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A key policy change will help local communities give their residents better access to transportation jobs

17 Mar 2015 | Posted by | 1 Comment | , , ,

For more than 40 years, federal policies have prevented local residents from benefiting from the well-paying jobs that come with federally funded transportation projects. The USDOT just made a move to change that with a new pilot program.

Los Angeles transit construction

Longstanding federal statutes have prevented the localities receiving federal transportation grants from giving any preference to bidders who hire local residents, leaving a city or region without a legal way to ensure that a project boosts local employment by hiring qualified residents to do the work.

In early March, the USDOT took an important first step to change that, however. The agency is launching a one-year pilot program called Local Hire ”to evaluate the use of these requirements and determine their impact.”

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced that after a recent Department of Justice clarification of federal bidding statutes, the U.S. Department of Transportation would now allow local recipients to use contracting requirements, including local hiring, so long as those requirements do not unduly restrict competition.

“Under this program, recipients of highway and transit grants will be allowed to use hiring programs in which preference is given to local residents, low-income workers, and veterans,” wrote Foxx. The DOT is requesting comments on this proposed rule for the pilot program by April 6th.

Evaluating bids with hiring requirements is a typical practice in many places for projects funded with local or state dollars. But regulations governing federal dollars had prohibited the practice, citing concerns that it could undermine competition and drive up costs.

The advocates who have long argued that federal transportation spending needs to better benefit everyone called it a groundbreaking move.

“Research has shown that low-income workers and communities of color are vastly under-represented in jobs in the transportation sector,” wrote PolicyLink’s Anita Hairston. “This is a missed opportunity for connecting these communities to quality jobs, especially given the good wages and benefits that often accompany transportation work.”

Allowing a preference for hiring local workers is about giving states and local communities the power to ensure that qualified locals are first in line for jobs instead of seeing those jobs go to residents from elsewhere. This would help provide a one-two punch for economic development: good jobs for the local residents who most need them, and the long-term benefits of a new transportation investment.

This is a great step in the right direction, and we look forward to the results from the Local Hire pilot program.

You can send your comments to the USDOT by April 6 here.

1 Comment

  1. marie malinowski

    2 years ago

    i’m a transit rider along with many other here in Buffalo ,NY we us it for shopping ,school ,rec club ,working ,doctors and many other things we like to keep it going so we need the govorment to vote to put transit and jobs so we can keep are indpendent and freedom Marie m.