Opinion: Congress needs to invest in green transportation
Oregonians have faced tremendous challenges over the past year. The pandemic and resulting economic crises have impacted millions of working people, families, and businesses. Many communities are still struggling to recover from last year's deadly wildfires, and already bracing for another season. Our society is slowly confronting the legacy that centuries of racist policy, spending and discrimination have taken on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
It's time to invest in our communities, put people back to work on projects that will reduce climate pollution, rebuild our neighborhoods, better connect us with each other, and improve the quality of life for all Oregonians.
Congress can meet this moment by passing the INVEST in America Act, a groundbreaking opportunity to create a more reliable, safer, more equitable transportation system that meaningfully addresses the threat of climate change.
Every Oregonian stands to benefit from the INVEST in America Act — wherever we travel and however we get there. It will finally fix old roads and bridges, helping us to withstand growing threats of fire, flooding, and earthquakes. It will create real options for communities across the state, with better transit systems and buses and trains that arrive reliably and frequently.
This moment demands that a transportation bill be a climate action bill. The INVEST Act accelerates our transition to electric cars and trucks, makes transit a viable option, and eliminates outdated incentives encouraging reliance on fossil fuels.
This moment also demands that a transportation bill be a racial justice bill. The INVEST Act begins to undo generations of harm to BIPOC communities from transportation decisions that drove highways through historically Black neighborhoods, while neglecting basic safety and access. The Act confronts our reality of streets and roads where people of color are disproportionately likely to be hit or killed by a car, disproportionately likely to need transit to get around yet live somewhere without transit access, and disproportionately likely to develop health problems due to bad air quality from highways in their backyard. The INVEST Act is an important start to our efforts to address climate justice, transit service, and safety, while also reconnecting neighborhoods literally torn apart by racism.
Oregon is lucky to have a congressional delegation standing on the right side of this issue. Rep. Peter DeFazio chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which authored this bill, and will help shepherd it through this process. Rep. Earl Blumenauer is among Congress' most stalwart champions for investing in a green and equitable transportation system. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici is an influential voice for ensuring that transportation spending creates long-term, family-wage jobs to help all workers, particularly BIPOC workers, increase economic opportunities and build long-term careers in the construction trades. Sen. Ron Wyden is chairman of the Finance Committee, and Sen. Jeff Merkley is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee — both well positioned to make sure a transportation bill helps Oregon and our planet.
Congress must meet this moment. We urge Congress to act quickly, to pass the INVEST in America Act to create good jobs, protect our planet, heal past wrongs, and invest in our future. We urge Oregonians to call our congressional delegation, thank them for their support, and urge them to do everything possible to pass a transportation bill that puts us all on the road to recovery.
Lynn Peterson is president of the Oregon Metro Council. Jessica Vega Pederson is the Multnomah County commissioner for District 3. Nafisa Fai is the Washington County commissioner for District 1.
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