Linking Planning & NEPA

By engaging the public in developing a vision for the corridor, project sponsors can help create a sense of ownership among members of the public which may reduce public opposition during NEPA review. Documentation of public involvement can be included in the NEPA record.

Early public outreach may not be feasible for all corridor studies given the resource investment required. However, early outreach may ultimately prove cost effective if it helps avoid opposition, delay, and the need for additional analysis later in the project.

Examples

In the I 710 Freeway Major Corridor Study, the first round of public involvement was insufficient and opposition to the project was significant. This required LA Metro to develop a more inclusive public participation process, with a special emphasis on local residents and businesses, designed to give local residents ownership over the outcome. The principle notion behind this community-based approach is that communities experiencing the I 710-related problems on a day-to-day, first-hand basis are best suited to generate ideas and recommendations for solutions. The community engagement process  also established a tiered community participation structure. The Tier 1 Community Advisory Committee (CAC) structure provided forums for locally affected communities to voice concerns regarding issues affecting the I 710 and suggest opportunities for improvement to the freeway while the Tier 2 Corridor level Advisory Committee is a corridor-wide committee that includes the chairpersons of all the Tier I CACs, as well as appointees from the environmental, academic, labor, and business communities.

A comprehensive public participation process was conducted and documented for the South Orange County Major Investment Study, completed in October 2008. This process was applied in all phases of the study, including development of the Purpose and Needs Statement, identifying initial improvement alternatives, and developing the Locally Preferred Strategy. OCTA also solicited feedback on their outreach efforts and sends updates to those who sign up the study mailing list.

The current Central Orange County Corridor Major Investment Study includes a Stakeholders Working Group with representatives from residential, educational, business, entertainment, and health care communities throughout the study area. Additionally, the Speakers Bureau program at OCTA provides free presentations to local civic, business, and professional organizations with the goal of educating Orange County residents on transportation initiatives and project planning.

During the Community and Environmental Transportation Acceptability Process (CETAP), the Riverside County Transportation Authority held over 20 public information meetings over a four-year period and documented these meetings for use in the project development phases of later studies.

Resources

The Idaho Corridor Planning Guidebook (2006) includes public participation guidelines for Corridor Planning (see Appendix A). The U.S. 20 Ashton to Montana State Line Corridor Plan3 by the Idaho Transportation Department included extensive public involvement for the analysis of various improvements.

Appendix C of the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT)’s Corridor Study Process to link planning studies and NEPA/Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) reviews provides guidance for documenting public involvement.