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FHWA/FTA Questions and Answers on Public Involvement in Transportation Decisionmaking

[12] Does reasonable public access to technical and policy information include access to technical assumptions underlying the planning and emissions models used in carrying out transportation decisionmaking and air quality conformity determinations?

Yes. Under the ISTEA and related regulations, the public must have reasonable access to technical assumptions and specifications used in planning and emissions models. This includes access to input assumptions such as population projections, land use projections, fares, tolls, levels of service, the structure and specifications of travel demand and other evaluation tools. To the maximum extent possible, all technical information should be made available in formats which are easily accessible and understandable by the general public.

Special requests for raw data, data in specific formats, or requests for other information must be considered in terms of their reasonableness with respect to preparation time and costs. Public involvement procedures should include parameters for determining reasonableness. In order to facilitate public involvement yet conserve limited staff resources, State DOTs and MPOs should consider making information available to interested parties on a regular basis through communication tools such as: reports, electronic bulletin boards, computer disks, data compilations, briefings, question and answer sessions, and telephone hotlines. Reports or other written documents should be easily accessible to the public in public libraries, educational institutions, government offices, or other places and at times convenient to the public.

When the public agency receives a request to perform an analysis that it had not considered, the State DOT or MPO needs to make a determination as to the reasonableness of the request. If the State DOT or MPO decides to perform the analysis, it should make all relevant information available to all interested parties. If it decides not to include the analysis as part of its transportation decisionmaking, it should respond to the request by indicating why it decided not to do so. The early involvement of interested parties in the analytical process can facilitate early agreement on the scope and range of analyses to be conducted by the public agency.

When agency staff conducts analyses that are not required for the transportation planning process and on which non-Federal funds are used, the agency is not obligated to make such information available. State DOTs and MPOs are encouraged to make such information available, given the premise that transportation decisionmaking is an open process. Similarly, State DOTs and MPOs should review State and local regulations which may mandate that such information be made available to the public.

Updated: 5/16/2013
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