Caltrans just released its “Interim Land Development and Intergovernmental Review (LDIGR) Caltrans Safety Review Practitioners Guidance” and transmittal memo, which provide instructions to Caltrans personnel, lead agencies, developers, and consultants for conducting safety impact analysis for proposed land use projects and plans in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The guidance sets expectations for Caltrans staff and lead agencies about what information and factors to consider in safety impact analysis and is focused on potential safety impacts affecting the California State Highway System (SHS). Caltrans recommends lead agencies use similar approaches, specifically Local Roadway Safety Plans (LRSPs) and Systemic Safety Analysis Reports (SSARs), as models for safety analysis of the local transportation network. This guidance supports the implementation of California Senate Bill 743 (learn how) and complements the Caltrans “Vehicle Miles Traveled-Focused Transportation Impact Study Guide,” dated May 20, 2020. The new guidance includes two main parts:
A review of Caltrans safety monitoring program data to see what known safety issues may be affected by the project.
A review of LRSPs, SSARs, Vision Zero plans, and other plans and assessments to see what safety patterns and improvements may be applicable to Caltrans facilities in the study area.
This new Caltrans guidance immediately changes how Caltrans staff consider safety impact analysis on the SHS for new land use projects and plans and raises expectations for local agency safety impact analysis under CEQA, which has not been a transportation topic commonly addressed. It will also create strong incentives for local jurisdictions to proactively create systemic plans, such as LRSPs, SSARs, and Vision Zero plans. These plans can help local jurisdictions obtain resources to improve safety in their communities, and will now be an input to assessing the potential safety impacts of new land use projects and plans. The release of interim guidance has been done to support the implementation deadline for SB 743 on July 1. Final guidance is expected to be completed in late 2020.
Guidance Transportation Systems & Safety
The safety analysis guidance incorporates several important aspects of transportation systems and safety:
- Multimodal: Includes pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle modes, as well as placing a priority on safety for vulnerable road users.
- Reactive and Systemic Perspectives: Considers collision history as well as contextual collision patterns to identify potential safety risk factors and improvements.
- Assessment of Impacts to Disadvantaged and Vulnerable Communities: Prioritizes safety improvements in vulnerable communities where collisions are underreported, and disproportionate collision rates occur. See the below links for examples.
Caltrans also has goals related to these factors:
- California Transportation Plan 2040 includes Goal 5: “Foster livable and healthy communities and promote social equity,” and Policy 3: “Integrate health and social equity in transportation planning and decision making.”
- Caltrans Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP): For 2020-2024, includes the challenge areas for bicyclists and pedestrians.
- Toward an Active California, the State Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan: Includes the social equity strategy, “Invest resources in communities that are most dependent on active transportation and transit.”
Frequently Asked Questions
When does this guidance become effective?
The interim guidance is effective immediately. It will be superseded when final guidance is released.
How will Caltrans implement this guidance?
It will be part of the existing Caltrans Local Development and Intergovernmental Review (LDIGR) process.
What do I need to do for a project that is already in process?
Our CEQA and Safety experts helped Caltrans develop this new guidance, so any of them may be contacted for assistance — Ron Milam, Rod Brown, and Meghan Mitman.
How can my jurisdiction create its own LRSP, SSAR, Vision Zero, or other systemic safety plans?
Visit our Systemic Safety webpage or use our other resource links below to learn how Fehr & Peers can help create a plan for your jurisdiction.
How is this new guidance connected to SB 743?
While the subject matter is not related to VMT, there is a connection to SB 743. The legislative intent of SB 743 included the objective to, “Ensure that environmental impacts of traffic, such as noise, air pollution, and safety concerns, continue to be properly addressed and mitigated through the California Environmental Quality Act.” Safety impact analysis is uncommon in CEQA documents so the new guidance from Caltrans will likely change current expectations. Lead agencies will need to prepare for these new expectations in a similar manner to VMT impact analysis where they make clear decisions about methodology, thresholds, and feasible mitigation. In addition, the development community will need to consider the potential new challenge of having their projects associated with ‘significant’ safety impacts. Mitigation effectiveness will likely garner substantial attention.