Environmental Justice at the Department of Transportation

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Historically, the federal government has played a significant role in isolating and displacing Black and brown communities through highway expansion and the design and distribution of transit resources. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg has recognized this history, and committed to ensuring federal transportation funding and policies do not reinforce racial and economic inequality. Now communities are looking to see whether the Secretary’s statements will translate into concrete reforms and meaningful outcomes.

In the first six months of the administration, the Department of Transportation has assumed an early leadership role in implementing Biden’s whole-of-government approach to environmental justice. These efforts include establishing new teams to inform the agency’s Racial Equity plan, and ensuring that agency funds take “racial equity” into account. These and other actions are detailed below.

Funding Opportunities

This is not a comprehensive list. For more information on DOT funding opportunities, visit DOT’s Grants page or Grants.gov.

Internal Equity Efforts

  • April 14, 2022: DOT releases its first ever Equity Action Plan, as required under Executive Order 13985. The plan emphasizes key strategies including: issuing new guidance on meaningful public involvement including conducting proactive Title VI compliance reviews; launching a national assistance center to support community project development and grant applications; and decreasing cost burdens on underserved communities. The summary of DOT’s Equity Action Plan can also be found here
  • June 25, 2021: DOT hosts an information session summarizing its progress on implementing Biden’s Executive Order on Racial Equity (EO 13895) and soliciting comments on its Request for Information on Transportation Equity Data, due July 22. See the presentation here.
  • Feb. 2021: DOT’s newly formed Equity Task Force meets for the first time. The Task Force is made up of senior appointees and is responsible for overseeing DOT’s implementation of Biden’s Executive Order on Racial Equity (EO 13985). DOT also formed an Equity Leadership Team, comprised of DOT career staff who will also be involved in the implementation of EO 13895.

New Initiatives and Policies

Personnel Updates

  • July 14, 2021: President Biden appoints Leslie Aguilar as Special Assistant to the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity.  
  • April 14, 2021: President Biden nominates Meera Joshi to become the deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and Christopher Coes to become Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy. Joshi formerly served as Commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, where she focused on accessibility. Coes was vice president of land use and development at Smart Growth America, where he focused on transportation and health equity.

Public Participation

For tips on writing public comments and scheduling EO 12866 meetings with OIRA, visit our Public Participation Resources Page.