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Equity movement gains steam

The Equity in Infrastructure Project has named Everett Lott, director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation, as vice chair of the organization which is dedicated to boosting opportunities for Historically Underutilized Businesses. 

“I know firsthand how increasing contracting opportunities for HUBs can change lives and communities for the better,” said Lott. “I am excited to engage my colleagues across the country with EIP’s mission.” 

Lott’s accomplishments at DDOT include rebuilding the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. The bridge was completed last fall and spans the Anacostia River. It was built with $440 million in funding from federal grants and more than $250 million in local taxpayer dollars. Construction crews included 200 D.C. residents, and 45 minority and women-owned businesses. 

Lott joins EIP Chair Phillip A. Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport, and John Porcari, former USDOT Deputy Secretary in leading an organization that dovetails with current administration’s equity goals. 

“We believe the administration and elected officials on a bipartisan basis are aligned with the Equity In Infrastructure Project in recognizing that the impact of longstanding inequities extends beyond specific communities and harms our nation’s overall ability to compete and succeed in the 21st century.” said Washington. 

EIP points to efforts made on the Chicago Transit Authority’s plan to extend the Red Line to the city’s far South Side as a move in the right direction. The project garnered support from the White House as the 2024 budget proposal includes putting $2.24 billion towards the $3.7 billion multi-year project. 

According to EIP, “The project will include different procurement methods including Small Business Enterprise set-asides to ensure the participation of small businesses on the project.”  

Although the RTF has been laboring under budget shortfalls due to lowered ridership levels, Illinois lawmakers have been signaling towards a boost in state funding to help finish the extension.  

The move towards diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to exert an influence at state and local levels. At the Government Finance Officers Association conference this week the topic was explored in a panel as GFOA members added their own personal experiences on the issue. 

EIP is looking at Lott’s experience in navigating the federal and state divide as a plus factor. “Everett Lott’s experience at the federal and local levels is a tremendous fit for our organization and will greatly benefit our coalition members as they work in their own communities and collectively work to improve the entire infrastructure sector,” said Porcari.  

EIP launched a year ago with 41 signatories now embracing its pledge. In early March during a conference held by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official, thirteen states took the pledge to create more opportunities for historically underutilized businesses.   

Federal policy is also pushing for more equity inclusion as infrastructure grant money starts to flow out to states. At the National League of Cities’ conference, also held in March, U.S. DOT officials called out efforts of the Reconnecting Communities program as a remedy for rectifying infrastructure mistakes made in the past during urban renewal.

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