California to Streamline Infrastructure Project Approvals

Governor Newsom has established an "infrastructure strike team".

Source : Wikimedia

June 27, 2023

Author : Patty Allen

California is on the cusp of revolutionizing how infrastructure projects are undertaken and how they can be expedited. The state is firm on its stand for attaining climate goals, and with this new legislation, the administration wants to reduce the project timeline by more than three years and costs by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) of California signed an executive order on May 19 to speed up the approval process for State infrastructure projects. The executive order establishes an "infrastructure strike team" to identify and advance important projects through improved agency collaboration. 

He also disclosed intentions to present a group of 11 trailer legislative bills which would hasten state review procedures and shorten the window for bringing legal challenges to approved projects.

According to Newsom, the change will allow California projects to get more financing from federal laws, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. He predicts that during the next ten years, the state will spend $180 billion on infrastructure projects and 400,000 direct and indirect construction jobs, including funds from the federal and provincial governments.

Newson stated, "It's about saving time, saving money, and addressing bureaucratic malaise." 

A vibrant, inclusive society requires well-functioning infrastructure. California's infrastructure hasn't always matched communities' needs or provided equitable access. California has underinvested in infrastructure for decades and needs hundreds of billions of dollars that present financing cannot meet. 

A new governance model and repeatable framework can dramatically shorten infrastructure project time by standardizing and coordinating planning and simplifying processes, permitting, and delivery approvals.

According to the order, the Strike Team will be composed of the Director of Finance, the Director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, the Secretary of Transportation, and several other officials, who can coordinate efforts among several state agencies for maximizing federal and state funding opportunities for California innovation and infrastructure projects.

The Strike Team will be responsible for identifying projects on which to focus streamlining efforts, particularly to significant challenges and opportunities for infrastructure and job creation; supporting coordination between federal, state, tribal, and local government on projects reviewing, permitting, and approvals; supporting infrastructure in a particular sector by giving priority to complementing projects in neighboring sectors; and sharing challenges and best practices across agencies and looking for opportunities for improvement.

According to Newsom's infrastructure advisor Antonio Villaraigosa, the plan focuses on initiatives in sectors like broadband and clean energy supported by the new federal financing regulations. The executive order instructs the team to make working groups to hasten the completion of projects in transportation, energy, environmental remediation, hydrogen, broadband, water, the federal CHIPS and Science Act, and zero-emission automobiles.

The legislative package would support project delivery methods like progressive design-build, permit reform, state administrative records laws amendments, and the California Environmental Quality Act.

The CEO of Associated General Contractors of California, Peter Tateishi, praised the efforts of Newsom in making CEQA more effective by reducing lawsuits that, in some cases, have caused projects to be delayed for years.

Tateishi stated, "We look forward to reviewing the proposal's details and scope and stand eager to partner with the governor and legislators to move projects faster and keep Californians working on necessary infrastructure and housing our state desperately needs."

Newsom's announcement was released a day after Villaraigosa and the group California Forward released a report with several proposals to quicken state infrastructure projects.

Things are taking 33 months when we know they should only take 11 months, said Newsom

Category : Investment in Infrastructure State Government

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