Guidance Brings Heightened Scrutiny
The California Department of Transportation recently released “Interim Land Development and Intergovernmental Review (LDIGR) Caltrans Safety Review Practitioners Guidance.” It provides instructions to Caltrans personnel, lead agencies, developers and consultants on conducting safety impact analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act for land use projects and planning documents affecting the State Highway System. The Guidance clarifies what Caltrans expects to see in local lead agency CEQA analyses regarding a project’s transportation safety impacts.
Under the Guidance, Caltrans traffic safety staff will use available data to determine if a proposed project may negatively influence transportation safety. The Guidance also recommends that local agencies use the Guidance as a model for review of local facilities, specifically Local Roadway Safety Plans and Systemic Safety Analysis Reports.
Under the Guidance, CEQA lead agencies should review safety-related planning documents to determine if a proposed project may adversely affect locations identified for traffic safety improvements in these plans or would otherwise interfere with completion of remedial actions or projects identified in those plans. Notably, the Guidance does not establish thresholds for determining the significance of safety impacts under CEQA. Instead, it defers to the “careful judgment” of each lead agency.
Although transportation safety has long been a part of CEQA’s checklist of considerations, this new interim guidance seems to heighten the level of analysis that Caltrans expects to see in the CEQA analyses of local lead agencies. Lead agencies can expect to see additional comments from Caltrans in this regard and may need to more closely scrutinize and address a project’s transportation safety effects.