Hana Creger

Associate Director of Climate Equity

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With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs) can now decide how to best invest billions of dollars into transportation programs and systems, as well as infrastructure projects across the country. As the climate crisis worsens, there’s a growing urgency to remove barriers so that Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) living in frontline communities  are able to access these funds in order to shape spending and the future of their neighborhoods.

Historically, federal transportation funding opportunities have missed an opportunity to target more direct benefits to frontline communities and CBOs. This is largely a result of State DOTs long standing practice of failing to prioritize equity and effective community engagement in their planning, policies, programs, funding, and decision-making.The IIJA and the IRA have the potential to be transformative for transportation planning and projects, or it could be used to further the status quo and continue to prioritize highway widening, despite evidence that this undercuts our climate goals, creates more congestion, and continues decades of harm to communities of color.

In an effort to determine how to best support organizations and communities who would most benefit from these federal dollars, tamika l. butler consulting and The Greenlining Institute interviewed and surveyed nearly 50 stakeholders who have knowledge and experience working with State DOTs and compiled this report Beyond Engagement: Equity Principles to Guide State Departments of Transportation and Community Collaboration.

The report is aimed at helping CBOs and State DOTs better understand how to engage with each other in order to advance more equitable transportation policies and programs and offered recommendations for productive collaboration.

An Overview of Collaboration Principles:

  1. Advance Equity Beyond Engagement
  2. Adapt Equity Strategies Based on the Political Context
  3. Embrace and Honor the Wide Array of Community Expertise to Work Across Sectors
  4. Elevate and Share Stories
  5. Refer to the Experiences and Lessons Learned of Other

The principles are a starting point for advancing equity at State DOTs, and users may find that they need to adapt or add various strategies to meet their specific community needs. The report pairs each principle with specific examples and recommendations for CBOs and for State DOTs to illustrate what adhering to these principles looks like and how stakeholders can take coordinated action.

There is still a long way to go to bring the needs and voices of communities to the forefront of how transportation decisions are made at State DOTs. Putting these principles into action can help lay the groundwork to ensure that low-income communities of color have access to safe, healthy, and reliable forms of transportation for decades to come.

Hana Creger

Associate Director of Climate Equity