News from Sacramento

When I was tapped by Speaker Anthony Rendon to lead the Assembly Transportation Committee in 2020, I decided to take a very different approach than my predecessor. As an environmental advocate, my approach has been to focus transportation policy on improving safety, public health and sustainability across the board.

As a state, we’ve been a global leader in setting ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and toxic smog. The roadmap we set for the transportation sector, the largest contributor to California’s greenhouse gas emissions, will be critical in determining whether or not we’ll meet those benchmarks.

We’re already seeing some progress. The California Air Resources Board recently proposed ending the sale of new gasoline-powered cars in the state by 2035, and companies such as UPS have introduced vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel. Our commuter system Metrolink has moved to use plant-based renewable fuel, leading the nation in sustainable transportation.

However, even under the most aggressive scenario for zero-emission vehicle adoption and transition to cleaner fuels, we in California cannot meet our climate, public health and equity goals exclusively by relying on a shift in transportation technologies. We have to reduce our dependence on driving in order to meet our climate goals. This is largely the context for my environmental legislation currently in the works.

Along with the transition to zero emission vehicles, we are re-examining our habits and landscapes in service to the health and safety of our communities and our environment. It’s why I’ve introduced AB 2438, which requires all projects for transportation infrastructure, funded at the state and local level, to adhere to a climate action plan and the California Transportation Plan.

Transportation touches everything. At its best, it is society’s circulatory system, connecting people between where they work, where they live and how they go about their daily lives. If we’re going to convince Californians to drive less, we need high-quality transit and active transportation options that enable walking and cycling that allow easy mobility throughout the community without forcing residents to spend money on a car.

The impact of a robust transit and active transportation network can be profound. It’s about public health, eliminating toxic emissions from our air and soil, and giving people ways to exercise and recreate safely. It’s about seeing our neighbors and being able to look each other in the eye while we’re between destinations, because these connections also improve public health by helping us build a stronger sense of accountability and togetherness. It’s about equity, reducing inequality and increasing job opportunities for our underserved communities. Strengthening our communities through transit strengthens our economy. Public transit is key to opening up housing opportunities. It reduces traffic congestion and answers those concerns when it comes to building more homes. It’s why major environmental advocacy groups, such as the Sierra Club, champion housing access for all by calling for growth that is compact, more walkable and transit-supportive.

Since 2017, I’ve been working to connect the communities of the 43rd District through active transportation infrastructure.  So far, I’ve been able to secure $30 million in state funds to complete the Glendale Riverwalk with the Garden River Bridge that will connect Glendale with Griffith Park.  I’ve also advocated for investments along the Verdugo Wash that can safely link our neighborhoods with Glendale Community College and other amenities. This year, I’m leading the way to build connections across the San Fernando Valley and beyond.

Imagine biking from the Sepulveda Dam to Griffith Park, Downtown Los Angeles and then to Long Beach on an uninterrupted bike path, out of the lanes of traffic, completely protected from automobiles with signal prioritization across intersections. I’ve pulled together a coalition of my colleagues in the San Fernando Valley to support a budget proposal to allocate $200 million to complete the LA River Bike Path by 2028. The demand for dedicated bike paths is as high among daily commuters as it is among mothers who just want to be able bicycle safely to the grocery store, the park and for leisure with their children.

As more people opt to travel by bike, we need to make sure cyclists have legitimate space and acknowledgement on our roads. AB 1909, our omnibus bill – or we’re calling it our “Omnibike” bill – will make it easier, more affordable and safer for all Californians to use bicycles.

Safety is central to facilitating more active transportation. This was the motivation for AB 43, which was my bill to modernize the way that cities set speed limits. Earlier in March, the City of Los Angeles became one of the first cities to take advantage of this new law by reducing speed limits on 177 miles of city streets, where they’ve had to raise those speed limits over time, against the wishes of residents and against the needs of safety. And now I’m building on the work of AB 43 with AB 2336, which will authorize a pilot program to use speed cameras to slow down cars, while using fines that are generated to be invested right back into those same streets for traffic-calming measures.

Safety for wildlife is also important when it comes to how we design highways. Land covered by highways brings profound harm to nature. This also leads to major safety concerns. There have been more than 44,000 wildlife/traffic collisions reported on California roads from 2016 to 2020. AB 2344, the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act, would instruct Caltrans and the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to identify areas of high road-kill and wildlife movement. It would establish a wildlife connectivity project list so that we reduce collisions between cars and large migrating animals such as deer and mountain lions. We can and must design our environments to be safer and more harmonious for both humans and wildlife.

We are at a time of great opportunity for transportation infrastructure in this state, and I am proud that California leads the way on so many fronts. The state is taking big steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by investing in infrastructure and creating incentives for consumers to purchase zero-emission cars. Earlier this year, Governor Newsom released his budget proposal that included over $3 billion for transit and rail projects across the state. Building on the governor’s plan, the 2022 State Assembly Budget Blueprint recognized the need for even more funding to improve our state’s transit systems and included $10 billion for transportation investments statewide, including funding for transit infrastructure. Add to this the unprecedented amount of federal and state funds that have been made available and we can address many of our state’s greatest challenges.

I’m honored to be in this role as chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee and I will continue to champion these community-based solutions so that every Californian has access to a range of mobility options with a clear emphasis on safety and sustainability. 

Laura Friedman represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz and Silver Lake. 

Laura Friedman represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.