The Philadelphia Tribune: Editorial: Ensure inclusion in infrastructure jobs in Philadelphia

The massive infrastructure $1 trillion package passed by Congress means Pennsylvania is slated to receive billions in funding.

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan includes $1 billion for the Reconnecting Communities Initiative designed to rectify damage caused by highways predominantly built through communities of color.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, co-sponsored the plan to help Philadelphia neighborhoods that were fractured by the Roosevelt Boulevard and Vine Street expressways. He partnered with members of the Black Congressional Caucus to lead the fight on reconnecting the communities.

“This is an example of what you call mobility injustice — meaning that it divides the community,” Evans said in reference to the elevated Roosevelt Boulevard expressway in Nicetown.

The Nicetown Community Development Corporation’s plans to bridge the divide will be boosted by the Reconnecting Communities Initiative. The Nicetown CDC will receive $1 million from the initiative to develop a sports court beneath the elevated Roosevelt Boulevard highway. The $9 million development will include basketball courts, rain gardens, a skate park, a small amphitheater and a plaza for vendors.

“Part of what the Nicetown CDC has been doing for years is to bring connectivity to the Germantown Avenue commercial corridor — where people were displaced and businesses were displaced,” Majeedah Rashid, chief operating officer of Nicetown CDC said during a news conference held last week. “We’re really grateful that the congressman has taken a look at our sports court plan and what it brings to the neighborhood of Nicetown.”

Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Laborers’ District Council of Metropolitan Philadelphia and Vicinity and president of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council–AFL-CIO, highlighted the bill’s impact of investing in jobs.

“We have a lot of problems in Philadelphia,” he said. “The No. 1 social program is a good union job and this bill is going to provide good union jobs.”

“We’re going to have direct investments in jobs in this bill,” Boyer continued. “Whether it’s people working on highways or bridges, working on community corridors, this bill has it all.”

The landmark infrastructure bill is expected to create millions of jobs and make overdue repairs to the nation’s roads, bridges, transit, water and sewer systems. Pennsylvania is slated to receive $11.3 billion for roads, $1.6 billion for bridges, $2.8 billion for public transit, $1.4 billion for clean drinking water and more.

Local Democrats are understandably celebrating the passage of the infrastructure bill, a critical investment in repairing and improving infrastructure and creating jobs in the region.

Democrats in Philadelphia and across the country are staging photo ops to highlight long-neglected public works projects.

The bill gives Democrats an issue to run on in next year’s midterms and could help boost Biden’s sagging poll numbers.

However, the key to the plan will be implementation. How will the money be spent and who will get the jobs?

City officials must act to put in a mechanism to ensure that Black Philadelphians, who have been historically shut out of trade union jobs and local construction, get a fair share of the jobs and contracts that will go toward rebuilding infrastructure in the region.