DOTs have been put on notice. Spending billions on roads and ignoring other modes like transit in the planning process violates US civil rights law.
Wisconsin DOT broke civil rights rules, U.S. agency says
Lawsuit proceeds as state says it’s now in compliance
By Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel
The state Department of Transportation did not follow federal civil rights rules for at least seven years, a yearlong investigation has found.
An American Civil Liberties Union attorney applauded the decision by the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights as a step toward holding state transportation officials accountable for how their actions affect minorities.
A Transportation Department spokeswoman, by contrast, had little to say about the ruling, noting its connection to a lawsuit that seeks to halt reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange. Most of the players in that suit were also involved in filing the complaint that triggered the federal investigation.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 6, accuses state officials of discriminating against minorities by refusing to include public transit improvements in the $1.7 billion reconstruction of the crossroads of I-94, I-894 and U.S. Highway 45. The lawsuit asks a federal judge in Madison to order the state to redo its study of the project’s environmental impact to address that issue.
Part of the legal basis for the litigation is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits agencies that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age or disability. For years, civil rights groups and transit advocates have argued that state authorities have been discriminating in favor of highways that benefit white suburbanites and against transit projects that would benefit urban minorities without cars.
The Wisconsin DOT found out the hard way, but there have been similar complaints in Ohio.