A civil rights and “environmental justice” draft report shows areas with minority and poor populations aren’t being shut out of planned Hall County road projects.
“The overall conclusion is the number of projects is not inordinately disproportionate to either (targeted) areas or nontargeted areas when compared to the total population,” said Sam I. Baker, senior transportation planner for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, Hall’s lead transportation planning group.
“The document is an assessment of how we have been doing so far in incorporating and benefiting all (residents) and making sure that any adverse impacts are not disproportionately borne by only certain segments of the population,” he added.
Baker presented the report Wednesday to the MPO’s technical coordinating committee, a group of area engineers and planners, which gave its OK.
The report now goes to the MPO’s decision-making policy committee, which comprises Hall’s top elected officials. The committee is set to meet Nov. 6.
Federal law requires that the transportation agency adopt the Title VI and Environmental Justice Analysis. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color and national origin.
“This law mandates that any entity, any agency that receives federal dollars, develop a plan and document how it will use those funds to benefit all the citizens,” Baker said.
The MPO, according to its website, is responsible for handling the federally mandated transportation planning process for the Gainesville urbanized area as identified in the U.S. census.
As part of the study, the MPO identified “target” or concentrated areas of higher-than-average minority populations, those living below the poverty level or without a vehicle in the household. And it compared those to a map showing projects in its 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
The study shows 58 percent of Hall lives in target areas and 25 of the 39 projects in the 2040 plan lie in target areas. Also, 71 percent of fixed-route Hall Area Transit routes are in target areas.
Baker said the MPO modeled its report after one performed by the Hinesville Area MPO.
A public comment period for Gainesville-Hall MPO’s document is underway, set to end Oct. 31.
“We have not received any public comments either in favor or against it,” Baker said.
The MPO is planning to update the 2040 plan, a process set to begin in January and end by August 2015.