Developing an effective public involvement program is a strategic effort that requires assembling a selection of techniques to meet the needs of a given transportation plan, program, or project. While federal statutes and regulations -- derived largely from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) -- provide general guidelines for locally developed public involvement processes and procedures. There is, however, great flexibility available to transportation agencies in developing specific public involvement programs.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have jointly issued an Interim Policy on Public Involvement that supports public involvement at all stages of planning and project development. State departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transportation providers are required to develop, with the public, effective involvement processes tailored to local conditions. The performance standards for these proactive public involvement processes include early and continuous involvement; reasonable public availability of technical and other information; collaborative input on alternatives, evaluation criteria and mitigation needs; open public meetings where matters related to federal-aid highway and transit programs are being considered; and open access to the decisionmaking process prior to closure.
To achieve these objectives, the FHWA and FTA have committed to:
- Promoting an active role for the public in the development of transportation plans, programs, and projects from the early stages of the planning process through detailed project development.
- Promoting the shared obligations of the public and decisionmakers to define goals and objectives for the state and/or metropolitan transportation system; to identify transportation and related problems; to develop alternatives to address the problems; and to evaluate the alternatives on the basis of collaboratively identified criteria.
- Ensuring that the public is actively involved in the development of public involvement procedures in ways that go beyond commenting on drafts.
- Encouraging the state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transportation providers to aggressively seek to identify and involve the affected and interested public, including those traditionally underserved by existing transportation systems and facilities.
- Encouraging planning and implementing agencies to use combinations of different public involvement techniques designed to meet the diverse needs of the general public.
- Sponsoring outreach, training, and technical assistance and providing information for federal, state, regional, and local transportation agencies on effective public involvement procedures.
- Ensuring that statewide and metropolitan planning work programs provide for effective public involvement.
- Evaluating public involvement processes and procedures to assess their success at meeting the performance requirements specified in the appropriate regulations during joint certification reviews, metropolitan planning and conformity findings, State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) approvals, and project oversight.
- Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making - Joint Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and FTA report.
- FHWA Environmental Review Toolkit: Public Involvement - FTA requires public involvement activities be coordinated by the grant applicantpursuant to 23 USC § 128 and 40 CFR Parts 1500 through 1508.
- FHWA Environmental Review Toolkit: Public Involvement and its Role in Project Development - This document provides guidance for designing a public involvement program that goes beyond just following legislation and regulations.
- FHWA/FTA Questions and Answers on Public Involvement in Transportation Decision-making - Questions and answers on 23 C.F.R. 450.
- Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decisionmaking (Howard/Stein-Hudson Associates, Inc. and Parsons Brinckerhoff, Quade &Douglas, Inc. for FHWA and FTA, September 1996) - This user’s guide for improving the public’s participation in transportation decisionmaking introduces techniques to enhance participation and establish effective methods of communication.
- The Environmental Guidebook - Federal Highway Administration, Office of the Environment, Public Involvement guidance webpage
- FHWA/FTA Questions and Answers on Public Involvement in Transportation Decisionmaking - Questions and answers about 23 CFR Part 450
- A Citizen's Guide to the NEPA – Having Your Voice Heard (CEQ, 2007) - This guide was developed to help citizens and organizations who are concerned about the environmental effects of federal decisionmaking to effectively participate in federal agencies’ environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) created this guide to answer these and other transportation project-related questions. This guide will help the public understand how transportation decisions are made at the local, state, and national levels