An effective public involvement program provides a mechanism to keep the stakeholders informed throughout the project development process, to obtain valuable data related to the project, and to become aware of any project-related issues in a timelier manner. An ongoing public involvement program can also help to establish a degree of trust and credibility between the stakeholders and the project team members and foster public acceptance of the project. Regulation 23 CFR 771.111(h)(2) requires that State public involvement/public hearing procedures provide for:
The regulation emphasizes the need for early and continuing opportunities for public involvement. While much of this interaction may occur during the design process, the continuation of such public involvement activities may be necessary during the construction phase of the project, dependent upon the specifics of the project.
Five basic components of a public involvement program include:
Each of these components builds on the previous one. For example, the goals and objectives may help identify which stakeholders are contacted. The stakeholders may help determine what techniques are used, etc.
The goals and objectives of a successful public involvement program should be considered throughout all phases of the project.
The noise-related aspects of a public involvement program are aimed at presenting project-related information to the public and obtaining public views and input. During the earlier phases of project development, the project's purpose and need is presented to regulatory agencies and the public. Both have opportunities to comment and provide input related to purpose and need. Presentations are made of the range of alternatives under consideration. Broad-scale corridor-type alternatives are usually presented in the earlier stages of project development when no or limited data is available related to noise effects. As such, any discussions related to project-related and construction-related noise are typically qualitative in nature at this stage.
As a wider and more detailed range of alternatives is developed, horizontal and vertical alignments options are usually evaluated along with options such as traffic management measures. Existing and planned land uses are usually considered during this stage in identifying noise sensitive or noise study areas (NSAs), noise measurement plans, and noise analysis sites. Public involvement activities can provide a means of conveying information on study plans plus provide a means of identifying (through public input) areas of concern or importance that might otherwise have been overlooked. The public involvement process also provides the opportunity of stakeholders to review and comment on existing noise levels (both measured and modeled), future predicted noise levels, and preliminary noise abatement considerations. At this stage, the discussion of construction noise is typically still conceptual in nature. The development of the RCNMref083 and ref 084 now provides a tool for evaluating construction noise in more detail than a qualitative analysis, but without the necessity of an extensive analysis. As such, some quantitative evaluation may be appropriate at this stage using general project information.
Details related to final determinations associated with noise abatement measures (items such as barrier types, colors, textures, etc.) are typically presented during the final design phase. During this period, the public often provides input regarding barrier details and may vote on noise abatement options. For the majority of highway improvement projects, construction noise may be discussed in qualitative terms, except on major and controversial projects where detailed information of construction noise may be presented. The RCNM may be a useful tool at this stage, when more detailed project-related information is available. Such information may be presented in a table similar to Table 8.1 below.
Table 8.1 Summary of Estimated Construction Noise Levels Based on RCNM.
|Site||Existing Noise Levels in dBA||Assumed Construction Operation||Equipment Assumed to Be Operating||Assumed Distance (in feet) from Equipment to Site||Estimated Noise from Construction Activity in dBA||Estimated Increase in Noise Due To Construction Operation in dBA|
|Front End Loader||175||64.2||68.2|
|Mounted Impact Hammer (hoe ram)||175||72.4||79.4|
|B||75.7||86.3||Wall Construction||Auger Drill Rig||30||81.8||88.8|
|Concrete Mixer Truck||100||68.8||72.8|
|Flat Bed Truck||200||58.2||62.2|
|C||74.6||88.5||Excavation, Including Some Rock Removal||Backhoe||200||61.5||65.5|
During the construction of most projects, noise-related public involvement activities are most often related to responses to specific concerns from adjacent property owners. However, major or more sensitive projects may have a construction noise control/mitigation program that includes a public involvement element. In such instances, there could be ongoing noise monitoring during construction, established construction noise criteria, and a related reporting process to the public.
Figure 8.1 Construction in the community (Photo #925)
Depending upon the makeup of the project study area, the project stakeholders will likely be comprised of a mixture of elements such as:
Figure 8.2 Multiple land uses in a project area (Photo #1305)
While all of these stakeholders may be involved at some point within the project development process and may have specific interests related to noise issues, it is most likely that construction-related noise issues will be of concern primarily to citizens, institutions, and businesses. Each area is likely represented by one or more elected or appointed officials that represent the residents, institutions, and business interests in that area.
A wide variety of techniques are available for informing the public of the noise-related aspects of the project and receiving public input, including:
Figure 8.3 Public meeting presentation (Photo #485)
Figure 8.4 Field walks to project area with public (Photo #625)
Figure 8.5 Project construction information provided via updates on website
Figure 8.6 Public plans display (Photo #753)
Figure 8.7 Signs in the neighborhood (Photo #561)
Figure 8.8 Other ways the public provides its input (Photo #1298)
It is important to remember that no one technique or method is best for all projects. What works well for one project may be a failure on another. For this reason, it is essential that the methods selected be tailored to the particular project, the project area, and the stage of the project. A public involvement activity used to discuss noise barriers in the design process may not be the best technique to use in addressing a construction noise related issue during the project's construction phase.
Regardless of the public involvement technique(s) utilized, it is useful to have a specific program or process by which to deal with any complaints received from the community or the public at large. This could include having a specific communications strategyref057 (including an advertised phone number or website address dedicated to the reporting of complaints) or personnel assigned to the project for the specific purpose of dealing with noise-related complaints. States may also choose to include noise-related incentives and/or disincentives in construction contracts and/or include language in such contracts enabling the State to shut down a project if noise-related criteria are not met or if prescribed abatement programs are not adequately implemented.
The listed techniques are best evaluated on a project-by-project, stage-by-stage basis, with the timing of public involvement meetings, newsletters, and other information-disseminating events dictated by when pertinent noise-related information is available as opposed to some arbitrary schedule, such as a meeting every 3 months.
It is important that the results of public involvement activities are adequately documented and that all construction noise related issues are addressed in a timely manner. It is equally important that the responses to comments are disseminated in a manner that enables the public to recognize how their comments were addressed. Conveying the results of the analyses or actions performed to address a construction noise related issue could occur in several ways. Response to a comment dealing with a broad issue may best be disseminated via a newsletter or published meeting minutes. If the comment pertains to an issue related to just one or two individuals, then it may be more appropriate to respond to each individual with a letter or phone call. It may also be useful to begin the next public meeting with a summary of changes made as the result of previous comments or to point out any changes or additional data that was generated as the result of previous comments.
Figure 8.9 General and specific noise concerns (Photos #1206 & #1207)
Many factors can affect the budget and schedule of a public involvement program and the project as a whole. The budget and schedule of a public involvement program obviously affects the overall project budget and schedule, and vice-versa. While it may be worthwhile to incorporate a substantial amount of time and resources into a noise-related public involvement program, the project's overall budget and schedule might accommodate a less ambitious program.
Input received during the public involvement program could affect (positively or negatively) both the project timetable and budget. Examples related to construction noise issues could include stakeholders' views (spurred by noise concerns) on specific construction events, timing, schedule of operations, and detour routes.
In addition to the main components of a public involvement program just presented, several other factors are worth considering.
It is important for the location of public participation event to be consistent with the intent of the event and the type of information to be presented. Some State DOT facilities have varying sizes of meeting rooms, while others are more limited. Unless the State DOT facility is in proximity to the project area, it is probably more convenient to hold any meeting within the project area.
If the intent is to strictly present generalized construction noise data during the project design phases and solicit general comments from the public, an auditorium setting may be appropriate. However, if the intent is to discuss specifics with the public on a one-on-one basis or to conduct a workshop, then a gymnasium setting may be better. One-on-one interaction and face-to-face presentations with stakeholders may be essential in order to get the message/options across.
In addition, the means of presenting data should be considered. If data are presented on paper plans, then a gymnasium setting usually works better than an auditorium. If data are presented via projection methods using a tool such as PowerPoint, either type facility may work well, assuming an adequate size of screen is used. Larger type meeting rooms are usually best for public hearings and meetings required as part of the NEPA environmental process. During this process, noise will be just one of a variety of topics presented and discussed, and construction-related noise issues may or may not be an issue. Smaller meeting rooms usually work better for meetings with individual community groups, assuming all plans can be adequately displayed or presented and the room size comfortably accommodates the expected audience. For smaller groups, a residence within the community often provides a relaxed location for more informal types of meetings. Similarly, meetings in the field can provide important information that cannot be depicted as well in a meeting room. Such field visits are often particularly useful in giving residents an understanding of a particular construction noise issue. Such field views are usually limited to relatively small groups.
Combinations of the above venues may be appropriate. For instance, a large auditorium may be used for a general presentation of the project and construction noise related policies and procedures, followed by one-on-one question and answer sessions in a gymnasium or smaller breakout room to discuss site-specific construction noise levels and issues. A meeting may be held in a resident's home to discuss construction noise issues of specific interest to only a small group of individuals, possibly followed by a field trip to the project site.
It is important that the content and detail of presented information be consistent with the ability of the public to understand and comprehend such information and that the information is relevant to the specific interests of the particular public to which it is disseminated. Information that is too detailed can tend to confuse and frustrate the public. Conversely, generalized information presented to people interested in receiving specific information can be perceived as an attempt to hide information or avoid an issue. In summary, know the audience. This will dictate and define many of the issues of content and detail.
It is essential that consideration of construction-related noise issues occur as early as possible within the project development process. For certain projects, such considerations may not be possible until late in the final design phase. However, under certain conditions, the potential for construction-related noise effects may be recognizable earlier in the project design development. The lack of information sharing at all levels and directions can be costly and cause frustration, delays, and loss of public confidence. It is therefore critical that the project team share information among themselves, with the rest of the department, with other government agencies (federal, State, and local), with the contractors and subcontractors, with the community, and with any other stakeholders. A sense of involvement and knowledge by the interested parties tends to reduce conflict during the crucial stages of any project.
Construction-related noise coordination can occur at any stage and at the intra-agency, inter-agency, and/or public involvement level. Consideration of potential construction-related issues by project planners or metropolitan planning agencies during early project planning stages may help shape the alternatives evaluated by agency engineers or their consultants during subsequent design phases and may have a bearing on the ultimate selection of a recommended alternative. For instance, an alternative could appear very favorable from an operation and environmental standpoint but could be ruled out or substantially modified early in the project planning stages based on information related to potential construction noise issues.
Early construction-related coordination may also affect how a project is ultimately constructed. For instance, if a project is planned in the area of a facility such as an outdoor amphitheatre, park, or fairground, which has numerous summertime outdoor events, the construction staging may be modified accordingly to avoid operations during these periods or events. For projects in the vicinity of schools, it may be more appropriate to schedule project construction (or at least the noisiest activities) during the season when classes are not in session.
Construction noise-related conditions and decisions can affect not only the project schedule, but also the project costs. This can result in a project's timeframe being extended into additional construction years and have an effect on maintenance operations, particularly if such decisions affect scheduled maintenance projects in the area or normal maintenance operations such as snow removal. As such, for budgetary, operational, and scheduling reasons, it is best to identify such contributing factors as early as possible in the project development process.
As decisions related to construction-related noise issues are identified and addressed during the various project development phases, it is essential that they be documented and relayed to individuals responsible for project development activities during subsequent phases. Table 8.2 provides an example of how such considerations and decisions could be "passed on" through the project development process.
As each project will likely have its own unique coordination issues and opportunities, Table 8.2 provides merely a sample of some possible coordination interactions and supplements the material presented earlier in this chapter related to the various means of and venues for obtaining input and disseminating information related to construction noise issues.
Table 8.2 Coordination Throughout Project Development.
|Project Phase||Information Obtained and/or Developed/Supplied By:||Information Passed on To:||Possible Means of Information Exchange|
|Planners||Designers and/or Consultants||Construction Personnel||Maintenance Personnel||Equipment Suppliers||Local Officials||The Public||Planners||Designers and/or Consultants||Construction Personnel||Maintenance Personnel||Local Officials||The Public|
|Planning||X||X||X||Planning process documents and hearings|
|X||X||X||X||Public hearing and public involvement process|
|Preliminary Engineering and Environmental||X||X||Planning process documents|
|X||X||X||Environmental documents and associated public involvement process|
|X||X||X||Public meetings and/or hearings|
|Final Design||X||X||Public meetings|
|X||X||Information requests for equipment noise levels|
|X||X||X||Response for plan/specification review|
|X||X||X||Requested review of proposed construction schedule and operations|
|Construction||X||X||Coordination related to design-related plans and specifications, design changes, etc.|
|X||X||X||Construction-related noise complaints/issues|
|X||X||X||X||Response to construction-related noise issues|