Projects focusing on “racial equity, environmental justice, and access to opportunity” have been requested by a Federal Highway Administration grant program–a particular course of action that hasn’t been taken until now.
Specifically, the FHWA’s Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment program is planning to allocate $60 million in funding for these kinds of projects, and, in its recent announcement, noted that it has strong backing for technologies working to lower fuel emissions, like electric-vehicle charging technology and infrastructure.
Now, projects working with these kinds of innovations will be highly considered for this grant funding.
“The department has added areas of interested to the [Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment] program application process to be more aligned with administration priorities that include building equity into the transportation system, increasing access to jobs, schools, and businesses, and tackling the climate crisis,” explained a spokesperson for the FHWA.
These new areas of focus come in alignment with President Joe Biden’s recent executive order that requested an overall review of the regulations set forth in regards to the environment during Donald Trump’s presidential term, as Biden now plans to move forward with the intention of placing heavier focus upon environmental justice, and especially upon lowering amounts of greenhouse fuel emissions within the country’s minority and low-income communities and regions.
Biden’s latest sweeping executive order will aim to make “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.”
These efforts are only the beginning of actions being taken in regards to tackling the climate crisis, especially in regards to the transportation industry, noted American Trucking Associations’ environmental affairs council, Glen Kedzie.
“This is just another example of what federal agencies are planning on doing going forward to address environmental justice,” he said. “This is not the last.”
To follow in line with President Biden’s order in relation to boosting environmental justice and racial equity, Kedzie believes many federal agencies will be finding more innovative and creative ways to approach these efforts.
“Obviously, one of the key areas the agency will probably look at will be those frequented by trucking,” he explained. “They include the areas around ports [and] the areas around rail yards and warehouses. The housing stock around industrial-zoned areas is not the same as living in the suburbs.”
Originally, the innovative grants program through the FHWA–established under 2015’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act–aimed to boost public travel safety, improve transportation system performance, and lower overall traffic congestion. Since 2016, the grant program has offered more than $256 million to these kinds of projects across the United States.
Now, with President Biden’s mandate aiming to bring justice to the the low-income and minority communities that disproportionately endure living in areas with large sources of pollution, this kind of racial equity is a major priority for the program.
“The federal government has failed to meet that commitment in the past; it must advance environmental justice,” said the executive order.
In 2021, two of the seven areas with grant opportunities will prioritize technologies in the transportation industry that include “climate change and environmental justice impacts,” as well as certain investments that “proactively address racial equity and barriers to opportunity.”
Projects that are successful in proposing their intentions and plans to focus on these topics have a high chance of being awarded significant funding.
“Projects should directly support climate action plans or apply environmental justice screening tools in the planning stage,” said the program’s announcement statement. “Projects should reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency, incorporate electrification or zero emission vehicle infrastructure, increase resiliency, or recycle existing infrastructure.”
Those eligible to apply include transit agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation, and local government groups. Partnerships within private sector groups are also encouraged, and the closing date for application is August 23rd, 2021.