The team behind a project to widen Interstate 5 between north Portland and Vancouver, Washington will host a virtual roundtable later this month to discuss how megaprojects have impacted Black people throughout American history.
Seven people will participate on the panel organized by the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, which is titled Equity Roundtable: Black Communities and their Relationships with Infrastructure. Among the panelists will be Portland Bureau of Transportation Commissioner and member of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program Executive Steering Group Jo Ann Hardesty. The others are:
- Ed Washington, Director of Outreach & Community Engagement in Global Diversity & Inclusion for Portland State University and IBR program Community Advisory Group co-chair;
- Jasmine Tolbert, Vancouver NAACP President and IBR Community Advisory Group member;
- Dr. Roberta Hunte, Assistant Professor at Portland State University and IBR program Equity Advisory Group facilitator;
- Greg Johnson, IBR Program Administrator;
- Johnell Bell, IBR program Principal Equity Officer and
- Millicent Williams, facilitator of the IBR program Executive Steering Group, who will facilitate the discussion.
Notably, Williams served as a PBOT division manager and deputy director between 2017 and 2020 before moving into private consulting.
In a statement about the event, IBR Program staff acknowledged the history of racist city planning that has resulted in the displacement of historic Black neighborhoods across the country, including in Portland: “Transportation infrastructure in the United States is fraught with a checkered past of forcing families out of their homes to make way for new construction,” the event’s description says. “The [IBRP] is learning from these past harms to elevate equity-focused practices and bring communities together.”
The IBRP team has been under pressure to address racial equity in its planning process for the bridge. When Metro Council voted to provide necessary funding for the IBRP, which is a controversial project that has sparked protest from climate activists, they listed “advancing racial equity” as a requirement for support.
This event will take place on February 25th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Virtual seating will be limited to 40 participants, reserved for BIPOC community members, who will be able to ask questions and interact with the panelists. For people who don’t get a seat, the event will be live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook. You can find out more information and sign up for a seat here.