Assembly Committee Rejects Highway Repair Streamlining Bill

A California Chamber of Commerce-supported bill to expedite and reduce costs for transportation infrastructure projects was voted down by an Assembly policy committee this week.

AB 278 (Steinorth; R-Rancho Cucamonga) would have streamlined and reduced regulatory burdens to inspect, maintain, repair, remove and replace existing highways and roads, or to add specified auxiliary lanes by exempting such projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The purpose of the bill was in line with the Governor’s 2017 transportation proposal and his 2017 Five-Year Infrastructure Plan. More than 92% of the proposed funding identified in the plan is dedicated to the state’s transportation system, with $43 billion to be allocated to improve the maintenance of highways and roads, expand public transit, and support critical trade corridors over the next decade. The plan further focuses new revenue primarily on “fix-it-first” investments to repair neighborhood roads and state highways and bridges.

In a letter supporting AB 278, the CalChamber pointed out that as California continues to face significant costs for maintaining existing transportation infrastructure, it is of the utmost importance that the projects identified in AB 278 are approved and implemented in an expeditious and cost-effective way.

CEQA was initially passed to ensure that California’s environment is considered before a project moves forward. Over time, however, CEQA has become a hook for litigation and a means to delay critical public works projects.

Until significant changes are made to the underlying process, the CalChamber supports efforts to expedite CEQA review for important public works projects, such as those specified in AB 278, which will encourage economic growth and recovery.

AB 278 appropriately prioritized highway maintenance projects to ensure robust productivity as the state rebuilds its roads.

Key Vote

AB 278 failed to pass the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a vote of 3-7.

Ayes: Acosta (R-Santa Clarita), T. Allen (R-Huntington Beach), Flora (R-Ripon).

Noes: C. Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Chau (D-Monterey Park), Eggman (D-Stockton), Limón (D-Goleta), McCarty (D-Sacramento), Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), M. Stone (D-Scotts Valley).

Staff Contact: Louinda V. Lacey