18 Organizations Call on U.S. Secretary of Transportation to Ensure Equity in Infrastructure Spending
WASHINGTON, DC -- This week, the Appleseed Foundation, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and 16 members of the Appleseed Network and the Shriver Center’s Legal Impact Network joined together in an urgent letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The organizations call on Secretary Buttigieg to ensure that all Americans, regardless of race, color, or national origin, benefit from the newly passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law by putting Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the forefront of the federal government’s funding decisions and spending oversight.
Title VI forbids discrimination, denial of benefits, and exclusion from participation in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance on the grounds of race, color, or national origin. By calling on Secretary Buttigieg to ensure the Office of the Secretary of Transportation has a robust and effective Title VI program, a process for public complaints and transparency in Title VI program evaluations, and vigilant enforcement of existing Title VI regulations that prevent discrimination, the organizations hope to guarantee that the benefits of the historic infrastructure package are felt by all.
Historically, transportation funding decisions have had lasting negative impacts on marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, across the country. As President Biden has acknowledged, “Many urban interstate highways were deliberately built to pass through Black neighborhoods, often requiring the destruction of housing and other local institutions. To this day, many Black neighborhoods are disconnected from access to high-quality housing, jobs, public transit, and other resources.”
“Laws and policies with an intent to forward equity rarely do so without accountability. The Biden Administration has an incredible opportunity to be intentional in sustaining and creating pathways for equity with the historic passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We hope this letter can provide guidance on ways Title VI programs must hold the Office of the Secretary accountable to ensuring that the needs of all communities, regardless of race, color, or national origin, are not overlooked or ignored,” said Nyah Berg, executive director of New York Appleseed.
Renée Steinhagen, director of New Jersey Appleseed, added, “We look forward to the next few years, where the Department of Transportation will institutionalize and integrate the rhetoric of social and racial equity into all its programs, operations, and grants to local agencies.”
The letter concludes by acknowledging the urgency of the Department of Transportation affirmatively engaging with impacted communities to ensure Title VI compliance in the planning, implementation and operation of infrastructure projects and aggressively enforcing Title VI requirements.
“We’re encouraged by how seriously the Department is taking current Title VI complaints,” said Madison Sloan of Texas Appleseed, which filed a 2021 complaint against the further expansion of a Houston highway into communities of color. “Ensuring that grantees take the rights of the most affected communities seriously will result in a more sustainable and equitable transportation system for everyone.”
Read the full letter here.
The letter is signed by the following organizations:
Arkansas Appleseed Legal Justice Center
Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts
Colorado Center on Law and Policy
Greater Hartford Legal Aid
Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Inc.
Mississippi Center for Justice
New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center
New York Appleseed
North Carolina Justice Center
Public Justice Center
SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center
Shriver Center on Poverty Law
William E. Morris Institute for Justice
About Appleseed Foundation
The Appleseed Foundation sows the seeds of justice by launching new Appleseed centers and supporting collaborations throughout the Appleseed Network.
About Appleseed Network
Appleseed is a network of 17 justice centers across the United States and Mexico working together to reduce poverty, combat discrimination, and advance the rule of law. Appleseed Centers unite research, organizing, policy advocacy, and impact litigation to build systemic solutions for their communities' most pressing problems.
About Shriver Center on Poverty Law
The Shriver Center on Poverty Law fights for economic and racial justice. Over its 50-year history, the Shriver Center has secured hundreds of victories with and for people living in poverty in Illinois and across the country. Today, the organization litigates, shapes policy, and trains and convenes multi-state networks of lawyers, community leaders, and activists nationwide. The Shriver Center is working to build a future where all people have equal dignity, respect, and power under the law.
About Shriver Center’s Legal Impact Network
The Legal Impact Network is a dynamic collaborative of advocacy organizations from across the country working with communities to end poverty and achieve racial justice at the federal, state, and local levels. Through the network, legal and policy advocates share strategies, resources, expertise, and model policies, while seizing opportunities to engage in collaborative multi-state or federal advocacy to maximize impact.
New Jersey Appleseed
New York Appleseed