Transportation investments can have major influences on society, with significant economic and social consequences. Community impact assessment is a process to evaluate the effects of a proposed transportation action on a community and its quality of life. The assessment should include all items of importance to people, such as mobility, safety, employment effects, relocation, isolation, and other community issues.
In the past, the consequences of transportation projects on communities have often been overlooked or introduced near the end of the project planning process, reducing them to reactive considerations at best. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has prepared the publication: Community Impacts Assessment as a quick primer for transportation professionals and analysts who assess the impacts of proposed transportation actions on communities. It outlines the community impact assessment process which parallels the FHWA environmental process.
A community impacts assessment alerts affected communities and residents as well as transportation planners and decisionmakers to the likely consequences of a proposed project, and ensures that human values and concerns receive proper attention during project planning and development. The Community Impact Assessment handbook describes how community impact assessment is important for quality of life, responsive decision-making, coordination, and non-discrimination.
Communities are always in a state of change. The community and its makeup influence planning projections, choice of transportation mode, and the impacts of projects on the community. The need for collecting accurate and useful information for use in the development of transportation projects has been recognized for some time. 23 United States Code 109(h) first appeared with the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1970. It requires that the effects of transportation projects upon residences, businesses, tax base, and other community resources be considered during transportation decision-making.
Communities are in the best position to know current business and population trends. Local government aencies are generally best ablet o provide the most recent demographic and economic data about communities. However, there are several credible sources which can also provide comparable information. Also, Public involvement activities can encourage the public to provide this data directly while providing a glimpse at the demographic makeup and values of part of the community. The public can help identify what impacts to their community system are of concern and what mitigation might be acceptable, and what will not. Keeping in touch with the community through planned public involvement activities is an ongoing process--just as community impact assessment is an ongoing process because of its constant state of change. As the community continues to change, and impacts of transportation alternatives and their mitigation are revealed, they can create new impacts on or concerns in the community.
Laws and Regulations and Agency Guidance on Community Resources and Impacts