Public participation in transportation planning is key to identifying solutions that are appropriate for your community; however, it can also play an important role in the project development process (by sharing perspectives on the history, issues and priorities of stakeholders’ local areas). Stakeholders should be in constant contact with designers and engineers as the project is being developed to ensure that the community needs are being addressed. Project development activities often include refining pre-project concept evaluations, environmental evaluations, and project design. Agencies will consider this input to make project decisions that are most in line with the overall public interest and that meet all applicable laws and regulations.
Public involvement during the project development phase is to:
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ITD defines Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) as a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders in order to develop transportation facilities that fit their physical settings and preserve scenic, aesthetic, historic, economic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility
Effective public involvement encourages the exploration of issues from a variety of perspectives. Stakeholders must be identified and involved at the beginning of a project and again during the planning, programming, development and construction processes.
ITD strives to be a good provider, neighbor, steward and caretaker. Open lines of communication lead to a sense of shared ownership and a common vision. The information-collecting and sharing processes begin at the grassroots level, are passed through the Idaho Transportation Department’s professional staff, and are conveyed to the Transportation Board. Concerns are addressed. Decisions are made. Action is taken. For further CSS guidelines and discussion, see the ITD Context Sensitive Solutions guide.
Public involvement activities become more extensive during the development phase of a project. The public involvement effort will utilize a variety of techniques and more clearly identify a projects effects on specific communities, geographic regions and stakeholder groups. Effective public involvement during the development phase can help project teams work through complex issues, continue to build good working relationships with stakeholders, and set up future project teams for success during project implementation (construction).
It is important that you use the Public Outreach Planner (POP) and your stakeholder identification and analysis to develop a clear, objective-driven plan for your public involvement (Appendices F, G and H).
The POP is intended to assist ITD staff in assessing the range of outreach needs, identifying tools that may be used in meeting those needs, and providing an estimate of the potential costs associated with their implementation. Project teams are encouraged to complete the POP at all phases of a project, understanding that the context of a project may change over time. It is ideal to complete the POP during the planning phase and again during the environmental and design phases. Keep a record of these findings for future project phases.
NEPA requires that any activity or project receiving Federal funding or other Federal actions (including transportation projects) undergo a detailed analysis of potential impacts, including potential air quality impacts. Under NEPA, FHWA and FTA work closely with other Federal agencies and State, local, and Tribal governments, public and private organizations, and the public to understand the potential impacts of a proposed project. This process requires stakeholders to strike a delicate balance between many important factors, including mobility needs, economic prosperity, health and environmental protection, community and neighborhood preservation, and quality of life for present and future generations.
An ITD Federal Aid project that anticipates substantial environmental, social, or economic impacts, and involves federal funding, federal lands, or federal permits, must comply with NEPA process and procedures for public involvement. In accordance with 23 CFR 771.111, ITD should coordinate early with the appropriate agencies and the public when determining the type of environmental review documents and action requires, the scope of the document, the level of analysis and related environmental requirements. There are certain environmental documentation requirements for Federal Aid ITD projects. Projects are evaluated and categorized into three classes of projects:
There are no public notice or hearing requirements for CEs, although where hearings are not required by statute, informational meetings may serve as a useful forum for public involvement in the environmental process. ITD often seeks input from the public and provides information through open houses, public information meetings and other formats less formalized than public hearings. These vary dependent on factors such as the nature, location and size of the project. Refer to ITD’s Public Involvement Toolbox for assistance in planning appropriate types and amount of public involvement.
FHWA may call for a hearing if the need is warranted; in that case, standard hearing procedures are followed (see section 300 of ITD’s environmental manual).
A public involvement plan should be prepared for all projects in which an EA or EIS is required. Refer to Appendix G for information and assistance in developing the public involvement plan. In general, public involvement should begin in the early stages of the project and continue through the life of the project. Prior to construction, news releases and other appropriate public contact should begin and continue as needed during the construction period.
Although not a typical environmental consideration, detours, adding through traffic lanes or changing system layout can influence travel patterns and potentially have certain environmental, social, or economic impacts, regardless of the class of project (CE, EA or EIS).
Effects may include:
System changes include road closures, new road connections or restriction to turning movements (access control). Projects with significant detours and/or impacts on travel patterns are not eligible for a categorical exclusion (see 23 CFR 771.117). Level of controversy is also a factor for the NEPA Class of Action.
A review of community impacts is needed to ensure impacts do not constitute an unusual circumstance or significant impacts under 23 CFR 771.117. Most detours have only minor transient impacts, although the type and magnitude of impacts varies considerably.
When there are changes to travel patterns, including detours, conduct outreach to affected stakeholders during the NEPA process, unless there is a high level of confidence that impacts are minor.
The level of detail in the NEPA document should be commensurate with impacts. Allow the stakeholder input to guide the depth of discussion of impacts in the NEPA document. The NEPA document should discuss the following:
Because changes to travel patterns have potential for disproportionate impacts to minority or low impact populations, the project is not eligible for the FHWA Idaho Division programmatic Environmental Justice (EJ) finding. You must identify if EJ populations are present or absent in the area of potential effect. If present, complete an EJ analysis.
Q: Do I need to address EJ impacts for a detour?
A: It is possible to have impacts to minority and low income populations from a detour, such as creating an inadvertent barrier for access to services. Analyze and address if needed.
Q: A detour was added during final design. There is no grading, overlay or any other permanent physical changes. There is temporary construction signing. Do I need a cultural resource clearance on the detour with my re-evaluation?
Q: Do I need to consider closures of existing pedestrian facilities?
A: The MUTCD Manual says existing pedestrian access must be maintained during construction. If this is infeasible, discuss the impact in the NEPA document.
The SH-100 Bridge will be closed for three months. Traffic will be detoured on 2nd Avenue to Forest Road, a primary arterial. The detour route is five miles long and will result in a travel time delay of approximately ten minutes. There is no closure to existing pedestrian facilities and no pedestrian traffic. See the attached detour map.
Outreach was done to the following stakeholders. No concerns were voiced. Further outreach will be done during prior to and during construction. Access will be posted and maintained to all residences and commercial establishments. See attached outreach summaries.
All transportation projects subject to NEPA must demonstrate they “conform” to the Statewide Implementation Plan for meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). This includes geographic areas which are in non-attainment of the NAAQS or in those areas trying to maintain the standards after being in non-attainment. Conformity designations must be secured prior to the NEPA documentation being submitted to the FHWA and FTA. More information on air quality conformity can be found in Chapter 9.
For questions regarding NEPA and environmental public involvement requirements, please contact ITD’s Environmental Section Manager at (208) 334-8203.
A good faith effort must be made to consult with tribes potentially having an interest in a project. A tribe cannot be forced to respond, but more than just a single attempt to contact them needs to be made if no response is received. Letters to the tribal leadership with follow-up phone calls may suffice, but a documented, defensible case for a good faith effort must be able to be made. This generally consists of several documented efforts to make contact and by more than one means of communication. If there is an opportunity to do so, ask tribal representatives how best to contact them, communicate, or otherwise work with them.
ITD commonly undertakes communication with tribes on federal aid transportation projects. Most importantly, communication should begin at an early stage (during the planning and evaluation phases) in the project, before final decisions are made, so that tribal input can be properly considered. Information on the proposed project should be provided to the tribes so that they can understand the project and be prepared to comment. If the Idaho FHWA Division has concerns regarding the tribal coordination on a project, the Division will begin a consultation process. If the need to do this becomes apparent at a critical point during the project development process, then the project could be delayed while consultation efforts are under way. ITD should advise the Division any time that FHWA involvement in tribal consultation would be of assistance or may be beneficial or desired by a tribe. The Division can then engage promptly so that tribal issues do not later impact the project schedule.
FHWA Idaho takes its tribal consultation responsibilities seriously and supports meaningful consultation and collaboration efforts as outlined in EO 13175 and the USDOT Transportation Tribal Consultation Plan.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires consultation with any Indian tribe that attaches religious, cultural and historic significance to properties that may be affected by an undertaking, regardless of the location of the historic property. The tribe must be provided a reasonable opportunity to identify its concerns about historic properties, advise on the identification and evaluation of historic properties, provide its views on the undertaking's effects on such properties, and participate in the resolution of adverse effects.
For tribes that have formally assumed the responsibilities of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) on tribal lands, the tribal historic preservation officer (THPO) is the official representative for the purposes of Section 106. The agency official shall consult with the THPO in lieu of the SHPO regarding undertakings occurring on or affecting historic properties on tribal lands. For tribes that have not formally assumed the responsibilities of the SHPO on tribal lands, Section 106 consultation will include a representative designated by the tribe in addition to the SHPO regarding undertakings occurring on or affecting historic properties on its tribal lands.
Additional information on tribal consultation under Section 106 is available by contacting FHWA at 208-334-1843.