Why Infrastructure Spending Should Center Equity

To begin to reverse decades of discrimination and disinvestment, future infrastructure spending must put equity at the forefront.

1 minute read

August 9, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Illinois Freeway

Bumble Dee / Shutterstock

In the history of highway construction in the United States, writes Denise Turner Roth, "[t]here are countless examples of vulnerable populations decimated in the name of progress and expansion." For a century or more, "infrastructure in U.S. cities has been planned, designed, and built too often without consistent and meaningful regard for the impacts on vulnerable communities, historically people of color, particularly those living in poverty."

According to Turner Roth, redressing the decades of negative impacts will take a conscious focus on equity in future infrastructure funding. "Equitable infrastructure considers the short- and long-term impacts on human health and well-being, and takes shape based on input from all members of a community. Equitable infrastructure is, at its core, defined by the principle that everyone deserves a fair opportunity to thrive."

Equitable infrastructure is critical, Turner Roth writes, for several reasons: the inequity perpetuated lasts for generations; inequity is too often invisible to many people; and inequity harms everyone, producing societal costs that ripple beyond the communities most directly affected.

Turner Roth outlines five ways to include equity in infrastructure spending that include diverse representation, consideration of outliers such as rural communities, opportunities for minority-owned businesses, nature-based solutions, and a strong understanding of the past. "Rebuilding our infrastructure today is an opportunity to do it right this time—for everyone. Without equity, our infrastructure remains broken."

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