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Lathrop moves to align city traffic standards with new state rules
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With new laws governing how calculations measure new development’s impact on traffic congestion, the Lathrop Planning Commission is going to hold a special meeting tonight to align the city with California’s new standards.

According to the staff report prepared for the commission, the California Environmental Quality Act previously required congestion to be measured by the “level of service” and is now mandating that new projects calculate the total number of vehicle miles traveled as a result of the new development.

The previous method required traffic engineers to calculate the ratio of an intersection’s or roadway segment’s volume to its capacity to determine whether congestion would be increased as a result of the new vehicle trips that the development would bring.

In order to help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and urban sprawl, and to promote alternative forms of transportation, the state adopted the VMT method in 2013 as a way to measure a project’s environmental impact – ditching the previous method of determining whether it would create congestion and ushering in a new formula that will determine whether it will create more vehicle miles and thus create more emissions.

As a part of the law, specific thresholds have been set for specific types of development to help determine whether a significant transportation impact exists. For residential projects, a proposed project exceeds 15 percent below the city-wide baseline for vehicle miles traveled per household or resident would constitute a significant impact and the same standard would be applied, and office projects would calculate that method by applying that same standard to employees working at the facility.

Retail projects would be assessed at whether they will constitute a net increase in vehicle miles traveled compared to the city-wide average, while mixed-use projects would be evaluated depending on the primary land use using the main three metrics that were specified in the legislation.

A number or projects that are believed to cause a less than significant impact would be exempted from the new criteria if they fall into any one of a number of categories including small projects, projects located in low VMT areas, projects in proximity to a major transit stop, affordable housing, local-serving retail, and projects to specific to transportation.

The Lathrop Planning Commission typically meets on the third Wednesday of the month at Lathrop City Hall – located at 390 Towne Centre Drive – at 6 p.m. inside of the Lathrop City Council chambers. Tonight’s meeting is being held as part of a special meeting after the cancellation of August’s regularly-scheduled meeting. For additional information, or to see a copy of the agenda or staff report prepared for the meeting, visit the City of Lathrop’s website at

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.