With an emphasis on green transportation and streamlined project delivery, the California Transportation Commission greenlit $4.3 billion in spending for an array of current and future projects across the state on June 29.

The state agency allocated nearly $2 billion in state and federal funds for the state's transportation infrastructure. These sources include $571 million from the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and over $257 million from Senate Bill (SB) 1, also known as the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

In addition to the immediate funding, the commission  approved $2.3 billion for future projects. These funds will be sourced from $1.75 billion in SB 1 funds and $540 million dedicated to active transportation projects sponsored by local metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs).

“SB 1 and IIJA funding are helping rebuild and transform California’s transportation future, and we are putting that investment to work to create a system that allows all of us to travel in an equitable, safe and sustainable way,” said Tony Tavares, Caltrans Director in a news release. 

Another factor that should speed infrastructure development is the $310.8-billion budget agreement reached by Governor Gavin Newsom (D) and the legislature. That includes a package of 10 trailer bills aimed at streamlining the permitting process associated with California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

The bills are focused on expediting projects in transportation, energy, hydrogen, environmental remediation, broadband, water, and zero-emission vehicles. The legislative package promotes project delivery methods such as progressive design-build, and limits the amount of time projects can be stalled in CEQA lawsuits to 270 days. The package was approved by the legislature on July 5.

 “California is one step closer to building the projects that will power our homes with clean energy, ensure safe drinking water, and modernize our transportation system," Newsom said in a statement where he noted intended to sign the bills.

The Commission awarded projects in the third funding cycle of the competitive grant programs established by Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, and regionally prioritized projects in the sixth funding cycle of the Active Transportation Program. 

“These investments will help us fight climate change by reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips, they will keep our transportation system economically competitive, and they will make disadvantaged and underserved communities safer by making it easier to bike and walk,” said Commission Chair Lee Ann Eager in a statement.

The current funding  encompasses three SB 1 competitive grant programs: $1.1 billion for the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP); $507.4 million for the Solutions for Congested Corridors Program (SCCP); and $142.4 million for the Local Partnership Program (LPP). This funding round marks the first cycle to incorporate all principles of the state’s Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure, and also includes input from the new Interagency Equity Advisory Committee in the evaluation of projects. 

TCEP funding will go to 26 projects that support infrastructure improvements on corridors that carry a high volume of freight traffic with the goal of increasing efficiency, improving safety, and constructing an equitable and sustainable freight system. Ten of the TCEP projects support the deployment of a zero-emission freight transportation system and invest in light, medium and heavy zero-emission vehicle infrastructure. 

The biggest TCEP project is the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry in San Diego, which will receive $140 million to construct a new crossing at the California and Mexico border for personal and commercial vehicles. Another important project is the Southern California Hydrogen Fueling Facilities, which will get $41.9 million to build a network of heavy-duty hydrogen refueling stations for freight vehicles throughout Southern California. The six refueling stations will be located near highway interchanges and along heavily trafficked goods movement routes in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties.

SCCP funding will go to 10 multimodal projects, including $132.4 million for the Santa Barbara U.S. Highway 101 Multimodal Corridor Project to increase both non-vehicular and vehicular mobility between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and $50 million for the Capitol Corridor Regional Transit Improvement Project in Placer and Sacramento counties to increase mobility choices and improve freight capacity.

LPP funding will go to 11 projects that support counties, cities, districts, and regional transportation agencies where voters have approved fees or taxes dedicated solely to transportation.

The CTC also adopted the 2023 MPO Active Transportation Program, totaling $540 million for future investments. The 134 projects approved for funding include a broad range of active transportation infrastructure improvements, including more than 120 miles of new bikeways, 60 miles of new sidewalks, and many other improvements to intersections, crosswalks, shade and signage.