More transparency, advocacy needed in INDOT decisions, according to Rep. Cherrish Pryor
INDIANAPOLIS - State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) issued the op-ed column below earlier today, sunbmitting it to local news outlet for possible publication later in the week:
With record high gas prices and environmental concerns, many are reconsidering the types of vehicles they drive. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Indiana will receive nearly $100 million in federal funding for the implementation of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. The money will be used to amplify our electric vehicle charging infrastructure over the next five years.
Unfortunately, recent actions taken by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) have made it difficult for working-class Hoosiers to have a say in the implementation of this program. My letter to INDOT expressing my concerns has gone unanswered.
I understand and appreciate the benefit that electric vehicles will have for Hoosiers struggling to pay for gas, we must ensure this program is enacted equitably.
INDOT has scheduled just three meetings throughout the entire state; in Plymouth, Indianapolis and Seymour. With gas prices as high as they are, it is unconscionable to ask Hoosiers to drive hours to have their voices heard. Furthermore, Indianapolis is the only location where conversations are taking place with a significant minority population. Like in any conversation, a diverse collection of voices is needed to ensure the allocation of these funds are equitable and help the largest number of people possible.
So far, there has been no outreach to the minority community or legislators about possible locations for charging stations. In order for a well-rounded plan to be created, feedback from every stakeholder is required. Legislators and minority organizations know their communities and would be able to provide valuable information about where to place electric vehicle stations if they are given the opportunity to give their input.
In the most recent session, I provided an amendment to House Bill 1221 which advocated for including areas that are economically distressed and racially or ethnically diverse in conversations regarding electric vehicle infrastructure. I will continue to fight for representation in these conversations until it's evident that people from all communities and socioeconomic backgrounds have a seat at the table.
Beyond inadequate diversity in these conversations, the number of people having their voices heard is much too small. Each of the three meetings are limited to just 50 people, meaning only 150 individuals will have a chance to provide input on how the state will spend the federal dollars. That is simply unacceptable. This much-needed infrastructure has the power to impact the lives of many Hoosiers throughout the state, and we need to be sure we're hearing from as many people as possible.
Furthermore, scheduling the meetings between 3-5 p.m. – when most Hoosiers are working – is inexcusable. Many working Hoosiers who would likely benefit from advancements in electric vehicle infrastructure, cannot attend these meetings. My recommendation is to hold additional meetings during the evenings to provide more Hoosiers an opportunity to take part in the conversations.
Advancements in electric vehicle infrastructure has the power to help many Hoosiers and will benefit our local environment. However, in order to make the most of this federal funding, we have to ensure that as many Hoosiers as possible are having their voices heard. With current practices from INDOT, this isn't happening.
I urge INDOT to add additional meetings during times working Hoosiers can attend, as well as expanding their reach to include areas with sizeable minority populations and in areas that are economically distressed. These actions will ensure that this program will help as many people as possible, which should always be our goal.