On October 7, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 417 (“AB 417”) authored by Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) that streamlines the CEQA process for bicycle transportation plans.
Although the 2012-2013 legislative term began with high hopes for significant CEQA reform, AB 417, in addition to SB 743 (see blog post regarding SB 743 here), constitute the extent of the Legislature’s accomplishments with respect to CEQA this year.
AB 417 creates a new statutory exemption from CEQA until January 1, 2018, for bicycle transportation plans (as defined by Cal. Streets and Highways Code § 891.2) for an urbanized area (as defined by the CEQA Guidelines § 15387) 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. Thus, AB 417 would exempt from review a bike plan and its projects to the extent its impacts are limited to traffic, bicycle parking infrastructure, and signage. The new CEQA exemption will be codified at Public Resources Code § 21080.20.
AB 417 follows AB 2245, signed into law in September 2012, which exempts bike lanes (known as Class II bikeways) from full environmental review under CEQA, while still requiring the preparation of a traffic study and the convening of public hearings to disclose impacts. See Pub. Res. Code § 21080.20.5. AB 417 builds on AB 2245’s blueprint, and also amends AB 2245 by alleviating the need to prepare a traffic assessment under certain conditions.
Advocates of bicycle transportation hope that AB 417 will streamline the development and implementation of bicycle transportation plans, thereby improving biking conditions and expanding transportation networks in cities and counties. A city or county with an approved bicycle transportation plan is eligible for state funds under the Bicycle Transportation Account for projects that improve safety and convenience for bicycle commuters.