Recap - February 2021 Lunch Program
On Thursday, February 18th, WTS Sacramento heard from Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. In celebration of Black History Month, we invited him to speak with us about transportation equity and the ways in which transportation investments have shaped the lived experience of many people of color in this country. We also had the opportunity to hear firsthand how the State is actively working to remediate these past injustices by ensuring that they have an equity lens in everything they do.
Before focusing on the work underway at Caltrans, Director Omishakin spoke with our membership about his family currently living in Nigeria and the inspiration they bring to him each day. It was an important reminder that even when times are challenging, your family, friends and support network play a key part in each of our success.
February marks just over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States. We saw a rise in protests over the summer, nationwide attention on confronting systemic racism and inequality and a massive unemployment. Each of these had an impact on the transportation system whether we realized it or not and these “Three Pandemics” have been front and center for Director Omishakin. He also spoke about the “Three Challenges” climate change, homelessness, and fires. These challenges require a tremendous amount of attention, coordination, and funding to respond appropriately. Of particular focus for Director Omishakin is climate change, something that he truly believes is the biggest challenge of our lifetime and will require that all Cities, Counties, States, organizations, and people have a role in helping to stop.
For decades many State DOTs have been focused on planning, building, and expanding the State Highway System. Director Omishakin praised this effort as being one of the greatest public works projects in history. He also shared how it came with “a lot of harm, division and blight” for black and brown communities. Throughout his presentation Director Omishakin drove home that there has always been tenuous relationship between racism and transportation and its something that can no longer be ignored.
Following the lead of Governor Newsom & the California State Transportation Agency, Caltrans released its Equity Statement in December 2020 along with their 4 P’s of Equity.
Caltrans has also been doing a lot of work to ensure staff having a true understanding of what transportation equity is and how it plays a role in the work they do. Director Omishakin encouraged folks to hold him and Caltrans accountable to these statements and left us with a quote (see below) that continues to be just as prevalent today as it was 60 years ago.
Links mentioned during presentation:
· US 101 Alemany Project – Caltrans News Flash #233
· Segregated by Design - https://www.segregatedbydesign.com/
· Divided Highways - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfOe4Op2ptk
· Caltrans Active Transportation Plans - https://www.catplan.org/
California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP) - https://dot.ca.gov/cal-itp