CSAC Bulletin Article

CSAC Opposes Legislation to Change Transportation Funding Priorities

May 5, 2022

The Legislature is considering legislation by Assembly member Friedman that would impose additional requirements on transportation investments made by local governments and regional transportation agencies. Both bills are related to the recent California Transportation Assessment Report released by the Strategic Growth Council. While the bills are well-intentioned, seeking to ensure that expenditures align with the state’s transportation and climate goals, AB 2237 and AB 2438 fail to recognize the significant unmet needs for maintenance and preservation of local roadways and the tradeoffs local agency face between adding new features and ongoing maintenance. The bills would also de-prioritize any needed safety project that does not reduce driving, imperil any capacity-expanding project that may be needed for a variety of reasons across California’s diverse counties, and create complicated and uncertain new bureaucratic processes.

California Transportation Assessment (AB 285 Report)

CSAC has been actively engaged in discussions on these proposed measures, both of which are premised on the Strategic Growth Council’s (SGC) California Transportation Assessment Report, which was developed pursuant to Assembly member Friedman’s AB 285 (Chapter 605, Statutes of 2019). The report is intended to provide an assessment of how transportation planning and funding in California supports long-term common goals, including building and maintaining a transportation system that advances State climate goals and meets the transportation needs of all Californians. However, CSAC has significant concerns with the conclusions of the report due to the limitations of the data reviewed to create the report, including the exclusion of local project-level data provided pursuant to SB 1 (Beall, 2017).

Local agencies have been leading the charge to improve local streets and roads, while also retrofitting them to improve safety for all roadway users in support of the state’s climate and active transportation goals. According to the California Transportation Commission, during just the first two and a half fiscal years since SB 1 (Beall, 2017) funds became available, cities and counties reported spending $1.5 billion to complete over 3,100 projects, with another 1,300 plus projects in progress. In addition to repairing 10,000 miles of local roads, local governments also installed or improved 4,700 Americans with Disabilities Act curb ramps and over 1,223 miles of bicycle lanes. These vital multi-modal projects were all delivered through maintenance funding from the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account, but these significant investments that combine system preservation and expanded mobility for people walking or riding bikes are completely ignored by the AB 285 Report.

Assembly Bill 2237 (Friedman) – Regional transportation planning: climate goals

Assembly Member Friedman has introduced AB 2237, which is based on the conclusions of the AB 285 report. The bill would prohibit a regional transportation planning agency or county transportation commission from funding projects in a Regional Transportation Improvement Program not aligned with the state’s climate goals or most recent Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS). It would also require the California Air Resources Board, in consultation with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, to reallocate monies not consistent with the state’s climate goals or most recent SCS and would create a task force to review the role and responsibilities of Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

CSAC has major concerns with this measure, which takes an overly prescriptive approach that strips away regional and local flexibility to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets expected under SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008). CSAC currently holds an “oppose” position on this measure. Our position letter is available here.

Assembly Bill 2438 (Friedman) – Transportation funding: alignment with state plans

Assembly Member Friedman has also introduced AB 2438, which would require specified state transportation programs to align with state climate plans and goals and require the California Transportation Plan to be fiscally constrained. This bill would retroactively impose new requirements on vitally important funding that local governments receive pursuant to SB 1 (Beall, 2017) for local street and road maintenance, as well as safety and active transportation projects. CSAC currently holds an “oppose unless amended” position on this measure. Our position letter is available here.

AB 2438 would also give the Administration unprecedented levels of control in setting priorities that apply to a broad array of transportation funding programs, both competitive and formula based, by requiring consistency with the Governor’s Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI). Counties will recall that the CAPTI was developed explicitly to apply to the state’s discretionary transportation funding, exclusive of local formula funding, including SB 1 funds.

CSAC will be submitting a comment letter in response to the AB 285 report, and we will remain engaged in the legislative debate on AB 2237 and AB 2438. We encourage counties to review the report and each of these measures closely and to express any concerns with your state legislative delegation. Please send any feedback or letters on AB 2237, AB 2438, and the AB 285 report to Chris Lee.

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