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Public Involvement Requirements

Public Involvement Requirements

This document outlines ODOT’s public involvement requirements procedures for ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements for transportation project development with a federal nexus. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is committed to fostering and integrating public involvement (PI) into project planning and development for all transportation projects. In accordance with 23 CFR 771.111(h)(1), each state is required to develop procedures to implement a comprehensive PI program, and to receive approval from FHWA that existing regulatory requirements are being met. On April 18, 2018, ODOT’s Public Involvement Requirements were approved by FHWA Ohio Division (see page x). This document will serve as ODOT’s Public Involvement requirements.

The ODOT PI process is designed to go beyond simply meeting legal requirements. Conducting PI simply to meet legal requirements neglects the purpose of informing, engaging, and meeting the needs of stakeholders and the public. Planning and conducting comprehensive PI assists decision-makers in understanding community needs and promotes meaningful dialogue to take place to develop viable transportation solutions. While meeting legal requirements is important, ensuring stakeholders and the public are part of the process is equally, if not more, important.

As a component of ODOT’s environmental process, ODOT’s PI process will:

  • Provide early and continuous public involvement opportunities;
  • Provide reasonable public access to technical data and policy information;
  • Provide adequate notice of public involvement opportunities and time for public review and comment at key transportation planning development milestones;
  • Conduct public meetings at convenient and accessible locations and times;
  • Employ visualization techniques to describe the planning process inputs and outcomes;
  • To    the    maximum    extent    practicable,    make    public    information  available    in electronically accessible format and means, such as the internet;
  • Demonstrate explicit consideration and response to public input received;
  • Seek out and consider the needs and input of traditionally underserved populations, including low-income and minority households in accordance with Title  VI and Environmental Justice requirements; and,
  • Provide information for/to populations with Limited English Proficiency (e.g., translation), as needed.
  • Provide for procedure within the bounds of these requirements to allow for proper and meaningful public involvement in accordance with federal law, regulation, policy or guidance for environmental impacts associated with items such as Section 106, Section 4(f), floodplains, etc., as required.

Furthermore, PI is integrated into ODOT’s Project Development Process (PDP) so that each project incorporates these strategies. Depending on a project’s type and complexity, District Environmental Staff, the Project Manager (PM), or the Project Management Team will be responsible for incorporating PI requirements. The Project Management Team may be comprised of, but is not limited to, the District Environmental Coordinator (DEC), the project manager, environmental specialists, planners, engineers, designers, public information officer, support staff, and consultants.

ODOT developed Underserved Populations Guidance to provide information on how to properly identify traditionally Underserved Populations and appropriately engage  them as part of the environmental process and public involvement activities and to ensure ODOT is in compliance with Environmental Justice (EJ) and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) laws, regulations, and executive orders, and requirements. ODOT defines Underserved Populations as minorities, low-income households, older adults, individuals with disabilities, and individuals with limited English proficiency.

Minimum requirements are integrated into ODOT’s PDP to assure an appropriate level of PI is conducted for each project. However, this does not mean that each project will only require the minimum. Each project is different, and  the PI approach must  be commensurate with a project’s type and complexity. This ensures legal requirements  are met, the opportunity for public notification and/or engagement is provided, and decision- making is enhanced.

As a project management and decision-making tool, the PDP:

  • Helps establish communication with stakeholders and the public
  • Provides for early identification of potential issues
  • Documents input received, and consideration/response given
  • Documents the rationale/criteria used to make a decision

It is imperative that District Environmental Staff, the PM, or the Project Management Team not oversimplify and fail to anticipate the need for PI. Conversely, it is easy to overreact and build more into the process than is required. The key is to be flexible, for at any point during project planning and development it may become necessary to elevate the level of PI. Being proactive - not just reactive - will enable community needs to be considered and addressed as a project progresses.

As part of Statewide and Metropolitan Transportation Planning and Programming processes, federal regulations require ODOT and Ohio’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop proactive PI processes that provide opportunities for public review and comment as part of early project planning and  development. These activities are essential to developing a Statewide Transportation Plan (STP) and a Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), in accordance with 23 United States Code (USC) 134 and 135. As part of the planning process, the public is provided information on the need for a transportation project(s), as well as technical and policy information used as part of project planning and development. ODOT publishes a guidance document for planning studies (ODOT’s Planning Program Public Involvement Process), which goes into more details on this topic. This guidance document is developed and published by ODOT’s Office of Statewide Planning and Research and is also approved by FHWA.

PI is revisited during each subsequent phase of the PDP to determine if additional outreach is needed based on the type and complexity of the project. The following sections list ODOT’s minimum PI requirements for each PDP path.

Path 1

Description

Simple maintenance projects:

  • Roadway resurfacing
  • Culvert replacements
  • Guardrail installation
  • No ROW/utility impacts

Minimum NEPA PI Required

  • Ensure project is listed on the STIP and that any PI performed during the STIP process is incorporated into the NEPA decision.
  • Ensure project information is published on the ODOT website. (Construction plan, work plan, etc.)
  • Issue public notifications
    • As appropriate if impacts and/or detours
  • Initiate contact with emergency and public services (EMS, police, fire, schools, etc.) during the planning or PE phases of the PDP (during NEPA).
    • If detours and/or roadway restrictions are anticipated that may cause substantial traffic disruptions.

Minimum Post-NEPA PI Required

  • Public notifications
    • Standard plan notes executed by the contractor (e.g., TEM 642-58, construction schedule coordination, detours, roadway closures, etc.)

Path 2

Description

Simple projects, Low Level Environmental Documents:

  • Culvert & Bridge Rehab/Replacement
  • Addition of Turn Lanes and Shoulders
  • Involve Minor ROW Acquisition (strip takes, temporary easements, channel easements)

Minimum NEPA PI Required

  • Ensure project is listed on the STIP and that any PI performed during the STIP process is incorporated into the NEPA decision
  • Ensure Project Information is published on ODOT website (Construction Plan, Work Plan, etc.)
  • Issue Public Notifications
    • Including Public Notification Letters, if impacted (e.g. access restrictions, ROW take) and/or detours
    • If only form of outreach, 30-day comment period required
    • NOTE: Right-of-Entry Letter may be substituted for Public Notification Letter but must follow template on OES website
  • Consult with Stakeholders
  • Initiate Contact with Emergency and Public Services (EMS, police, fire, schools, etc.) during the Planning or PE Phases of PDP (during NEPA)
    • If detours and/or roadway restrictions are anticipated that may cause substantial traffic disruptions
  • Underserved Populations Outreach, if applicable
    • If UP populations are identified in or adjacent to the project area additional tailored outreach to these populations may be needed. Contact OES and refer to the ODOT Underserved Populations Guidance for further guidance.

Minimum Post-NEPA PI Required

  • Public Notifications
    • Standard plan notes executed by the contractor (e.g., TEM 642-58, construction schedule coordination, detours, roadway closures, etc.)

Path 3

Description

Moderate Roadway and/or Structure Work Possibly Capacity Additions, Higher Level Environmental Documents, Require NEPA Studies and Approval in Accordance with 23 CFR 771.117(d):

  • ROW Acquisition/ Minor Utility Impacts
  • Minor Realignments and/or Reconstruction
  • Intersection/Interchange Upgrades
  • Median Widenings

Minimum NEPA PI Required

  • Ensure project is listed on the STIP and that any PI performed during the STIP process is incorporated into the NEPA decision
  • Ensure Project Information is published on ODOT Website (Construction Plan, Work Plan, etc.)
  • Develop Public Engagement Plan
    • D1 or higher level environmental document
      • Exempted from this requirement are:
        • Disposal of Excess ROW Projects
        • C2 level environmental document bumped up to D1 due to requiring an individual waterway permit
        • Limited case-by-case instances with approval from OES
    • Submit to OES for approval if D2 or higher level environmental document
  • Issue Public Notification Letters
    • If impacted or as appropriate
    • NOTE: Right-of-Entry Letter may be substituted for Public Notification Letter but must follow template on OES website
  • Consult with Stakeholders
  • Initiate Contact with Emergency and Public Services (EMS, police, fire, schools, etc.) during the Planning or PE Phases of PDP (during NEPA)
    • If detours and/or roadway restrictions are anticipated that may cause substantial traffic disruptions
  • Issue Public Notifications
    • Issue Press Release, if no public meeting
    • Post press release on social media and/or ODOT website
    • Any additional method of distribution, as needed
    • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
  • Conduct Public Meeting (Open House, Formal, or Combination), as appropriate
    • Direct invitations
      • Residents, Businesses, and Organizations within or adjacent to project area and potentially impacted by project
      • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
    • Published press release/article or paid advertisement (not in legal section)
      • Meeting date, time, and location; Project description; Project area map with construction limits and impacts clearly identified; Purpose of Meeting; Meeting Format (Open House, Presentation, Times, etc.), Project Impacts (environmental, right- of-way, MOT, etc.), Comment due date; and Contact information for only one point of contact must be included
      • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
    • Post on social media and ODOT website
      • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
    • Additional tailored outreach, as needed (especially for UPs)
  • Public review and comment period (includes consideration of and response to comments in accordance with ODOT’s Public Involvement Manual)
    • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
  • Ensure NEPA Assignment Disclosure Statement on posters or brochures available at public meetings
  • Submit all PI materials to OES for approval for D3 or higher level environmental document
  • Underserved Populations Outreach, if applicable.
    • If UP populations are identified in or adjacent to the project area additional tailored outreach to these populations may be needed. Contact OES and refer to the Underserved Populations Guidance for further guidance.

Minimum Post-NEPA PI Required

  • Public Notifications
    • Standard plan notes executed by the contractor (e.g., TEM 642-58, construction schedule coordination, detours, roadway closures, etc.)

Path 4 and 5

Description

Highest Level environmental documents, including Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs); Require NEPA Studies and Approval in Accordance with 23 CFR 771.117(d), 771.119, or 771.123.

  • Complex Roadway and/or Structure Work
  • Complex and Competing Interests
  • Added Capacity or New Alignment
  • Substantial ROW Relocations and Complex Utility Issues
  • Substantial Environmental Impacts
  • Typically Involve Multiple Alternatives and/or Access Management Considerations
  • Highway Widening, New Alignments in Urban or Rural Settings, Affects access, businesses, neighborhoods, recreational and/or historic resources;
  • Roadway or Bridge Reconstruction
  • Access Management
  • New Interchange

Minimum NEPA PI Required

  • Ensure project is listed on the STIP and that any PI performed during the STIP process is incorporated into the NEPA decision
  • Ensure Project Information is published on ODOT Website (Construction Plan, Work Plan, etc.)
  • Develop Public Engagement Plan
    • D1 or higher level environmental document
      • Exempted from this requirement are:
        • Disposal of Excess ROW Projects
        • C2 level environmental document bumped up to D1 due to requiring an individual waterway permit
        • Limited case-by-case instances with approval from OES
    • Submit to OES for approval if D2 or higher level environmental document
  • Issue Public Notification Letters
    • If impacted or as appropriate
    • NOTE: Right-of-Entry Letter may be substituted for Public Notification Letter but must follow template on OES website
  • Consult with Stakeholders
  • Initiate Contact with Emergency and Public Services (EMS, police, fire, schools, etc.) during the Planning or PE Phases of PDP (during NEPA)
    • If detours and/or roadway restrictions are anticipated that may cause substantial traffic disruptions
  • Issue Public Notifications
    • Issue Press Release, if no public meeting
    • Post press release on social media and/or ODOT website
    • Any additional method of distribution, as needed
    • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
  • Conduct Public Meeting (Open House, Formal, or Combination), as appropriate
    • Direct invitations
      • Residents, Businesses, and Organizations within or adjacent to project area and potentially impacted by project
      • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
    • Published press release/article or paid advertisement (not in legal section)
      • Meeting date, time, and location; Project description; Project area map with construction limits and impacts clearly identified; Purpose of Meeting; Meeting Format (Open House, Presentation, Times, etc.), Project Impacts (environmental, right- of-way, MOT, etc.), Comment due date; and Contact information for only one point of contact must be included
      • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
    • Post on social media and ODOT website
      • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
    • Additional tailored outreach, as needed (especially for UPs)
  • Public review and comment period (includes consideration of and response to comments in accordance with ODOT’s Public Involvement Manual)
    • Prefer 30 days (minimum 15 days)
  • Conduct Public Hearing for EA or EIS Projects
    • Requires invitations and paid advertisement (not in legal section) on the highest circulation day in the local newspaper preferably 30 days in advance of the hearing (minimum15 days) and a follow up ad (not in legal section) on the highest circulation day in the local newspaper closest to but prior to the hearing. May also use changeable message signs, etc. in project area to advertise.
    • Open mic required
    • Formal Presentation
    • Stenographer required to generate transcript
    • EA/EIS document must be made available to the public a minimum of 15 days prior to public hearing
    • Public review and comment period (includes consideration of and response to comments)
      • Minimum 30 days
    • Public Hearing Summary document must be made available to the public following the hearing (via direct email or posted on ODOT website)
  • Ensure NEPA Assignment Disclosure Statement on posters or brochures available at public meetings
  • Submit all PI materials to OES for approval for D3 or higher level environmental document
  • Underserved Populations Outreach, if applicable.
    • If UP populations are identified in or adjacent to the project area additional tailored outreach to these populations may be needed. Contact OES and refer to the Underserved Populations Guidance for further guidance.

Minimum Post-NEPA PI Required

  • Public Notifications
    • Standard plan notes executed by the contractor (e.g., TEM 642-58, construction schedule coordination, detours, roadway closures, etc.)
ODOT has been assigned FHWA's responsibilities pursuant to the Surface Transportation Projct Delivery Program, otherwise known as NEPA Assignment. The environmental review, consultation, and other actions required by Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act are being carried out by ODOT pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 327 and a Memorandum of Understanding dated June 6, 2018, and executed by FHWA and ODOT.