Monday, February 28, 2022

Join us for an online listening session about how we can better include all voices in transportation decisions

By Ann Briggs

We're beginning work to create an equitable decision-making process for significant actions planned on our state's transportation system, especially as it relates to communities of Black Americans, tribal members, people of color and low-income individuals. That means when we design a project, we include all voices in making decisions about how and where the project is built and learning what we can do to ensure that the project's benefits and negative effects are equally distributed. We want to hear from you how we can best work together.

But first, please bear with us as we provide some background on this important issue:

Decisions of the past have consequences for today

It's no coincidence that transportation infrastructure can have negative health effects on the people who live next to it. Planners and engineers of past decades often designed highways, bridges, airports and rail lines to run next to, or right through the middle of, communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. Land was less expensive and the people who lived there had limited resources or opportunities to challenge the decisions that were being thrust upon them.
Studies have shown that as a result of those decisions, people who live in communities adjacent to major transportation infrastructure are more likely to suffer poor health due to air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution and related stress. In recognition of these conditions, the state Legislature in 2021 passed the “Healthy Environment for All Act,” or more commonly called the HEAL Act (Senate Bill 5141).

When planning the Mukilteo ferry terminal, we made it a priority to include tribes in early planning and decision making to help guide the process and make it more equitable for all involved. The finished building features several tribal cultural pieces as well as interpretive boards honoring the tribes’ past, present and future connection to the area.

The HEAL Act is a first step toward preventing and lessening the long-term negative environmental and health effects of state agency decisions. The act aims to improve the health for all Washington state residents. We're one of seven state agencies covered by the HEAL Act. The others are the departments of: Ecology, Health, Natural Resources, Commerce, Agriculture and the Puget Sound Partnership.

To begin this important work, we want to talk with and listen to the people who are affected by our transportation decisions, especially those living in overburdened communities that bear the adverse effects of infrastructure placement. That's where you can help.

Talk with us and share your experience

Before we can begin addressing the problems created by transportation activities, we need to know how best to engage with and understand the needs of the people who are most affected by our work.

We're holding online listening sessions to start the conversation and help us understand the best ways to communicate with people who live in underserved communities.

Listening sessions information

Online listening sessions are being held over Microsoft Teams. To join us, click on the link for one of the following:

Here's what you can expect during these sessions:

  • We'll share information about the HEAL Act and its requirements for the state agencies covered under the act.
  • We'll talk about environmental justice and what that means for communities that have experienced more than their fair share of harm from state agency decisions.
  • We'll ask a few questions of participants to get the conversation going.
  • Then we'll listen while you tell us your experiences and concerns; how you want us to reach out and involve you in decisions; and what's working – or not working – for you.

We'll then use your input and suggestions to help create more equitable decision-making that better serves the needs of all (part of our community engagement planning and tools).

No Wi-Fi? No problem!

Free, temporary internet access is available in locations throughout the state for those who do not have broadband service. To find the nearest Wi-Fi Hotspot visit:

Language assistance

If you have difficulty understanding English, you may, free of charge, request language assistance services by calling 360-705-7090 or email us at  
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