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May 16, 2022 9:58 AM, EDT

DOT Seeks Members for Transportation Equity Committee

Pete ButtigiegSecretary Pete Buttigieg will be tasked with acting on recommendations made to him by the Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)

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The Department of Transportation is seeking nominations for members to serve on the agency’s Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity, an effort aimed at empowering communities to “have a meaningful voice in local and regional transportation decisions, and prevent discrimination.”

The committee, originally chartered by the Obama administration in late 2016, was dissolved by President Donald Trump in 2018, but is now being revived by the Biden administration. The May 13 announcement said that members appointed to the committee may be selected to serve either as representatives of an organization or as members appointed solely for their expertise. Interested persons should submit a letter of interest and a statement of qualifications, such as a resume, through mid-June, according to the pre-publication Federal Register announcement.



The committee will be specifically tasked with providing advice and recommendations to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about approaches to achieving DOT’s equity goals, only undertaking tasks assigned to it by the secretary.

Joe Biden

Biden

The announcement stems from a January 20, 2021, executive order by President Joe Biden calling for “advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities.”

In a May 2021 request for information, DOT said it planned to assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups.

“These assessments will better equip the department to develop policies and programs that deliver resources and benefits equitably to all,” the agency said.

“The department is committed to advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, environmental justice and equal opportunity, and has the responsibility to ensure that all Americans have equitable access to safe, affordable and sensible transportation options, no matter who they are or where they live,” DOT said. “Misguided policies and missed opportunities can reinforce racial, ethnic, geographic and disability disparities, dividing or isolating neighborhoods and undermining the government’s essential role of empowering Americans to thrive.”

The committee is one part of a new focus by the agency that is reflective of Biden’s executive order, which also called for a review of all environmental regulations set during Trump’s term with a focus on environmental justice — a long-term effort that includes cutting greenhouse gas emissions in low-income and minority communities across the U.S.

Biden’s executive order makes “environmental justice a part of the mission of every agency by directing federal agencies to develop programs, policies and activities to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.”

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The reinstatement of the committee was said to be influenced by a Nov. 3, 2021, letter to Buttigieg, spearheaded by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and signed by 16 of his Senate colleagues urging DOT to permanently re-establish the advisory committee.

“We believe that the committee would help recognize and address the impact of our transportation infrastructure on climate change, health, housing, disability rights, environmental justice, safety and other issues through meaningful collaboration.”

“As we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that the historic investments we seek to enact help revitalize communities, connect neighborhoods and incorporate community input,” the letter said.

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