Transportation policy recommendations with no consideration of public health?

Last week, the Miller Center, a public policy group at the University of Virginia, issued “A Blueprint for Presidential Leadership” which proposes to “develop a bipartisan way forward” and set the transportation agenda for President Obama.

This was released at about the same time as another study showing the dangers of particulate matter and other air pollution, “Urban air pollution negatively impacts fetal growth”, and a few weeks after the Centers for Disease Control released a new Morbidity and Mortality and Weekly Report, Residential Proximity to Major Highways — United States, 2010which reports that

 “approximately 4% of the total U.S. population lives within 150 meters of a major highway, suggesting increased exposure to traffic-related air pollution and elevated risk for adverse health outcomes.”…….

.The Miller Center bills itself as providing “critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges.”   Participants in developing the blueprint included congressional leaders, several former Secretaries of Transportation, consultants, academics, and public policy experts.

Curious as to how this august group would address the public health and environmental justice challenges raised by the CDC, public health experts, and the EJ community, I started reading, watching for discussions of those subjects,

I awaited recommendations for how public health and EJ could be integrated into transportation policy, and how we could ensure that the billions of dollars of tax dollars invested in transportation infrastructure could help and not hurt the millions in “at risk” communities.

The result – nothing, nada, zilch.  Not one mention of environmental challenges, public health problems, or the community, except for the business community, transportation community, and political community.  I found not one reference to diesel, and just one passing reference to air pollution – how congestion pricing could reduce “pollutant emissions.”  The only references to health were to the “health of the economy,” and how a former President was more concerned with health care than transportation.

Their #1 recommendation?

Change the Narrative:  The nation’s transportation needs must be recast in a new, compelling narrative in
order to attract the public’s attention. The President’s message must include a positive, forward-looking tone; a well-defined but flexible campaign plan keyed to political rhythms; and a concerted effort to link local transportation investments with national goals like jobs and economic growth

I am disappointed by this group’s blueprint.  Protecting public health should be a goal of Federal, state, and local transportation policy, and every infrastructure project.