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Bill To Streamline Train Electrification Projects Passes First Policy Committee

For immediate release:

Assemblymember Alex Lee has introduced legislation to streamline the expansion of green public transportation infrastructure. AB 2503 would enable transit agencies to more rapidly electrify their fleets, improve rail service and cut emissions. The bill passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 8, 2024.

AB 2503 would exempt railroad electrification projects from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

“With faster and greener trains, electric rail will pave the way for more sustainable and equitable communities,” said Assemblymember Lee. “In the midst of the climate crisis, we can’t afford delays to electrifying California’s trains. It’s key to helping the state reduce carbon emissions. AB 2503 will streamline the process of train electrification, enabling transit agencies to electrify their fleets much faster.”

California has the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 85% below 1990 levels by 2045. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) identifies the reductions of cars on the road, or Vehicles Miles Traveled (VMT), as a critical strategy to achieving California’s climate goals. Attaining VMT reductions include investments in making transit a viable alternative to driving, according to CARB. 

Train electrification will improve air quality, speed up train service, and increase ridership. Currently, many passenger and freight rail lines are reliant on diesel locomotives that emit greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, electric rail runs more efficiently, and produces much less air pollution than diesel trains. It enables more frequent and/or faster train service, increasing fare revenues while decreasing fuel costs. 

However, barriers stand in the way to train electrification. Caltrain plans to launch its long anticipated fully electrified service between San Francisco and San Jose in September 2024. But the Electrification Project was subject to significant delays. Lawsuits using CEQA bogged down Caltrain’s electrification efforts for years.

By granting CEQA streamlining for rail electrification, AB 2503 would enable transit agencies to improve rail service and advance California’s climate goals, all the while saving taxpayer money in legal costs. 

"Streets For All is proud to sponsor AB 2503,” said Marc Vukcevich, Director of State Policy at Streets For All. “Overhead electrified rail is the best form of rail for the environment and passengers alike and we need to be doing whatever we can to reduce the barriers to clean, fast, and efficient trains that take cars off the road and ultimately make our communities better for it."