP. He previously was an attorney at a statewide law firm that specializes in mining, land use, and natural resources law. He earned a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law, where he served as the articles editor of the Michigan State Law Review.