MCAG settles lawsuit to update transportation plan, Sierra Club says

The Merced County Association of Governments has reached a settlement with the Sierra Club in a lawsuit challenging its 2014 Regional Transportation Plan.

The lawsuit argued that the transportation plan did not meet air quality requirements to reduce greenhouse gases and instead prioritized highway investments. In the settlement, MCAG agreed to amend the plan so it increases investments in public transportation and protects agricultural land.

The plan is a guideline for investments in roads, freeways, public transit, bikeways and other transportation methods in Merced County for the next 25 years.

Rod Webster, who leads Merced’s Sierra Club, said in a news release that Merced County should do its part to tackle challenges such as asthma, sprawl and climate change.

“Merced County has wisely agreed to cut climate pollution by moving toward more thoughtful land use and better transportation planning,” said Kevin Bundy, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which joined the Sierra Club in challenging MCAG. “Sprawl development and poor public transportation are major threats to California’s efforts to fight climate change and protect the air we breathe.”

Regional governments such as MCAG are required to update their regional transportation plans every four years. A 2011 law requires the plans to encourage development that’s transit-friendly and reduces sprawl. The Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity sued over the environmental impact of MCAG’s transportation plan, according to a news release.

MCAG is the primary transportation developer in the county, responsible for funding and planning projects, according to its website.

Officials with MCAG did not return requests for comment.