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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - May/Jun 2006

May/Jun 2006
Issue No:
Vol. 69 No. 6
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

Environmental Justice Course Responds to Agency Needs

When an interstate that cuts through an older section of the city needs reconstruction, how does a transportation agency respond to potential impacts on adjacent low-income communities? When a large number of immigrants move into an area, how should transportation officials identify the new residents' transportation needs? These are typical questions raised by participants in the National Highway Institute's (NHI) course, Fundamentals of Title VI/ Environmental Justice (FHWA-NHI-142042).

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and its partners are committed to nondiscrimination in all Federal-aid programs. There are many opportunities to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the adverse and disproportional impacts transportation can have on minority or low-income populations. Beyond avoiding negative impacts, transportation professionals need to understand the transportation needs of different groups and engage minority and low-income communities in the decisionmaking process. This NHI course presents a framework for using a variety of approaches and tools to accomplish environmental justice goals.

Since 2001, NHI has delivered the course more than 20 times in States from California to New Jersey and from Michigan to Texas. In 2005, NHI updated the course to include more recent examples that reflect advances in practice at the State, regional, and local levels.

As part of the South Park Avenue Improvement Project in Tucson, AZ public art elements include historic plaques like this one that recognize community pride. Photo: Tucson Pima Arts Council.

The course includes 2 days of instruction for 25 to 30 participants. Instructors describe how environmental justice and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply to every stage of transportation programs. After providing a background in civil rights issues, the course takes participants through the stages from planning to environmental review and covers right-of-way acquisition and relocation, construction, and operations. Group exercises and discussions are interspersed throughout each learning module to keep participants engaged.

These professional staff members at the West Florida Regional Planning Council- the designated metropolitan planning organization for the Pensacola, FL, area-provide workshops and training to inform, educate and involve the public and reach out to underserved populations. Photo. Nancy Model, West Florida Regional Planning Council.

By the end of the course, participants will have the basic information they need to apply environmental justice to their everyday work. Specifically, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Define environmental justice and describe its relationship to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Explain the fundamental principles of environmental justice
  • Apply the principles of environmental justice to transportation decisions
  • Identify how environmental justice applies to every stage of transportation decisionmaking
  • Describe the benefits of environmental justice in transportation decisionmaking
  • Develop proactive strategies, methods, and techniques to apply to programs and projects

The course is designed for Federal, State, and local transportation agency personnel who interact with minority and low-income communities. Participants typically include highway and metropolitan transportation planners, public transportation planners, environmental specialists, public involvement specialists, system operators, rural and small community planners, and consultants. One of the exciting aspects of the course is the mix of people who attend, says Carlos Gonzalez, a course instructor from the FHWA Georgia Division Office. "The course provides a forum for the exchange of ideas," he adds. Because a variety of people attend the course, there are excellent opportunities for participants to learn from each other's experiences.

"As an instructor, I am able to learn about innovative practices and ways that different State departments of transportation are addressing the social and cultural impacts of transportation projects," Gonzalez says. "Traveling to various States as an instructor, I see the diversity of our country and the wealth of knowledge present in each and every person. I try to be mindful of this as I work as a transportation planner. We are all different, but at the core, we all have something valuable to contribute."

For more information on the course, contact David Kuehn at 202-366-6072 or To schedule a course, contact the NHI Training Coordinator at 703-235-0528 or To obtain information about NHI courses, access the course catalog at or contact NHI at 4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22203; 703-235-0500 (phone); or 703-235-0593 (fax).