Comment: Transportation plan puts a focus on equity for all

The House Democrats’ plan will help direct contracts to women- and minority-owned companies.

By Bill Ramos and Javier Valdez / For The Herald

How can we build a transportation system that works for all our communities?

It’s a given that investing in transportation means building highways and ferries. And, clearly, we need to modernize and transform how we move people and goods to use cleaner technology, such as electric vehicles.

But we also had another goal in mind over the last year as my colleagues and I developed a proposal to invest in transportation: equity.

House Democrats on the Transportation Committee are answering the critical need for transportation improvements with a plan that includes new investments in roads, transit, special needs transportation, bike and pedestrian improvements, and significant investments to reduce carbon output.

We also include long-neglected preservation and maintenance of existing infrastructure. The state Department of Transportation estimates each Washington driver incurs nearly $650 in annual car repair costs from potholes, cracks, and other poor road conditions; that’s nearly $3.7 billion for all drivers in the state.

Over the course of nearly 90 listening sessions, with communities that had never previously been involved, or whose voices historically were not prioritized in developing transportation policy, key messages emerged that the public told us we need to prioritize.

The first was opportunities to participate in the business side of transportation infrastructure to bring jobs and economic prosperity to underserved communities that have been overshadowed in state contracting. The second was the effect on the same communities from past transportation projects. Some have certainly been detrimental to certain communities, even if a project may have been good overall for the state. The third was creating more opportunities for family wage jobs and apprenticeships.

We didn’t want to just introduce a funding package and hope we got it right, we wanted to invite tough conversations that could lead to inclusive, equitable transportation outcomes. We wanted people involved early, we wanted to listen to their challenges, their needs, and how an improved transportation system could help realize hopes and dreams for a stronger community.

I am confident that the transportation package we have introduced reflects the messages we heard.

We recognize that the sheer size of the revenues raised will affect communities of color and other disadvantaged communities. Because of that, we prioritized mitigating impacts.

Our proposal will help women- and minority-owned businesses get certified to qualify and compete for transportation projects. It requires the state to conduct enhanced outreach outside of the Puget Sound region to bring more and new women- and minority-owned businesses into the system and get certified. And it provides the technical assistance these firms need to be successful. We also made sure to value members from disadvantaged communities by ensuring a place on state boards that help determine projects and policies.

This transportation package strengthens contractor mentorship programs to engage well established contractors with those who haven’t had the same opportunities. It expands apprenticeship programs like “Youth Direct” to connect kids, including foster youths, involved in the criminal justice system with job opportunities so they can learn, earn a paycheck, and contribute to their communities, all at the same time.

We’re also investing in frontline communities by targeting transportation projects to benefit them with a strong focus on communities that have had past injustices to make sure they really benefit from this investment.

The proposal is unique in that it raises new revenue without new borrowing through bonds, saving billions of taxpayer dollars in interest costs. Another connection between revenue and investments is how indexing the fuel tax to the Consumer Price Index will pay for the increased costs of preservation and maintenance. These measures were important to minimize the impact of regressive financing.

Now is the time to pass this proposal and finally bring an equity lens to transportation policy and planning; a matter so critical to our quality of life for all.

State Rep. Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, represents the 5th Legislative District. He serves as second vice chair for the House Transportation Committee. Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, represents the 46th Legislative District and serves on the House Transportation Committee.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon mothers day
Editorial: What Mom really wants is help for her family

For Mother’s Day, how about backing proposals for equal pay, child care and family tax credits?

toon
Editorial cartoons for Monday, May 10

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A reporter watches the Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election being examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)
Editorial: Wyman right to object to Arizona ballot audit

An authority on election integrity, Washington’s secretary of state sees red flags in a rogue recount.

children homeless students
Editorial: Joint program connecting homeless families, school

A multi-partner program is removing barriers that keep children out of school and caught in poverty.

Gary Holt, who reads bills being considered in the Washington House, wears a mask as he sits behind a plexiglass shield with reflections of state representatives meeting remotely on it, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia Wash. The House was considering a proposed new tax in Washington state on capital gains that would be imposed on the sale of stocks and bonds in excess of $250,000. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Editorial: The ‘forgotten astronaut’ and the state GOP

Republican lawmakers in Olympia can appreciate the position of Apollo 11’s Michael Collins.

Burke: Facts don’t lie, but just try to get some to admit them

By numerous metrics, Biden’s doing well, yet Republicans insist on denying him and his proposals.

Comment: Why its hard to explain April’s weak job numbers

Thanks to the pandemic and responses to it, the labor market could be hard to judge for some time.

Comment: Eviction ban helpful, but it isn’t in CDC’s authority

The judge’s decision leaves the door open for Congress to pass a law that would grant that power, however.

Frizzell has experience to be Lynnwood’s next mayor

Lynnwood mayor’s race Frizzell has experience for post In a coming weeks,… Continue reading

Most Read