More State DOTs Sign ‘Equity in Infrastructure’ Pledge

Twelve state departments of transportation signed a national pledge to expand equity opportunities in the infrastructure sector during a ceremony on March 1 during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2023 Washington Briefing in Washington, D.C.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

Those state DOTs pledged to create opportunities for historically underutilized businesses or HUBs as they disburse funding from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted in November 2021.

Photo by AASHTO

The event, sponsored by the Equity in Infrastructure Project or EIP, defines HUBs as firms formally designated as disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs), minority and women-owned business enterprises, small business enterprises, as well as any other business classification used locally in the United States intended to boost the participation of otherwise underutilized firms.

“It’s all about the idea of increasing generational wealth in underserved communities,” Phil Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport and co-founder & chair of the EIP, explained in his remarks at the event.

Phil Washington. Photo by AASHTO.

“The federal government really doesn’t know what infrastructure to build to benefit communities,” he explained. “That’s why we are asking transportation and transit agencies to commit to making more prime contracting awards to minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses. They will go out to the communities where the construction taking place to hire workers from those communities; and that is what helps build generational wealth.”

“This signing shows that our nation’s infrastructure community – and, yes, it is a community – is supporting this effort,” noted John Porcari, one of EIP’s co-founders, during the ceremony.

John Porcari. Photo by AASHTO.

“With this signing today, a total of 28 public entities have taken our pledge – they include water districts, seaports, infrastructure companies, state DOTs, and transit agencies, to name just a few,” he said.

Roger Millar – secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation and AASHTO’s 2022-2023 president – noted that those signings are “just the beginning steps” of a “long journey” to support HUBs in the infrastructure sector.

“Let me start by noting that AASHTO’s Board of Directors in 2020 passed an important resolution – unanimously – where state DOTs acknowledged the actions of the pas in terms of [infrastructure] programming, planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance of state transportation systems disproportionally negatively affected low-income communities, minority neighborhoods, and people of color,” he said.

Roger Millar. Photo by AASHTO.

“Through that resolution, we as the state DOT community committed to serve as stewards of an integrated, multimodal transportation system that achieves economic, environmental, and social goals set by the representatives of the people we serve,” Millar noted. “We also committed to hold ourselves accountable for engaging in the vital work of advancing racial justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as individuals and as an institution.”

However, he added that while it is one thing to pass a board resolution, it is quite another to – in his words – truly begin acting on it intentionally and continuously through an institutional framework.

“To that end, AASHTO has since developed and grown an Equity Task Force with representation from a multitude of our discipline-based committees including: Agency Administration, Civil Rights, Human Resources, Knowledge Management, Audit, Planning, Environment, Highways and Streets, Public Transportation, and Active Transportation,” he explained. “So I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish both within and outside of the state DOT community and look forward to working together with everyone in this room as we move forward.”

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