Transportation is essential to every American’s life. Each day, millions of Americans rely on it to participate in society.  For years, inequitable transportation infrastructure has separated communities along racial and economic lines.  Transportation investment has historically resulted in few good manufacturing jobs for low-income communities, preventing them from accessing key economic opportunities.

In an extraordinary move this month, US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx began a national dialogue focused on the USDOT’s Ladders of Opportunity initiatives aimed at making our infrastructure more inclusive. The initiative empowers government officials and communities to “revitalize, connect, and create workforce opportunities that move more people into the middle class.”

Jobs to Move America (JMA) applauds Secretary Foxx on this timely initiative to improve the economic opportunities of communities historically unable to improve their livelihoods due to among other things, lack of transportation options in their neighborhoods. Since its inception in 2013, JMA has pushed for expanding opportunities for people historically excluded from manufacturing in the transportation industry.

JMA is doing this by using the U.S. Employment Plan (USEP), a toolbox of policy resources transit agencies can include as part of their Request for Proposals to encourage bus and rail manufacturers to include the number of U.S. jobs they will create. Last month, Secretary Foxx sent a letter to transportation stakeholders that recognized the USEP as an innovative approach to using public transportation funds to create good jobs in the United States.

To date, the U.S. Department of Transportation has approved requests by five large transit agencies using USEP: LA Metro, Chicago Transit Authority, Amtrak, Maryland Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis, St Paul.

In the latest success, the Chicago Transit Authority awarded a $1.3 billion contract to CSR America Incorporated, a company that adopted the USEP and committed to creating 169 jobs in Chicago’s South Side, as well as building a brand-new rail car assembly facility, the first of its kind in over three decades. The USEP has resulted in the building of new factories and job creation in several other neighborhoods across the country.

A study by University of Massachusetts Amherst economists entitled Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing Through Public Procurement Policies” supports this. The study recommends that transit agencies adopt innovative language in their contracts with bus and rail car manufacturers, such as the U.S. Employment Plan, to ensure that bidding on significant transit contracts creates more US jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities and hires a diverse workforce.

“JMA commends the Department of Transportation and the President for their leadership and commitment to creating a pathway that leads to better jobs and economic opportunities for underserved communities. The choices we make today affect future generations. Let’s work together to create a stronger, more connected community,” said JMA spokesperson Alaa Milbes.