On Monday, President Obama talked infrastructure with two governors, eight mayors, four former transportation secretaries (and the current one), two labor leaders – and one public interest advocate. That advocate was Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of the think tank PolicyLink and chair of the Transportation for America Equity Caucus, which launched last week. The roundtable discussed the president’s $50 billion infrastructure proposal, which is galvanizing transportation reformers as the contours come into sharper focus.
Blackwell spoke to Streetsblog about her meeting with the president, why transportation matters for social equity, and how people can help make the most of the current opportunity to reform national transportation policy.
Streetsblog: What was it like meeting with the president?
Blackwell: It was wonderful to be in a meeting with the president and the Treasury secretary and governors and mayors from around the country talking about infrastructure, with an emphasis on transportation. We’ve been focused on it for years, and it was encouraging to see it getting that level of attention and to see the President of the United States take an interest in transportation.
But I felt I had a tremendous responsibility to lift up the voices of low-income people and people of color and the communities where they live. It’s easy to talk about transportation and not talk about poverty, or the severe unemployment among Latinos and African Americans, those hit first and worst by this recession. I felt on my shoulders the responsibility to express that this has to be done in a way that impacts those who need it most. And the others there really heard what I was saying. Several referred back to what I had said, which was that transportation is a lifeline to opportunity in this country, and it’s way too important to leave to transportation professionals.
I also thought it was very important that at the top of the conversation, when the president came in, he turned to Governor Rendell and me to frame the conversation. He showed a lot of interest in talking about equity and inclusion.