104.8 Public Involvement in Project Scoping
Another important element of effective project scoping is the inclusion of the appropriate type and amount of public involvement and outreach early in the process and specifically prior to the determination of the solution. Comments from the general public, land owners, local elected officials, other state and federal agencies, local planning agencies, etc may influence the direction that the core team is taking with regard to the scope of the project. Inclusion of this involvement prior to determining specific solutions and making STIP commitments should help change the misconception that MoDOT has already determined the solution to the need and is not receptive to public input at the time public input is solicited.
It is important to remember that key factors to the success of any public involvement efforts are the inclusion of the appropriate type and amount of public involvement. Early in the project scoping process the core team should develop a public involvement plan that is appropriate for each project. The nature and complexity of the project along with the core team’s specialized knowledge of any sensitive issues within the area will determine the best course of action to gain public input into the development of the project’s scope. Proper public input can be an effective tool to help verify that the correct need has been identified and an appropriate solution is being developed for it. The guidance found in EPG 129.11.1 Formal Public Hearings provides a good background for what constitutes appropriate public involvement and should be consulted when developing a public involvement plan.
As recommended previously in this article, the minimum level of project development that should occur prior to completion of scoping occurs at the preliminary plan stage. This is also the level of development that marks the appropriate time to hold the design public hearing. Based on the nature of the project there may have also been previous public hearings or meetings held. This public input, in addition to the less formal input received throughout the scoping process, should all be included in the development of the correct solution to satisfy the need. STIP commitments should not be made until the concerns of the public are adequately addressed by the proposed solution.