Two California Bills Would Put Climate in the Fast Lane

When President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, he made sure billions in transportation funding would come to California to modernize and clean up our transportation system. Two bills would help the State prioritize climate and equity in our mobility investments across California.

Los Angeles transit could benefit from two bills to accelerate climate-friendly transportation.

Photo via Los Angeles County Metro

This spring, I wrote about an important warning from the California Strategic Growth Council: the state’s transportation spending is often working at cross purposes with its climate goals, and slowing our progress to creating a zero-emissions transportation system that works for all Californians. On top of that, many highway projects funded by the state contribute to more vehicle pollution in already-burdened communities.

How so? The State continues to invest in highway projects that encourage more driving at a time when we need to give residents clean alternatives to driving, like intercity rail, public transit, and biking and walking paths—at the same time we work to ensure the remaining vehicles are zero emissions.

Thankfully, two key bills are moving forward that would help get California on track, and we urge the legislature to vote in favor of both.

AB 1778 from Assemblymember Cristina Garcia would ban the use of state funding and resources to build or expand freeways in communities already burdened by pollution and public health impacts.

This bill would halt some of the most egregious planned freeways, turning the state away from a legacy of neighborhood destruction and displacement caused by transportation infrastructure projects. We could then begin to steer our transportation investments towards healthy and clean mobility that delivers on community-driven priorities and improves neighborhood access to social and economic opportunities.

AB 2438 from Assemblymember Laura Friedman would require the state to update its transportation funding programs to align with its climate goals.

Even today, many investments the state makes in transportation are guided by outdated rules and poorly-conceived legacy projects that prioritize moving vehicles rather than helping people get around without the financial and environmental burden of car ownership and gridlock. Four years ago, the California Air Resources Board noted that the “California would still need to reduce [driving] per capita 25 percent to achieve the necessary reductions for 2030” to reach its statutory climate goals, on top of aggressive deployment of electric vehicles.

AB 2438 would help shift our funding priorities to make sure projects like electric rail, transit, biking and walking go to the front of the line for funding from the State, while still creating well-paying jobs in constructing, maintaining and operating our transportation system.

Both bills are pending in the California Assembly and we urge all Assemblymembers to support these bills to advance a transportation system that supports good jobs and affordable and equitable mobility.

About the Authors

Carter Rubin

Transportation Technical Strategist, American Cities Climate Challenge

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