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Read.Watch.Listen. Historical Inequity in Infrastructure

April 2024 Issue

A monthly forum to share diversity, equity, and inclusion resources.

Welcome to the next installment of Read.Watch.Listen. This month, we want to highlight how infrastructure design and planning can help or harm equity in our communities. In November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was passed, and over one trillion dollars was authorized over a five year period. The January 2022 issue of Read.Watch.Listen previously identified challenges to equity faced by the bill and highlighted how the bill can be used to advance racial equity in the U.S..

To learn more about the progress of the IIJA, the Brookings Institution provided a thorough review at the two-year anniversary. There is still significant funding available, which will affect civil and structural work for years to come. As engineers, it is crucial to understand the impacts of our designs on the communities and advocate for equitable practices and planning, especially given the increase in available funding for infrastructure projects. For this issue, we want to share resources on the historical inequity in infrastructure, to help ensure that our future infrastructure is developed with all communities in mind.

Image by Freepik

April is also Arab American Heritage Month.  Check out our 2022 April edition of Read.Watch.Listen, which highlights the contributions of Arab Americans to our industry and our society, while also illuminating some of the challenges they face. To overcome these hurdles, organizations like the National Arab American Association of Engineers & Architects (NAAAEA) are working to inspire and engage Arab American engineers and students. The Arab American Institute (AAI), a non-partisan advocacy organization, also aims to ensure the civil rights of Arab Americans across the country.

Next month, Read.Watch.Listen will honor Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM), which is a national month of recognition of the American Jewish experience. Recognized each year in May, JAHM provides an opportunity for people to learn more about these experiences, serving as an antidote to antisemitism.

SE3 wants to acknowledge that these topics carry additional significance due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, there has been a significant increase in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States. We hope these Read.Watch.Listen issues provide resources that can help individuals support their Arab American and Jewish American friends and colleagues who are dealing with this increase in prejudice. In addition to the three traditional resources, check out this Forbes article What Your Jewish And Palestinian Friends And Co-Workers Want You To Know. As noted in the article, “while each had a different perspective, the desire for empathy was universal.”

Read.Watch.Listen is a monthly forum hosted by the NCSEA SE3 Committee to share and promote conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion within the structural engineering profession. Each month, we will curate a series of articles, audio-visual and digital media to facilitate self-education in matters that affect our professional practice as structural engineers. Whether you choose to read, watch, or listen (or all three!), we hope you will join us in this important conversation. Missed the previous issue? Check out the NCSEA SE3 Committee News and Publication page.

Share your thoughts and/or recommended resources for the next issue at


How infrastructure has historically promoted inequality - PBS

This article is an exploration into the history of infrastructure in the United States and its promotion of inequality and impact on minority communities. When researchers look closely at large infrastructure projects, such as highways and airports, patterns of racism and classism emerge and their effects on urban neighborhoods becomes evident. Poor infrastructure, for any community, has significant negative impacts on people’s ability to move goods, travel to work and services, gain access to a healthy environment, and more. To look towards the future, the article also discusses President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion U.S. infrastructure plan, and how $20 billion is to go towards those communities affected by poor infrastructure.

Originally published Apr 23, 2021; Estimated Read Time - 8 min


Living in a transit desert - The Chicago Reporter

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Red Line Extension Project addresses transit issues that impact Chicago’s Far South Side neighborhood of Riverdale. This years-long project has the goal of connecting residents in historically underserved areas to other parts of Chicago with more job and educational opportunities, which could lead to economic mobility. This nine-minute video is an update on the project and a prime example of a transit project seeking to unite, rather than divide or isolate, communities.

Originally aired Oct 31, 2016; 00:03:55


Reversing infrastructure’s legacy of inequality - The Optimistic Outlook

Stephanie Gidigbi Jenkins is hosted on The Optimist Outlook to discuss the impacts of infrastructure in the United States and what our country can and should be doing in the future. She emphasizes that transportation truly is a civil rights issue, and where you live matters as infrastructure is proven to impact the quality of life and health conditions of nearby communities. Stephanie calls community members and politicians to action – we can either make decisions today or continue to reinforce the social challenges we have all become more aware of in the last few years. For an extra read, you can check out Stephanie’s article for Politico here.

Originally posted May 16, 2022; 00:34:18


This article was originally published in the April 2024 issue of NCSEA's Structural Connection newsletter. For more information, check out NCSEA's DEI Resources.

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