Padilla, Merkley Introduce Legislation to Help Strengthen Community Partnerships Needed for Equitable, Effective Transportation Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) teamed up with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to introduce the Community Decision-Making Pilot Program Act—legislation to create a pilot grant program to support partnerships between planning organizations and community-based groups to ensure that new transportation projects are equitable and effective.

Last year, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) implemented a similar program to address transportation needs in disadvantaged communities.

“Far too often, local voices have been overlooked when it comes to planning transportation projects. I’m proud to partner with Senator Merkley on this bill that will help give residents a seat at the table in setting their community’s key transportation priorities, explore new ways to better engage impacted neighborhoods, and promote equity in future transportation projects,” said Padilla.

“The people who know a community best are the people who live, work, and raise their families in that community,” said Merkley. “When it comes to planning big transportation infrastructure projects that work for all of our working families—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their income—community voices are essential. This legislation will help us support the partnerships that amplify community voices, and help put us on track to build communities where everyone has access to the infrastructure they need to get from Point A to Point B.”

Local planning agencies and community-based organizations would apply together for the grants, which would cover personnel and practical costs to support community engagement, including the presentation of data, collection of public opinion and input, and facilitation of public meetings regarding transportation projects. Maximum grant funding would be $400,000, and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation would be tasked with creating a report for Congress five years after the enactment of the legislation on the effectiveness of the pilot program.

“The Sacramento region is home to diverse communities and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ transportation investment to meet their needs. This pilot program will support a community-driven planning process that is more collaborative and better enables reaching out to communities to learn how transportation access can improve their quality of life,” said James Corless, Executive Director, Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

“Metropolitan planning organizations have been working to ensure all members of their communities have affordable access to multiple modes of transportation. Many MPOs want to partner with community organizations to advance projects that increase equitable and affordable options for mobility, and this pilot program will provide planners with a new and innovative option to ensure robust and equitable community engagement,” said Bill Keyrouze, Executive Director, Association of Metropolitan Planning Associations.

“The consistent failure to provide a true seat at the table for communities impacted by transportation investment, especially low-income communities and communities of color, has had devastating impacts on those communities. This pilot program will help transportation planners develop the best possible tactics to ensure that our transportation dollars are spent in a way that benefits all communities equitably,” said Patrick Wojahn, Director of Government Relations, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Full text of the legislation is available here.