Originally published in WGEM, August 27, 2020.

Springfield, IL - The Illinois Department of Transportation is facing questions over complaints of systemic racism. Current and former employees are calling for workplace equity and protocols to end racism in hiring and selection of contractors for statewide projects, especially in Southern Illinois.

Members of the Senate Transportation Committee asked IDOT officials how they plan to address the recent allegations. Transportation Secretary Omer Osman says racism, sexual harassment, and discrimination are not acceptable at the agency. Osman emphasized he is taking the discrimination complaint seriously.

"Any employee who has been a victim of discrimination can file an internal complaint with IDOT EEO or civil rights. Or, they may file externally if they don't want to go that route," Osman explained.

The Department's legal counsel says employees go through regular training to try and prevent discrimination similar to protocols with other state agencies. Osman said IDOT will enhance efforts to stop discrimination following recent attacks on minorities across the country.

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Category: In The News

Originally published in Quad-City Times, September 1, 2020. 

SPRINGFIELD — A coalition of 10 state transportation agencies, including Illinois’, announced the creation of a diversity panel last week to develop “fairness and inclusion” at work sites, the group’s president said.

The committee has not yet held a meeting, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Transportation said in an email, but its establishment “has been in the works for a while.” Members of the Mid-America Association of State Transportation Agencies will share methods and programs designed to diversify their practices.

“We are also committed to creating more contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses and to avoid transportation projects having a negative impact on minority communities,” Craig Thompson, association president, said in a written statement. “Most of all, we strive to provide mobility options for everyone in our communities to make sure that transportation is not a barrier to the wellbeing of vulnerable people.”

Thompson is the secretary designee of Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation. States belonging to the association include Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.

Illinois currently participates in the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, which is mandated by the U.S. Congress and overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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Category: In The News

Originally published in Journal & Topics, September 1, 2020. 

Major Focus On Waukegan Road, Cleveland Street Following July Fatality

The project to install pedestrian traffic calming signals at Waukegan Road and Cleveland Street and Caldwell Avenue and Cleveland has been identified and discussed for years, but delays ensued since both roads are state-controlled routes.

Last month, village trustees awarded a contract to perform a traffic study to move that project along and Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-8th) held a hearing calling for greater transparency in the process the Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) uses to prioritize which projects are selected and which receive funding.

The village has several road projects in various stages of planning and execution underway to improve roadway safety for pedestrians. The Waukegan and Cleveland traffic safety control device project received new scrutiny after 13-year-old Sam Yousif was killed crossing Waukegan Road at Cleveland on his bike in July.

Both intersections are identified in the village’s 2014 multi-modal plan looking at pedestrian and bike routes as problem intersections, which needed to be addressed. Residents have complained about several accidents at Waukegan and Cleveland dating back to 2013.

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Category: In The News

Originally published in the Daily Herald, August 31, 2020. 

A state regulator's ruling the Illinois tollway acted illegally and mishandled two unsuccessful bids for construction projects was "unfair" and unreasonable, an attorney for the agency argued at a state Senate Transportation Committee hearing Thursday.

The pushback puts the tollway at odds with Illinois Chief Procurement Officer for General Services Ellen Daley, who in July found the agency didn't properly notify Walsh Construction Co. and Lorig Construction Co. their bids fell short on two separate construction projects worth more than $70 million.

Daley's conclusions that the agency had undermined "the integrity of the procurement process" prompted state Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines to request a Senate hearing after the Daily Herald reported on the issue.

Tollway attorney Kathleen Pasulka-Brown said at the hearing the two contractors lost the bids because they failed to meet diversity goals and were given plenty of notice.

"(Daley's) determination was unfair, and it's also inconsistent with her finding the tollway did not act in bad faith," Pasulka-Brown said. "Finding the tollway did not act in bad faith should have let her conclude the tollway did not engage in an illegal act."

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Category: In The News

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