Connecting the Rungs on the Ladders of Opportunity
A job offer means little if you have no means to reach the workplace. Yet, in 2016, a lack of transportation options remains a proven barrier to upward economic mobility and self-sufficiency for millions of workers, particularly among low-income populations, minorities, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
Recognizing that interconnected challenges in distressed communities require interconnected solutions, the Obama Administration is building ladders of opportunity for all families. At the U.S. Department of Transportation, under the leadership of Secretary Anthony Foxx, Ladders of Opportunity is not simply an agenda item. It’s a way of thought and action. USDOT is changing the national mindset about how the transportation system can work, connect, and revitalize communities.
“The Ladders philosophy is at the heart of everything we do,” says Federal Highway Administrator Gregory G. Nadeau. “It reminds us that transportation is the connection between people and their jobs, their schools, their doctors.”
For example, FHWA focuses job training in areas with high unemployment, ensuring access to local work in highway construction. The agency also prioritizes opportunities for women, minorities, and disadvantaged individuals and addresses workforce shortages in fields related to highway construction. Read more about efforts to connect Americans to jobs and vital services in communities across the country in “Climbing the Ladders of Opportunity” on page 22 in this issue of Public Roads.
Thoughtful and inclusive transportation planning can promote workforce programs that assist disadvantaged people and businesses, build a multimodal transportation system that improves connectivity, and revitalize infrastructure that supports equitable business and residential development.
Just look at the Newtown Pike Extension in Lexington, KY. City officials aimed to reduce congestion and increase traffic flow, while improving safety for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists and creating a more appealing downtown. In accomplishing these goals, local officials, city planners, the metropolitan planning organization, and community organizers relied on comprehensive and inclusive strategies to address environmental justice impacts, ensure access to equitable and affordable housing, and preserve existing communities.
These developments are made possible through careful regional planning and interagency collaboration. The Transportation Planning Excellence Awards, cosponsored by FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration, the American Planning Association, and the Transportation Research Board, honor innovation in project development, planning, and implementation. “The Best of the Best” on page 14 details the 2015 top award-winning project by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments in Colorado Springs, CO, where a team collaborated with multiple stakeholders to develop a sustainable transportation plan for the region.
This kind of cross-agency communication is increasingly critical throughout the process of developing transportation projects. That’s why FHWA released the 2015 Red Book: Synchronizing Environmental Reviews for Transportation and Other Infrastructure Projects (FHWA-HEP-15-047). A multiple-agency effort, the 2015 Red Book is designed to be a regulatory “how-to” guide for permit review on transportation projects. It aims to streamline and shorten the permitting process through synchronization, clarity, and transparency. Read more in “Getting in Sync” on page 8.
Through the Ladders lens, FHWA and its sister agencies will continue to improve access to reliable, efficient, and effective transportation and open up new frontiers of opportunity for millions of Americans.
FHWA Office of Planning,
Environment, and Realty