DOT Public Involvement Reference Tool
About DOT Public Involvement
Welcome to the Public Involvement Reference Tool. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed this reference tool as a technical resource for transportation professionals and the public. The reference tool is designed to help you find specific public involvement documents, discover and share best practices, and to assist State transportation agencies (STAs) to improve their transparency, efficiency, and accountability. The reference tool encourages more open governmental decisionmaking that facilitatescitizen participation and collaboration.
How Does the Reference Tool Work?
The reference tool consists of a Web-based matrix that contains links to all 52 STA public involvement-related Web sites, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. You can find the reference tool at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/public_involvement/reference_tool/. After opening the site, you will see, on the page's left side, links to each Web site.
Across the top of the site, from left to right, is a list of the following important public involvement topics and issues:
- Joint Public Involvement Plans
- Statewide Planning Public Involvement Plan (PIP)
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Public Involvement Plan (PIP)
- Environmental Justice (EJ) Policy Statement
- Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
- Title VI/Nondiscrimination Plan
- Native American Tribal Consultation
- SNS, RSS (511 or Twitter)
- SMS (Facebook, YouTube)
Within the matrix are individual links that take you to a Web site that contains information about that State's best practices for public involvement and other associated public involvement information.
Definitions of Topics in the Matrix
- Joint Public Involvement Plans (PIPs) - Although not a requirement, some States have combined the planning and NEPA public involvement processes for the State's entire transportation program.
- Statewide Planning Public Involvement Process
- 23 U.S.C. §135 (f)(1)(C) -The State must provide a reasonable opportunity to comment on the proposed plan.
- 23 CFR §450.210 - The State is required to develop and use a documented public involvement process that provides opportunities for public review and comment at key planning decision points.
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Public Involvement Process - 42 U.S.C. §4331 et seq. NEPA's procedural requirements apply to all Federal agencies in the executive branch. NEPA requires agencies to undertake an assessment of the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. Two major purposes of the environmental review process are better informed decisions and citizen involvement.
- 40 CFR §1506.6 (a)-(f) requires the following efforts:
- Involving the public in preparing and implementing NEPA procedures;
- Providing public notice of hearings or meetings and the availability of environmental documents;
- Holding public hearings or meetings;
- Soliciting appropriate information from the public;
- Explaining where interested persons can get information on environmental impact statements (EISs); and
- Making EIS comments available to the public.
- 23 CFR §771.111 (h) stipulates that each State must have procedures approved by the FHWA to carry out a public involvement-public hearing program.
- Environmental Justice (EJ) - On February 11, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations(PDF, 20KB). The executive order requires that "each Federal agency shall, to the greatest extent allowed by law, administer and implement its programs, policies, and activities that affect human health or the environment so as to identify and avoid 'disproportionately high and adverse' effects on minority and low-income populations."
- Limited English Proficiency (LEP) - On August 11, 2000, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13166: Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). This requires Federal agencies to provide meaningful access to their programs, services, and activities to people who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. The FHWA and recipients of FHWA funds are required to take reasonable steps to ensure LEP persons have opportunities to access transportation programs and activities, and to provide input into transportation decisions. An effective public involvement process should include the LEP's four-factor analysis: (1) the number or proportion of LEP persons; (2) the frequency LEP persons come into contact with the transportation program; (3) the nature or importance of the program; and (4) the resources and costs available to the recipient.
- In Executive Order 12898, Section 5-5refers to LEP and states, "Whenever practicable and appropriate, [to] translate crucial public documents, notices and hearings for limited English speaking populations; and [to] ensure that public documents, notices and hearings are concise, understandable and readily accessible to the public."
- Title VI/Nondiscrimination Plan - Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits nondiscrimination in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. State Transportation Agencies that receive assistance from FHWA must submit a Title VI/Nondiscrimination Implementation Plan showing how they intend to comply with Title VI and other nondiscrimination authorities. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, and national origin. Other nondiscrimination laws cover sex, age, and disability. Identifying public involvement activities in transportation decisionmaking-in planning and environment, for example-is significant to implementing a sound Title VI/Nondiscrimination Program.
- Native American Tribal Consultation - Under the transportation planning program, tribal consultation is a distinct form of cooperation or consultation to be undertaken by the States in the development of statewide long-range transportation plans and statewide transportation improvement programs with Indian tribal areas and the Secretary of the Interior. Discussion on environmental mitigation activities of the long-range transportation plan must be developed in consultation with tribes.
- System Network Service (SNS) - A social network or networking service, most often called SNS, is a medium for establishing social networks of people who share interests and activities. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks. Most social network services are Web-based and provide means for users to interact in various ways, such as e-mail and instant messaging. For example, most States [and the FHWA] use Facebook or YouTube for their SNS.
- Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary (RSS) - A format-based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), which is created to easily share Web content and is particularly suitable for news items. Users can use it to display headlines on another site, or they can use a program called a "news aggregator" to read the news. These programs allow users to subscribe to various RSS feeds from different news sites. The programs automatically go to the Web sites to check for updates, so the stories come to them without having to check the sites for new stories. Most States use RSS for up-to-date traffic feeds and accident reporting.
- Short Message Service (SMS) - This is the transmission of short text messages to and from a mobile phone, fax machine, or Internet Protocol (IP) address. Messages must be no longer than 160 alpha-numeric characters and contain no images or graphics. SMS typically pertains to "Twitter" or "tweets." Twitter is a Web site that enables users to send and read text-based posts up to 140 characters on the user's profile page.
Reference Tool Application
The matrix links within the State Web sites lead to information on the STA's public involvement process and on the availability to participate in these various forums. The tool can help the STAs improve their public involvement plans and enhance their own Web sites with the following:
- Improve access to information and provide examples on other STA Web site accessibility, navigation, and design.
- Allow the STA to evaluate the different media applications in the State's public involvement outreach and increase the STA's level of engagement.
- Refer and share each State's practices in public involvement, Title VI/Nondiscrimination, environmental justice, limited English proficiency, and tribal consultation.
For comments or questions on the reference tool, please contact Lorrie Lau, FHWA Office of Planning (Lorrie.Lau@dot.gov), Katiann Wong-Murillo, FHWA's Resource Center Environment Technical Service Team (Katiann.Wong-Murillo@dot.gov) or Teresa Banks, FHWA's Resource Center Civil Rights Technical Service Team (Teresa.Banks@dot.gov ).