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Six State-Level Departments of Transportation Join Equity in Infrastructure Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At an Equity in Infrastructure Project (EIP) event, the leaders of the departments of transportation of California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, and Michigan signed the EIP Pledge, which is aimed at leveraging infrastructure spending to build wealth in underserved communities. The event was hosted by Douglas J. McCarron, General President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and included remarks by US Department of Transportation Under Secretary Carlos Monje and EIP Advisory Council Member Ingrid Merriwether, President & CEO of Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services.

Through its pledge, EIP secures commitments from public agencies to work with the organization and other pledge signers to improve public contracting practices by creating opportunities for Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) to build generational wealth and reduce the racial wealth gap by creating more prime, joint venture, and equity contracting opportunities for these firms.

The six new pledge signers are:

  • California State Transportation Agency - Dr. Toks Omishakin, Secretary
  • District Department of Transportation - Everett Lott, Director
  • Illinois Department of Transportation - Omer Osman, Secretary
  • Kansas Department of Transportation - Julie Lorenz, Secretary
  • Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development - Dr. Shawn Wilson, Secretary
  • Michigan Department of Transportation - Paul C. Ajegba, P.E., Director

The leaders signed individual certificates as well as one large certificate that they jointly signed.

They join previous pledge signers:

  • Chicago Transit Authority - Dorval R. Carter, Jr., President
  • Denver International Airport - Phillip A. Washington, CEO
  • Port of Long Beach - Mario Cordero, Executive Director
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - Adel H. Hagekhalil, General Manager
  • Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) - Leslie S. Richards, General Manager and CEO
  • City and County of Denver, Colorado - Michael B. Hancock, Mayor
  • City of Philadelphia - Jim Kenney, Mayor
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"You can see the urgency behind our cause in how quickly this coalition is expanding with the participation of some of the largest public contracting entities in the nation," said Washington, EIP's Chair and Co-Founder. "As we improve America's transit systems, airports, and other infrastructure, we must be focused on improving people's lives, too."

"In my public and private sector career, I have never seen such a concentrated focus on breaking down barriers and building pathways to success for those historically left behind," said EIP Co-Founder and former USDOT Deputy Secretary John D. Porcari. "What we saw today was a true commitment, across the infrastructure space, to fundamentally change the way we do business by ensuring that investments in infrastructure are true community investments."

EIP was founded by Washington, Porcari, and others in anticipation of the $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and to answer President Biden's call to leverage infrastructure spending to build wealth in underserved communities. Washington and Porcari lead the organization.

"Not all privileges, nor all burdens, have been distributed equally. Those who are underserved and overlooked require and deserve immediate and ongoing inclusion. I am excited about our commitment to increase engagement with underserved communities as well as the positive impact of our decision-making processes," Omishakin said. "With an influx of federal and state funding, we have an opportunity to redefine the narrative for transportation infrastructure spending. In joining this pledge, I encourage others to do the same as we must seize this moment and hold ourselves accountable to make the process changes that will deliver true economic opportunities for all people."

"We are proud to partner with our colleagues in transportation to create and preserve policies that leverage infrastructure spending, reconnect neighborhoods, and create small business opportunities for our communities with the greatest need," Lott said. "The District of Columbia, under Mayor Bowser's leadership, will continue to provide enriching opportunities for DBE firms to grow, connect, and learn how to do business with the District of Columbia in Transportation."

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"By joining with our partners in signing this pledge, the Illinois Department of Transportation further strengthens its commitment to incorporating the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in everything we do," Osman said. "Under Gov. JB Pritzker, Illinois is making unprecedented investments in infrastructure, which have been bolstered by historic funding commitments at the federal level. Before all of us is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a workforce and contracting community that [is] inclusive and truly reflects the communities we serve."

"These investments should strengthen both our human and physical capital today and tomorrow," Lorenz said. "Delivering a quality transportation system requires strong public private partnerships and a commitment to expanding contracting opportunities to serve all communities better."

"Creating pathways to equity and ensuring a balanced infrastructure agenda is advanced, especially in underserved communities, was a commitment I made when I became AASHTO President, and one that DOTD and AASHTO have been striving towards with much success," Wilson said. "Organizations such as EIP are critical to this work, and I am glad to see so many other states support this effort, holding themselves and their agencies publicly accountable for such important work."

"This is an important day for the state of Michigan," Ajegba said. "The EIP dovetails nicely with Gov. Whitmer's focus on equity and other initiatives for which I've been a champion, including a groundbreaking MDOT program that creates opportunities for HBCU students and a pioneering process to create opportunities for DBE trucking companies. This puts a spotlight on State of Michigan priorities, and I am honored to sign this pledge."

Starting from the baseline of their current initiatives, by December 2025, signers commit to:

  • Increasing the number, size, and proportion of contracting opportunities going to HUBs
  • Increasing the number, size, and proportion of contracting opportunities going to HUBs as prime contractors
  • Streamlining the administration of contracting with HUBs to centralize certification, improve payment time, and standardize transparent data collection
  • Increasing the amount and type of appropriate financing available to HUBs
  • Expanding the number of pledge signers
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EIP defines HUBs as including firms formally designated as DBEs, Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE), Small Business Enterprises (SBE), as well as any other business classification used locally in the United States intended to boost the participation of otherwise underutilized firms, which can vary by state, region, and municipality.

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