Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 Legislation and Recap of 2012

First a recap of 2012-
AB 2245 Smyth (2012) was signed by the governor on Sep 28, 2012. It  adds a new subsection, 21080.20.5, to the  Public Resources Code on Statutory exemptions. It provides a statutory exemption  from CEQA for the “restriping of streets and highways for bicycle lanes in an urbanized area that is consistent with a prepared bicycle transportation plan”. The caveat is that the lead agency would be required make “an assessment of traffic and safety impact and holding hearings before determining a project is exempt”.  The bills unsets on Jan 1 2018 unless extended by the legislature.
AB 819 Wieckowski (2012), was signed by the governor on Sep 28, 2012.  This bill amends the Streets and Highways Code section that pertains to Bikeway. It adds a new section 891.1 that directs Caltrans to develop a process for local agencies to create a process for local agencies to develop bikeway designs that are not currently in the Highway Design Manual.  The exact text of SHC 891.1 is:
a) The department shall, by November 1, 2014, submit a report to the transportation policy committees of both houses of the Legislature that describes the steps the department has taken to implement the requirements of subdivision (b) of Section 891 related to permitting exceptions to the requirements of subdivision (a) of Section 891. The report shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) The number of requests the department has received from cities, counties, and local agencies from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, inclusive.
(2) The number of exceptions the department granted during that year.
(3) If any requests were rejected, the reasons why those requests were not approved.
(b) This section shall become inoperative on July 1, 2015
Now for 2013
AB 417 Frazier (2013) was signed by the governor on October 07, 2013.  Similar to AB 2245, this bill creates a statutory exemption from CEQA for bike plans in urban areas (Public Resources Code___).  The caveat again, is that a traffic study is still required.  Specifically this law:
1) Establishes an exemption from CEQA for a bicycle transportation plan for an urbanized area for restriping of streets and highways, bicycle parking and storage, signal timing, and related signage.
2) Requires a lead agency, prior to determining a plan is exempt, to hold noticed public hearings, assess any traffic and safety impacts, and include measures to mitigate those impacts.
3) Requires a lead agency to file a notice of any bicycle plan exemption with the Office of Planning and Research and the county clerk in the county in which the project is located.
4) Sunsets the bill's provisions on January 1, 2018.

SB 714 Stenberg (2013) Environmental quality: transit oriented infill projects,   was  signed by the governor on September 27, 2013. This bill amends several sections of the Government Code and the Public Resources Code to facilitate transit-oriented infill projects.  It directs to OPR, by 2014, to develop new measures to assess the significance of transportation impacts of projects  in these areas, and once adopted,  automobile delay or traffic congestion shall not be considered a significant impact on the environment pursuant to this division.  This bill also states that OPR may develop new metrics for automobile traffic outside of transit priority areas.
A more detailed description of SB 714 is as follows:
SB 714 revises the definition of “infill opportunity zone,” that exists in current law to include transit priority area within a sustainable communities strategy or alternative planning strategy adopted by an applicable metropolitan planning organization. The bill then directs the Office of Planning and Research shall prepare establishing criteria for determining the significance of transportation impacts of projects within transit priority areas. that “ promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses. In developing the criteria, the office shall recommend potential metrics to measure transportation impacts that may include, but are not limited to, vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.” (2) Upon certification of the guidelines by the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency pursuant to this section, automobile delay, as described solely by level of service or similar measures of vehicular capacity or traffic congestion shall not be considered a significant impact on the environment pursuant to this division, except in locations specifically identified in the guidelines, if any.”  Further, the bill allows that  the Office of Planning and Research may adopt guidelines pursuant to Section 21083 establishing alternative metrics to the metrics used for traffic levels of service for transportation impacts outside transit priority areas. The alternative metrics may include the retention of traffic levels of service, where appropriate and as determined by the office.

SB 99 (2013) created the Active Transportation  Program, (ATP) consolidating several federal and state programs, ( federal Transportation Alternative, Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program,  Safe Routes to School, Bicycle Transportation Account)  into a single  $129 million program called Active Transportation Program. This Budget Trailer Bill makes statutory changes necessary to implement the Active Transportation Program, which changes the way the state allocates funds for various human-powered transportation activities and programs. The Administration proposed this new Program in the January 2013 Budget proposal, but due to the complex nature of the programs, and the scope of the changes proposed, the Legislature chose to defer action on this proposal when adopting the June 15th Budget package and instead froze funds for these purposes and inserted intent language that the Program would be developed before the end of the 2014 legislative session.  Guidelines are yet to be developed by the California Transportation Commission, but keep your eyes out for the call for projects. Even though it is one program, there are still restrictions that set aside certain dollar amounts for certain types of projects, such as school  projects and an overall requirement that 25 % of the funds to go disadvantaged communities.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

October 2012 - SB1380 and AB2245

Awaiting signatures on the Governor’s desk (as of 9/23/12)  are two bills that will make it significantly easier to conduct bicycle planning and bike lane projects in California. Both passed Assembly and Senate committees and full houses with relatively little opposition.

The first bill,  SB 1380, (Rubio)  and sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group,  would amend Section 21080.20 of the Public Resources Code to provide a statutory  exemption to Bike Plans,  specifically  to ”a bicycle transportation plan prepared pursuant to Section 891.2 of the Streets and Highways Code for an urbanized area for restriping of streets and highways, bicycle parking and storage, signal timing to improve street and highway intersection operations, and related signage for bicycles, pedestrians, and vehicles” .  The exemption would be for a three-year trial period, ending on January 1, 2018, unless another statute deletes or extends this date.

SB 1380 would  spare local agencies the expense  and delay associated with preparing an  EIR for a bike plan of an urbanized area. This is compatible with  environmental and sustainability goals since planning for an environmentally-benign mode such as bicycling is one way to achieve the clean environment that EIR’s are intended to retain.   

The second bill, AB 2245 (Smyth of Los Angeles), would provide a statutory exemption for a bike lane project “that consists of the restriping of streets and highways for bicycle lanes in an urbanized area“ by adding 21080.20.5 to the Public Resources Code.  It was passed by the Assembly August 24, 2012 and by the Senate August 21, 2012. Prior to determining that a project is exempt pursuant to this section, the lead agency shall do both of the following:
(1) Prepare an assessment of any traffic and safety impacts of the project and include measures in the project to mitigate potential vehicular traffic impacts and bicycle and pedestrian safety impacts.
(2) Hold noticed public hearings in areas affected by the project to hear and respond to public comments.   This bill also sunsets in January 1, 2018, unless another statute deletes or extends this date.
AB 2245 would spare local agencies the expense and delay of preparing an EIR for a simple bike lane project such as a road diet or other restriping project. Providing affordable transportation alternatives, mitigating the negative effects of traffic congestion, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, conserving energy, improving the health and physical fitness of residents, and creating more livable neighborhoods are all benefits that could be realized by increasing bicycle usage in urban areas.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Recent Bills Related to Our Transportation Profession

Several bills related to our transportation profession have been introduced for this year. Below is a quick summary.

AB 16 (Perea)– High Speed Rail Authority
This bill would require the High Speed Rail (HSR) authority to make every effort to purchase high-speed train rolling stock and related equipment that are manufactured in California, consistent with federal and state laws.

AB 294 (Portantino) Design Sequencing Contracts
This bill would allow no more than 5 design-sequencing contracts, where Caltrans prepares a design for phases and allows construction to commence before entire project is designed, to be effective until January 1, 2015. A similar bill (AB 1760 Blumenfield) that would have allowed 10 design sequencing contracts was vetoed last year.

AB 345 (Atkins) Vehicles: Traffic Control Devices - Consultation
This bill would require the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) and Caltrans to consult with groups representing users of streets, roads, and highways, such as bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities, motorists, commercial goods, pedestrians, public transit users, and seniors. This is a very interesting bill because until now CTCDC and Caltrans is only required to consult with local agencies before adopting rules and regulations prescribing uniform standards and specifications for official traffic control devices.

AB 353 (Cedillo) Freeway Construction
If Caltrans wants to close down a City street or a County highway due to construction of a freeway, they need to enter into an agreement with the agency having jurisdiction over the facility, except if the facility is under the jurisdiction of LA County Metro and i) an agreement with one or more counties and cities is not possible because an impasse has existed for 10 or more years after an initial route was adopted ii) Caltrans had prepared an EIR and established an outreach program. This bill would repeal these provisions establishing an exception for a freeway segment to be constructed without an agreement within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

AB 441 State Planning (Monning) – Transportation Health Impact
Regional Transportation Plans such as general Plans may have one more component that needs to be included – health issues. This bill would require California Transportation Commission (CTC) to include health issues in the guidelines for the preparation of regional transportation plans. This bill would also require that the Governor’s office and Office of Planning and Research develop guidelines that contain advice on how local and regional agencies can incorporate health issues into local or regional general plans.

AB 464 (Olsen) Highway Route 59
State Highway Route 59 is from Route 152 northerly to Route 99 near Merced and from Route 99 near Merced to Snelling. This bill would provide that Route 59 also includes the segment of roadway from Route 132 to Route 108/120.

AB 650 (Blumenfield) Blue Ribbon Task Force on Public Transportation
A Transit Task Force with $750,000 budget – This bill would establish the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Public Transportation for the 21st Century. This task force, comprised of 12 members jointly appointed by Senate Committee on Rules and the Speaker of the Assembly by March 31, 2012, would need to prepare a written report that contains specified findings and recommendations relating to, among other things, the current state of California’s transit system, the estimated cost of creating the needed system over various terms, and potential sources of funding to sustain the transit system’s needs, and to submit the report by March 31, 2013, to the Governor, the Legislature, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Senate Committee on Rules, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the transportation committees of the Legislature. The task force will be staffed by Institute of Transportation Studies of the University of California.

AB 892 (Carter) Transportation- Federal Pilot Program
This bill repeals the January 1, 2012 deadline that existed for the State of California’s consent to the jurisdiction of the federal courts with regard to the compliance, discharge, or enforcement of the responsibilities it assumed as a participant in the surface transportation project delivery pilot program by the United States Secretary of Transportation.

AB 1105 (Gordon) High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes
One or both of the HOT lane corridors proposed in Santa Clara County could extend into the adjacent county and the revenues could be shared between the two counties for eligible purposes – only if this bill passes. Otherwise, the 2 HOT lane corridors should be within Santa Clara County limits.

AB 1308 (Miller) Highway Users Tax Account
Currently, if the State Budget is not enacted, moneys in the Highway users Tax Account (primarily funded by state excise fuel taxes) cannot be appropriated for transportation improvement purposes. If the Budget has not been enacted by July 1, this bill would provide that all moneys in the Highway Users Tax Account in the Transportation Tax Fund are continuously appropriated and may be encumbered for certain purposes until the Budget is enacted. This would be great news because the State funding for transportation improvements projects would not be affected due to any State budget delays.

AJR 5 (Lowenthal) Transportation Revenues
This measure would request the President and the Congress of the United States to consider and enact legislation to conduct a study regarding the feasibility of the collection process for a transportation revenue source based on vehicle miles traveled, and not based on excise tax on gasoline or diesel, in order to facilitate the creation of a reliable and steady transportation funding mechanism for the maintenance and improvement of surface transportation infrastructure.

SB 468 Dept. of Transp. - Coastal Zone Expansion
Existing law provides that Caltrans has full possession and control of the state highway system and imposes various requirements for the development and implementation of transportation projects. This bill would impose additional requirements on Caltrans with respect to proposed capacity increasing state highway projects in the coastal zone. The requirements include local agency collaboration, extensive traffic analysis of the local street system and considering planned transportation improvements including transit in the area.

SB 692 Professional Engineers
This bill would convert the current title-protected engineering disciplines, such as traffic engineering, into practices that require a license. This bill would additionally prohibit the practice of agricultural, chemical, control system, fire protection, industrial, metallurgical, nuclear, petroleum, and traffic engineering without the appropriate license issued by the board in the particular discipline.

If you think that I am missing any critical bills related to our profession, please send me details of that bill so that I can include it in the next update. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at

Source: SoCal March 2011 Newsletter.pdf

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Obama Administration Proposes Major Public Transportation Policy Shift to Highlight Economic Development and Environmental Benefits

In a dramatic change from existing policy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed at TRB Annual Meeting on January 13, 2010 that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria.

In remarks at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting, the Secretary announced the Obama Administration’s plans to change how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts and Small Starts programs. As part of this initiative, the FTA will immediately rescind budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in March of 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.

“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”

The change will apply to how the Federal Transit Administration evaluates major transit projects going forward. In making funding decisions, the FTA will now evaluate the environmental, community and economic development benefits provided by transit projects, as well as the congestion relief benefits from such projects.

“This new approach will help us do a much better job of aligning our priorities and values with our transit investments” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “No longer will we ignore the many benefits that accrue to our environment and our communities when we build or expand rail and bus rapid transit systems.”

FTA will soon initiate a separate rulemaking process, inviting public comment on ways to appropriately measure all the benefits that result from such investments.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Expiration Date No Longer Needed on California PE Stamps

California law was changed regarding professional engineering (PE) stamps. On October 11, 2009 Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 645 (Niello) eliminating the requirement to show expiration dates on PE stamps. The seal must continue to show name, number, and discipline, but the "Exp." line in the middle is no longer required. The minimum diameter of the seal remains at 1.5 inches. The bill was passed to avoid holding up projects for replotting and restamping of plans due to a license being renewed prior to construction.


Friday, October 02, 2009

DOT to Ban Text-Messaging By Bus and Truck Drivers

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said it would ban text-messaging by bus drivers, truckers, and railroad engineers and urge states to impose similar restrictions on drivers of passenger cars.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s widely anticipated announcement came Thursday, Oct. 1, at the end of a highly publicized two-day summit on distracted driving by commercial and automobile drivers. DOT recognizes distracted driving as a problem among all drivers, but the department currently has authority only to regulate commercial vehicle operators.

Data released by U.S. DOT showed that 11% of drivers in fatal crashes had been distracted at the time of the accident in 2008, compared with 8% in 2004. Last year, more than 500,000 people were injured and nearly 6,000 were killed in crashes involving inattentive motorists.

This is the federal government's first big push to curb distracted driving. Trucking companies and other potentially affected industries voiced support for the rules, which could take months to implement.

The bigger question may be how to enforce such bans. Technology may be one answer. Companies are offering a range of solutions, such as devices that won't send text messages if they are in motion, and on-board dispatch devices for truckers that go blank once the truck's engine starts.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Bay Area Expected to Receive $494 Million from ARRA

On Tuesday, February 17, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The law authorizes $789 billion in spending, with the hope of saving the U.S. economy and generating jobs by investing in infrastructure, energy, healthcare, and education.

The ARRA includes $48 billion for the Department of Transportation. Specifically, the proposal includes $27.5 billion in Federal Highway Administration funding and $8.4 billion in Federal Transit Administration funds.

It is estimated that the San Francisco Bay Area will receive roughly $154 million through the Surface Transportation Program (STP) sub-allocated program and $340 million in Federal Transit Administration formula funds.

Detailed list of projects can be accessed at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) website:


President Obama Signs 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

On Tuesday, February 17, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The law authorizes $789 billion in spending, with the hope of saving the U.S. economy and generating jobs by investing in infrastructure, energy, healthcare, and education.

The ARRA provides $48 billion for transportation infrastructure investment. The final bill includes:
• $27.5 billion for highways and bridges
• $8.4 billion for transit
• $9.3 billion for rail ($8 billion for high-speed rail)
• $1.5 billion for competitive surface transportation grants to state and local governments


CA Senate Bill 275 Would Convert Traffic Engineering (T.E.) Title to Practice

Senator Mimi Walters has introduced California Senate Bill (SB) 275, presenting a chance to convert the PE registration in traffic engineering into a full-fledged license. The bill would convert the 9 title-protected branches (agricultural, chemical, control systems, fire protection, industrial, metallurgical, nuclear, petroleum, and traffic engineering) into practice licenses. The bill would also allow overlap between all branches within every PE’s area of competency, as long as the practice is in connection with and incidental to the P.E.’s branch of licensure.

Under California current law, only civil, electrical, and mechanical engineers are allowed to practice, and only civil engineers are allowed to overlap their practice into electrical or mechanical engineering.

This bill would effectively create a licensing method similar to every other state in the USA, where boundaries between branches are blurred. Most states have a generic PE license that shows no branch of engineering on the PE stamp. Under SB 275, California would follow a more restricted model that closely resembles Nevada’s, where PE’s can collect licensure in one or several branches, with overlap recognized between branches.

The passage of the bill would allow California traffic engineers to qualify for the Professional Traffic Operations Engineer certificate, for which they are currently ineligible. It would also help to reinvigorate Oregon’s traffic engineering license, which is languishing as the sole T.E. practice license in the country.

The co-sponsors of the bill are the California Farm Bureau Federation and the Chemical Industry Council of California. They are interested in the licensure of agricultural engineers and chemical engineers, respectively.

The opposition is likely to come from the Professional Engineers of California Government (PECG), and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) California, formerly known as CELSOC. They object to their perceived dilution of powers in the civil engineering license.

A bill supporter is the Registered Traffic Engineers of America (RTEA), which has been using its membership dues for a lobbyist to gather support for SB 275. RTEA has been discouraging traffic engineers who support this bill from contacting legislators and Caltrans workers from complaining to PECG, because RTEA feels such contact does not help the bill’s progress. Instead, RTEA’s strategy has been to ask traffic engineers to find users of engineering services, such as major corporations and trade associations, to support the bill.