Category:129 Public Involvement

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Missouri citizens expect and demand an active voice in the location and design of transportation facilities. They recognize the important role transportation has in their life as well as the life of their community. Existing transportation facilities and in particular transportation improvements, have a direct impact on the social, economic and environmental resources of the community. As a result, MoDOT values the input the public provides on transportation improvements and has established various methods to gather it. Some of these methods are:

In addition, MoDOT provides useful; information to Missourians concerning the operation of the highway system. This information is available from the following sources:

The development of quality transportation improvements depends on early, often and continuous involvement of the public in project decisions. Additionally, real time information about the State’s highway system permits the traveling public to use it efficiently. MoDOT always looks for ways to improve the quantity and quality of transportation information to the citizens of Missouri.

The public frequently questions not only the design and physical features of a project, but also its basic premise (the purpose and need) and assumptions (e.g., the range of alternatives) as identified by MoDOT.

It is important to remember that gaining public involvement through any means, including the formal public hearing, is not just a base to be touched or a box to be checked in the project development process. Public involvement allows MoDOT to gather real, valid input on transportation needs and to work with customers to refine solutions that meet those needs.

This involvement is also important as we attempt to develop transportation projects within the context of the communities we serve. Early and continuous solicitation of public opinion will identify what customers expect from our improvements.

A successful project development team includes engineers, technicians, environmental, cultural resource, right of way personnel and public affairs professionals. With these combined resources, a truly effective public involvement plan can be developed for each project, maximizing our opportunity to arrive at the best transportation solution.

The following guidelines for public meetings and hearings are not to be viewed as complete. They outline the minimum level of effort for public meetings; however, more effort is expected on most projects.

Particular care will be paid to contacting property owners adjacent to the improvement, public officials, elected representatives, law enforcement, schools and emergency services regarding the proposed improvement. Innovative methods to involve minority and economically disadvantaged sectors of the community, as well as other groups (senior citizens, economic development interests, and historical and environmental groups) are to be used.

Often the people who attend public information meetings are not a true representation of the public at large, rather they are primarily those who fear they will be adversely impacted by the proposed improvement. Therefore, the challenge exists to find ways to reach the broadest spectrum of the community.

MoDOT efforts are expected to exceed the minimum necessary to satisfy state and federal regulations. Our efforts must provide a truly inclusive atmosphere for public input into the determination of the purpose and need, the development of a range of alternatives, and the choice of selected alternatives and plans for transportation improvements.

Public hearings and public meetings are forums for receiving citizen comments. Both are used to comply with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission's desire to furnish the public with general information and to allow the public to express their opinions regarding highway matters. Information related to the impacts of a proposed action can also be gathered. SAFETEA-LU specifically requires public involvement in the definition of the purpose and need for a project and in the determination of the range of alternatives to be considered. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and FHWA regulation 23 CFR 771 require one or more public hearings or opportunity for hearing(s). The Commission directs MoDOT to conduct location and design public hearings to gather public comment. Public hearings have a prescribed format, while public meetings are generally optional events and are tailored to meet department or community needs. Specific public meetings that may be necessary are prelocation study meetings. Agency scoping meetings, the only type of required meeting where the general public is not specifically invited, are normally required for projects with potential significant impacts on the environment.

Prelocation study meetings and public hearings must be advertised and structured to ensure opportunities for minority, low income and disadvantaged populations to participate. Additional effort may be required by the district to identify and contact these populations. These efforts, beyond advertisements in newspapers and media announcements, will be documented for inclusion in environmental documents and for departmentwide Title VI and environmental justice compliance. Minority and disadvantaged populations are those defined by Title VI and Environmental Justice guidance. Low income populations are those defined by the census category. If there are questions concerning minority and disadvantaged population participation, contact the socioeconomic specialist in the Design Division.

Contents

129.1 Prelocation Study Meetings

A prelocation study meeting is held for all projects with an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) environmental classification prior to the preparation of a location study/environmental report. For projects with an environmental classification of Categorical Exclusion (CE) or Open-ended Categorical Exclusion (CE2) that may have effects on the environment, or contemplate alternate locations around or through communities, a prelocation study meeting will be held prior to the preparation of a conceptual study or CE2 documentation. The MoDOT project manager is responsible for scheduling and coordination of the prelocation study meeting in cooperation with the Design Division, for all projects including those in which consultants are used to perform the study. This does not mean that the MoDOT project manager cannot assign duties for the meeting to the consultant’s staff if applicable. However, the MoDOT project manager is responsible for the content and quality of the meeting.

The purpose of a prelocation study meeting is to describe the general nature of the proposed project to the public and to obtain comments concerning the project's purpose and need, the range of alternatives and their impact on local communities and the environment of the area. Primary information sought will concern community values, goals and objectives, and other areas of special interest of which the local citizens may be aware including history, archaeology, geology, biology and public lands in the study area. The draft Purpose and Need document, as accepted by the Design Division, will be available at the meeting for consideration and comment by the public. Comments and information received at the meeting will be used to refine or expand the draft Purpose and Need prior to its inclusion as a section of the Location Study Report.

At least two months prior to the prelocation study meeting date, two copies of a written Request for Environmental Services (RES) will be sent to the Design Division requesting preliminary scoping, screening and early constraint identification (including but not limited to wetlands, cultural resources and public use areas). The Design Division, after receiving the request, will perform the necessary internal scoping (as opposed to agency scoping), screening and constraint identification activities. The information that is gathered during screening will be given to the MoDOT project manager to be used in display preparation. Preliminary scoping may also consist of agency scoping meetings for complex projects or written agency correspondence for less complex projects as determined by the Design Division and FHWA. The information from the screening and constraint identification is presented to the public at this meeting, as it can limit potential alternatives and is therefore made available at the prelocation study meeting. An exception, however, is the location of archaeological sites, endangered species, and caves will not be disclosed in an effort to prevent habitat destruction, vandalism and looting of these sites.

Displays available at the prelocation study meeting are general in nature showing the entire study area with no definite solutions identified. Typically these include one display showing all environmental and cultural constraints identified as a result of the written request for environmental services, except for archaeological sites. Other displays might include information from the Purpose and Need document concerning accidents, capacity and/or deficiencies of the existing facility. A display showing the general process for completion of a location study/environmental report with the prelocation study meeting stage highlighted is helpful to the public in understanding the magnitude of the process that MoDOT must complete. For projects where relocation of a route might be an option, a blank display on which the public can draw suggested alignments is helpful. A display that shows the range of alternatives considered is also helpful to the public. This display must be included in the environmental document. Alternatives that will not be carried forward for further consideration are to be identified with reasons for the decision. Preparation of all displays is the responsibility of the district and will be retained for possible use at future meetings.

Adequate and appropriate staff will be available to answer questions from the public during the meeting. This staff normally includes the district engineer, project manager, public affairs specialist and the project designer. Other staff would be included as needed on a project-by-project basis. The Design Division is consulted when it is necessary for particular specialists from the division to attend the meeting. If consultant staff is involved in the preparation of the study, appropriate members of the consultant staff will also attend. The project manager is responsible for coordinating attendance of appropriate staff from the district, consultant and the Central Office prior to holding the meeting.

Appropriate news releases are prepared and distributed for publication by the district in advance of the prelocation study meeting so the general public will have an opportunity to attend and to participate. A copy of the news release is sent to the State Design Engineer and FHWA. In addition to the news releases, specific notification of the meeting is made to interested property owners, community leaders, planning commission representatives, local representatives of state agencies (i.e., the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources) and any other special interest groups. Federal resource agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the appropriate U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district office, and others are also notified of the meeting. The U.S. Coast Guard is notified if the proposed action involves a navigable waterway. Minority and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) groups are invited to this meeting, if they exist in the project area.

Following the prelocation study meeting, the district provides the Design Division with a summary of the meeting along with any handouts that were used. Written comments received as a result of the meeting are also provided. This summary includes a synopsis of public comments expressed at the meeting. If appropriate, the transmittal letter includes any recommended solutions or revisions that would address the concerns brought up at the meeting. Comments and recommendations from the meeting will be utilized by the district in refining the purpose and need for the project, developing the range of reasonable alternatives and developing the location study/environmental report. Additional scoping meetings with the public or other agencies may also be held at this stage of project development. Any meetings held by the district or the Design Division are documented for use in the preparation of the location study/environmental report.

129.2 Agency Scoping Meetings

Meetings with concerned governmental agencies are held on all projects with an environmental classification of EIS and for complex EAs unless prior consent is obtained from FHWA. Agency scoping meetings are held prior to the preparation of the location study/environmental report, but following the preparation of the draft Purpose and Need document and the preliminary screening. Agency scoping meetings may be held prior to or following prelocation study meetings. Agency scoping meetings are generally held in Jefferson City as needed on specific projects. They may also be incorporated into the Periodic Agency Meetings held by the Design Division at the discretion of the environmental process and policy specialist and FHWA.

These meetings will describe the general nature of the proposed project and will obtain comments from the agencies concerning the project's purpose and need, the range of alternatives and their impact on the environment. An Agency Scoping Meeting defines the issues and alternatives that will be examined in detail in the EIS or EA while simultaneously devoting less attention and time to those issues that cause no concern. The MoDOT project manager initiates this meeting working through the environmental representative in the Design Division. It is generally held in Jefferson City in coordination with FHWA. The MoDOT project manager is responsible for arranging the meeting. This includes the coordination of attendance by appropriate staff (district, Central Office, consultant, etc.) and coordination of topics and displays to be presented at the meeting. This does not mean that the MoDOT project manager cannot assign duties for the meeting to consultant staff if applicable. However, the MoDOT project manager is responsible for the content and the quality of the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, the district will send invitations to all appropriate agencies with the meeting time and location. The district will supply the Design Division and FHWA with copies of the draft Purpose and Need document along with any other pertinent information concerning the proposed project that was mailed with the invitation. A map showing the study area is also necessary.

At this meeting displays are available covering the study area showing all known constraints, both environmental and engineering. The range of alternatives that have been or are being considered are shown. These can be the same displays used at the prelocation study meeting. The MoDOT project manager will facilitate the meeting and briefly present the project Purpose and Need. Other topics presented and discussed will be unique to the specific project. It may be appropriate to have a general overview of known environmental and cultural constraints and it may be necessary to have a specific specialist in attendance with a presentation of one constraint. The MoDOT project manager will coordinate the agenda ahead of time with the environmental representative from the Design Division to ensure a productive and informative meeting occurs in the time allotted. Coordination between the MoDOT project manager, district staff, the consultant staff if applicable, and the Design Division must occur prior to the meeting. All four groups have a role in the meeting.

The environmental section in the Design Division will coordinate periodic meetings with all governmental agencies. These meetings will share information concerning upcoming EA and EIS projects. They will also discuss the status of ongoing projects with the various agencies that are involved. Part of the agenda may be set aside for any agency scoping meetings that are needed. Agency issues beyond specific project issues will also be discussed.

District staff will be notified of the date and agenda in advance of the periodic meetings. District participation in the meetings will be coordinated with the MoDOT project managers involved for any specific projects on the agenda, but not necessarily with policy or procedure topics. Minutes of all meetings will be mailed to the district engineers.

129.3 Location Public Hearings

One or more public hearings or opportunity for hearing(s) are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and FHWA regulation 23 CFR Part 771. The Commission requires a location public hearing for all projects with an environmental classification of EA and EIS. Projects with an environmental classification of CE may require a location public hearing if conditions are similar to those described for design public hearings. It may be acceptable to hold a combined location and design public hearing for CE projects. It should be noted that CE2 projects can be reclassified by FHWA as either EA or CE. This reclassification will occur before the time of any expected location public hearing. If a CE2 is reclassified as an EA, a location public hearing will be required after the EA is approved by FHWA. If a CE2 becomes a CE, a location public hearing may be required.

After FHWA approves the EA or Draft EIS, the Design Division will notify the district that a location public hearing is to be held. While tentative arrangements can be made for the location public hearing prior to the document being signed, it is not advisable to firm up the arrangements or advertise for the hearing until AFTER the signature is received. In the case of an EIS project, once the draft EIS is signed a notice of availability (NOA) must be published prior to advertising for the location public hearing. This is done by the EPA once they receive the approved draft EIS in Washington D.C. For a project with an environmental classification of CE, a location public hearing may be held after the conceptual plan is approved.

A location public hearing is held to provide the opportunity for effective participation by interested persons in discussing specific location features, including the social, economic, environmental, and other effects of all the reasonable project alternatives. These hearings afford the department an opportunity to receive information from sources that will be of value in choosing a preferred location. The hearings are not to determine location by a majority vote of those persons present.

129.4 Coordination with other Agencies

Basic List of Agencies to be Notified of Date of Hearings
MISSOURI CONSERVATION DEPARTMENT

Planning Division

P.O. Box 180

Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

MISSOURI DEPT. OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Division of Tourism

P.O. Box 1055

Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

U. S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

U.S. Dept. of Interior

Columbia Field Office

101 Park De Ville Dr., Suite A

Columbia, Missouri 65203-0057

MIDWEST REGION

Regional Director

National Park Service

601 Riverfront Drive

Omaha, NE 68102-4226

(402) 661-1736

CHIEF, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT PROGRAM

U.S. Geological Survey; MS-423

U.S. Department of the Interior

12201 Sunrise Valley Drive

Reston, Virginia 22092

BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS

U.S. Department of the Interior

(For Jackson and Lawrence Counties Only)

Area Director

Anadarko Area Office

P.O. Box 368

Anadarko, Oklahoma 73005

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY REGION VII

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW COORDINATION, WETLANDS, WATERSHEDS, PESTICIDES DIVISIONS 901 North 5th Street

Kansas City, Kansas 66101

DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

205 Jefferson Street

P.O. Box 176

Jefferson City, Missouri 65102-0176

Director of State and Local Government Affairs

Missouri Farm Bureau

P.O. Box 658

Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

STATE OF MISSOURI EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY

ATTN: Floodplain Management Officer

P.O. Box 116

Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Third Floor

Robert A. Young Federal Building

1222 Spruce Street

St. Louis, MO 63103-2836

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Room 200

Gateway Tower II

400 State Avenue

Kansas City, KS 66101-2406

FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION

Division Administrator

3220 W. Edgewood, Suite H

Jefferson City, MO 65109

Coordination with other agencies and groups is an integral part of the environmental process. Pertinent information obtained from prelocation meetings, agency scoping meetings or other coordination is made available to the public as a part of the location public hearing. A basic list of agencies is available in the box to the right.

These interested agencies are to be advised by the district of the date of the hearing at the time the notice for the location public hearing is published. The letter further advises the agency that their written views, if any, will be available for public viewing at the location public hearing if submitted to the district not later than three calendar days prior to the date of the public hearing and that written views will be made a part of the transcript if received within ten working days after the date of the location public hearing.

129.5 Section 4(f) and 6(f) Lands

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that the public be offered the opportunity to receive information about and comment on the project's effect on historic properties. The project's impacts on historic properties should be identified and discussed at public hearings. Documentation of public input or knowledge regarding these impacts is required.

129.6 Railroads

The district advises all railroads in the affected project area by sending a notice to the railroads' chief engineers when the project affects railroad lines, railroad yards or industrial properties belonging to the railroad. Preliminary layouts through yards or industrial areas will be discussed with the railroads to ensure their current plans are not in conflict with the proposed project. This will be done in coordination with the Multimodal Operations Division.

129.7 Design Public Hearings

A design public hearing, or opportunity afforded for such hearing, is required for all projects regardless of environmental classification which are on new location, require substantial amounts of new right of way, substantially change the layout or functions of connecting roadways or of the facility being improved, have a substantial adverse impact on abutting property, or otherwise have a substantial social, economic, environmental or other effect, or for which FHWA determines that a public hearing is in the public interest. Substantial amounts of right of way and substantial adverse impact on abutting property is defined as follows: total additional right of way and permanent easements greater than 20 acres (8 ha) in rural areas or 200,000 ft2 (18,500 m2) in urban areas, or acquisitions of right of way or permanent easements from five or more properties. All projects that involve Section 4(f) and Section 6(f) lands will be examined to determine if a design public hearing is advisable. This criteria is considered a minimum level for which a public hearing is required. Authority to conduct the design public hearing is given with the district engineer's approval of the preliminary plans.

A hearing will be considered, even if not "required", if the impact on the traveling public, adjoining property owners and businesses in the area is considered to be substantial. Generally 3R and 4R projects do not require hearings. However, a hearing may be desirable to advise local officials, adjacent property owners and other users of the details of the project. A hearing is an opportunity to gain comment from the public concerning the improvement and it allows the department an opportunity to outline a proposed solution to an identified transportation need. Public involvement is required for defining purpose and need and for determining the range of alternatives for a project. The desirability, methods of advertising and format for these hearings are left to the discretion of the district engineer. A summary of the meeting is submitted to the State Design Engineer.

At design public hearings, the preliminary plans and other exhibits from the location study are displayed. Pertinent information about the location alternatives studied and reasons for selecting the proposed location are discussed. Details of the effect of the proposed design on individual properties are discussed. Information about design alternatives studied is also made available.

129.8 Noise Wall Public Meeting and Voting

For projects with noise impacts where noise abatement is both reasonable and feasible, a noise wall public meeting is required. Refer to EPG 127.13.10 Noise Wall Public Meeting and Voting for guidance.

129.9 Advertisement for Public Hearings

Notices concerning public hearings will be published as a legal notice in a newspaper having general circulation in the vicinity of the proposed project. Additional paid advertisements are encouraged to ensure maximum public input. |Letters to individual property owners, business owners, service providers (sheriff, police, fire, schools, Post Office, emergency, etc.) and other interest groups will be provided. Extra efforts may be necessary to ensure that minority and disadvantaged populations are aware of the process. Examples of these efforts include house-to-house contact, bulletins at kiosks, community minority liaison contacts and notices in newspaper and media outlets catering to minority and disadvantaged populations. These efforts will be documented for inclusion in environmental documents and department-wide Title VI and environmental justice compliance. The notice of public hearing specifies the date, time and place of the hearing and contains a description of the project. If the open house format is to be utilized, this procedure is explained in the notice. The notice of public hearing specifies that maps, drawings, appropriate environmental documents, other pertinent information developed by the department and written views received as a result of the coordination with other agencies or groups, will be available for public inspection. The notice also specifies that this information is available in the appropriate district office and at some other convenient location such as a courthouse, city hall or library for public inspection and/or copying. The notice of public hearing is to be published a minimum of 21 calendar days prior to the date of the hearing. A copy of the notice is to be sent to the State Design Engineer and to FHWA at the same time that it is published. The district furnishes FHWA and the Design Division proof of publication for location public hearings.

In addition to publishing a notice of public hearing, the district provides news releases to the newspaper and electronic media at the same time as the official notice is to be published and again approximately 5 to 12 calendar days prior to the date of the hearing. The news releases generally contain the same information included in the official notice. If the district believes other methods of advertising a public hearing would help increase public attendance, these options are to be explored. Options may include direct patron mailings, flyers in public areas, signs erected in the project area or other methods.

The views of interested agencies are to be solicited in writing at the time the notice of location public hearing is published if the agencies were not involved earlier in the process.

The districts maintain a mailing list so interested agencies, local officials, groups or individuals are sent by mail a notice of the public hearing.

129.10 Advertisement for the Opportunity for a Public Hearing

If, in the judgment of the district engineer, ample evidence of the desire for a public hearing is not apparent, the district may advertise the opportunity for a public hearing. |Letters to individual property owners, business owners, service providers (sheriff, police, fire, schools, Post Office, emergency, etc.) and other interest groups will be provided. In addition to or instead of the information required for the notices and news releases described above, the notice of opportunity for a public hearing includes instructions concerning how to request a public hearing. All requests must be in writing and will be acknowledged in writing by the district engineer.

This notice is published as either a paid advertising notice or a legal notice and submitted as a news release. This notice advises the public of a deadline for the request for a public hearing. The deadline for submission of this request is 21 calendar days after the publication of the notice.

If a request is received, the district may contact the individual to discuss their concerns with the project. The person making the request is allowed 14 calendar days to withdraw their request in writing. A public hearing is held if the request is not withdrawn.

If the district receives no requests for a hearing, they document the opportunity for public hearing notice and certify that no requests were received. This documentation and certification is forwarded to the Design Division for both location public hearings and design public hearings. This information will be used to obtain commission approval for the location or the design of the improvement.

129.11 Procedures for Conducting Public Hearings

Public hearings are to be held at a place and time generally convenient for persons affected by the proposed undertaking. When selecting the time and location of the meeting, special consideration will be given to making the setting comfortable for all, including minority and disadvantaged populations. The district conducts the hearing with assistance from the Design Division if necessary. The hearing location selected will provide adequate accessibility for physically disabled citizens. Accessibility will also be adequate for minority and low-income populations. Special attention is paid to access from public transportation, the ability to walk to the meeting, and obstacles such as railroad tracks, crossing busy highways, etc. Two procedures may be used to conduct public hearings: the traditional formal speaker-audience format, or the open house format. The selection of format is at the discretion of the district engineer and will be based on an analysis of the project’s specific conditions. This analysis will include consideration of minority and low-income populations. The recommended open house format tends to be comfortable for a wider variety of people. Where there are language barriers, efforts will be made to ensure all voices and presentations are heard and understood.

129.11.1 Formal Public Hearings

Formal public hearings consist of an opening statement, a period for statements and questions from the public, and a closing statement. Following is a list of actions and statements that will take place at all formal public hearings:

  • The public hearing is conducted in a business-like manner, with questions answered as completely and unbiased as possible.
  • A complete record is made, including names and addresses, for all those in attendance and those speaking.
  • The opening statement includes an explanation of the purpose and need for the project. Information such as accident data, structural deficiencies, capacity problems, and public requests may be cited as justification for the project. Pertinent information about the location alternatives studied as well as major details of the proposed design are discussed. This information will describe the project's conformity with the goals and objectives of the area.
  • The following statement will be made at all hearings: "This project is being processed in accordance with federal rules and regulations. Plans will be subject to review by FHWA. If federal funds are used in right of way acquisition and/or construction, the percentage of federal funds used will be in accordance with current regulations".
  • The tentative schedule of right of way acquisition and construction is mentioned. It is limited to a statement that once design approval is received, the department will proceed with design and right of way acquisition and construction will take place when funds are available. A statement is included that the improvement under consideration is on the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
  • At any hearing for a project which requires additional right of way to accommodate the proposed facility, the following is included as a part of the opening statement: "Each person in attendance has been provided with or has available to them a brochure titled "Pathways for Progress". This brochure explains the various steps in acquisition of property required for a highway project. You will be contacted by a representative of the department at the beginning of the acquisition process and all features in this brochure will be discussed in detail with each property owner". In order that the public will be adequately informed regarding relocation assistance procedures, the following is included as a part of the opening statement, where applicable: "In addition to the brochure, a pamphlet titled "Relocation Assistance and Payment Program" has been provided or is available. This pamphlet describes assistance and benefits available to those that will be displaced by this project. This program will also be discussed individually with those being displaced as part of the acquisition process". In addition to this statement, it is necessary to discuss the number of individuals, families, businesses, etc. that may be relocated by the project under consideration and if studies indicate adequate replacement housing is available. If sufficient comparable replacement housing is not available, we must indicate that we are committed to provide last resort housing. It is also necessary to state that no one will be displaced from their residence unless an appropriate replacement dwelling is available or provided.

129.11.1.1 Formal Location Public Hearings

The following additional actions and statements should take place during the formal location public hearing:

  • The public is advised that the public hearing is being recorded and that the transcript will be studied and submitted to the Chief Engineer of MoDOT and to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The following statement is made: "We encourage everyone to ask questions and make their comments known. All comments received will be evaluated by the department staff and the commission in determining the final location of the project. Many factors are considered and any one of the alternate locations may be selected and approved for further plan development. The Commission will approve the selected alternative once FHWA has approved the conclusion of the NEPA process."
  • All substantive written views received prior to the location public hearing must be made available to the public as part of the hearing either by display at the hearing, or by reading into the transcript. These letters may be included as part of the environmental document and displayed in that manner.
  • Provision is made for acceptance of written statements and other exhibits in place of or in addition to oral statements at the time of the location public hearing. A statement is made that any additional pertinent information received within ten working days after the hearing will be made a part of the transcript and substantive comments will be addressed in the Final EIS or EA letter.
  • The opening statement also includes a brief explanation of the content and availability of the environmental impact statement (EIS) or environmental assessment (EA). For projects with an environmental classification of CE, a statement is made that the proposed improvement is expected to have no significant impact on the environment and hence is categorically excluded from the need to prepare an EIS. For EA and EIS projects, at least two copies of the approved EA or Draft EIS must be available for public review at the hearing. However, to avoid vandalism and looting, the location of archaeological sites will not be disclosed to the public.
  • Any significant encroachment on flood plains or wetland areas is discussed.
  • The following statement is to be made at all location public hearings: "Any time after the location public hearing and before design approval, information pertaining to the proposed location and design, including the transcript, will be available upon request at the district office for public inspection and copying."
  • Pertinent information about all of the location alternatives studied is discussed and shown on exhibits. All alternatives carried forward in the EA or Draft EIS as reasonable are to be given equal consideration at the hearing in terms of exhibit presentation and design detail. All alternates considered but dropped from further consideration will have pertinent information regarding this decision available for discussion at the hearing. A color sketch is provided as a handout. The approved EA or Draft EIS is also made available. An EA must indicate a preferred alternative. FHWA encourages designating a preferred alternative in a Draft EIS if one stands out.

129.11.1.2 Formal Design Public Hearings

The following additional actions and statements should take place during a formal design hearing:

  • The public is advised that the public hearing is being recorded and that the transcript will be studied and submitted to the Chief Engineer of MoDOT and to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The following statement is made: "We encourage everyone to ask questions and make their comments known. All comments received will be evaluated by the department staff and the commission in determining the final design of the project. The Commission will approve the design based on comments received at this hearing and the district may then proceed with right of way and construction plans."
  • All substantive written views received prior to the design public hearing must be made available to the public as part of the hearing either by display at the hearing, or by reading into the transcript.
  • Provision is made for acceptance of written statements and other exhibits in place of or in addition to oral statements at the time of the location public hearing. A statement is made that any additional pertinent information received within ten working days after the hearing will be made a part of the transcript, and substantive comments will be addressed prior to Commission approval of the design.
  • The following statement is to be made at all design public hearings: "Any time after the design public hearing and before start of construction, information pertaining to the location and proposed design, including the hearing transcript, will be available upon request at the district office for public inspection and copying."
  • A color sketch is provided as a handout. Preliminary plans and other exhibits derived from the location study are displayed. It is also recommended that the approved final environmental document is made available for public review at the design hearing.

129.11.2 Open House Public Hearings

An open house public hearing has the same requirements as a formal public hearings except some items are included on an informational handout, since verbal opening and closing statements by department staff are not made during an open house location public hearing. The advertising is the same, except all notices and letters describe the format being used with emphasis on the optional hours during which interested persons may attend. Alternate methods of submitting comments also are included in the notice. The normal time for an open house public hearing is a weeknight other than a holiday, Monday through Thursday, from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. These hours will accommodate persons wishing to attend during normal working hours and those wishing to attend after normal working hours. The duration of the hearing may be increased as needed if a large turnout is expected.

The site for open house public hearings is separated into areas for greeting, display, and recording comments. This may be done with a large, single room or a group of smaller rooms. One or more greeters stationed at the entrance to the hearing room or rooms ask people upon arrival to fill out an attendance card and direct them to exhibit and comment areas. Each person is given a comment sheet and an informational handout. The handout has all information normally included in the opening statement at a formal hearing. In addition, it may include a location sketch, summary of environmental documents or other detail. Return postage may be included on comment sheets for the benefit of persons desiring to submit written comments by mail. The district engineer will be present along with appropriate district and Design Division personnel. It is recommended Design Division staff be notified of any particular issues which may call for their attendance at the hearing. Several sets of exhibits will be available in order to provide visitors ample opportunity to see the information. The exhibits of the project will be of sufficient quality and scale so property owners can clearly identify their property. It is recommended that a wide corridor be shown at the location public hearing instead of showing specific lines and design features since these are subject to change. Additional exhibits showing traffic, accident, environmental, economic, or other data will also be displayed. To avoid the potential for vandalism or looting, the location of archaeological sites will not be disclosed. Exhibits of the NEPA process and project schedule may be shown in a simple format. It is advisable to invite other agencies, cities, or counties, to be present or set up displays if they have projects going on in the area for which public questions are anticipated. Right of way personnel are stationed in a separate, clearly labeled area to discuss right of way matters. Another area is provided for submitting written comments. A separate, semi-private area is provided for the electronic recording of verbal comments with assistance from district personnel. Visitors should be reminded that written comments can be submitted up to 10 working days after the hearing.

129.11.3 Transcripts

The district is responsible for the preparation of an accurate written transcript of the oral proceedings of each public hearing. This may include the use of a tape recorder, a court recorder, or any reliable method that will assure a verbatim transcript. Shorthand notes are not considered adequate. Tapes are retained until the commission has approved the location or the design covered at the hearing(s). Public comments expressed at the hearing but not recorded will also be noted. One copy of the transcript is prepared in the district office for submission to the Design Division for each of the following types of public hearings:

The transcript is bound in a folder having contents in the following order:

  • Executive Summary that describes and discusses issues identified at the hearing or during the open comment period. No recommendations are included in this summary.
  • Project information handout
  • Double-spaced transcript of any oral hearing proceedings
  • Color location map(s) showing the alternate locations presented (location public hearing only) or the location of the recommended design (design public hearing only)
  • Data pertinent to statements or exhibits used or filed in connection with the public hearing
  • Data pertinent to information made available to the public prior to the public hearing
  • Pertinent correspondence
  • Copy of all written comments received

The following material will not be included in the hearing transcript:

  • Data pertaining to newspaper advertising. This covers the descriptive notice as well as letters to newspapers requesting publication of a public hearing notice.
  • Informative letters to FHWA.
  • Letters to agencies concerning notification of a public hearing and listing of agencies so notified except where Section 4(f) and Section 6(f) lands are affected.
  • List of names of people attending the public hearing.
  • Plan sheet prints or similar large material bulky in nature unless they can be conveniently included.
  • Other data such as copies of letters from the Central Office, listing of information made available to the public prior to the public hearing, etc.
  • Preliminary plans used as exhibits at the public hearing.
  • Right of way or relocation brochures.

Additionally, a Request for Approval of Location and/or Design of Highways is submitted with a letter of transmittal from the district engineer to the Design Division. The transmittal letter and Request for Approval of Location and/or Design of Highways are not made a part of the transcript. The transmittal letter addresses any substantive comments from the public hearing and includes the number of people who attended, recommendations, and general project information. The letter of transmittal from the district engineer will also certify that the public hearing was held in accordance with all applicable rules and regulations, and that the department has considered possible social, economic, and environmental effects of the proposed improvement together with its conformity with local planning goals and objectives.

Location public hearing and Design public hearing transcripts are submitted to the Design Division. In the event the district holds a combined location and design public hearing, the transcript will also be submitted to the Design Division. The district must receive commission approval at this stage before further development of the plans can be accomplished. For EA and EIS projects, the Design Division sends FHWA a copy of the location public hearing transcript so substantive issues to be addressed in the EA letter or Final EIS can be considered prior to submittal of the document for FHWA's approval. FHWA must approve the EA letter or Final EIS prior to Commission approval of the location. The Design Division will provide a copy of the design or the location and design hearing transcript, with executive summary, to FHWA for their review and comment. No department recommendation will be provided to FHWA at this time. They will provide a written comment to the department concerning the issues identified as a result of the public hearing. Their comments will be considered in the development of the department's recommendations to the commission. It is desirable that the submission of the transcript and executive summary to the Design Division be made within a reasonable period (usually less than two months) after the public hearing.

Prior to submitting the transcript to the Design Division, the district will make copies of the transcript and related material available for public inspection and copying at the district office.

In the event a scheduled public hearing is not held due to lack of attendance, a letter conveying information pertaining to the scheduled hearing will suffice in lieu of a transcript.

129.12 Presentation for Location or Design Approval to the Commission

Commission approval of the location or design of an improvement is required for the following:

  • The location of all projects classified as an EA or an EIS.
  • The design of all projects requiring right of way or permanent easements exceeding the limits earlier defined.

A procedure governing the presentation of information to the Commission for location or design approval following a public hearing is stated below. This procedure will be followed in the case of a public hearing which is not held due to no request being received for a hearing.

  • The district submits one copy of the hearing transcript, together with the executive summary, to the appropriate project development liaison engineer in the Design Division. The transmittal letter shall include the district’s recommendations concerning how to address the issues identified as a result of the public hearing.
  • For each item placed on the monthly Commission agenda, the e-mail must indicate whether there is a potential conflict of interest (i.e., a commissioner owns property within one-mile (1.6 km) of the project). District Right of Way and Chief Counsel's Office can provide information on potential conflict of interest areas for projects within the district. In the event a possible conflict does exist, the name of the commissioner and the location of the property will be required. Once this information has been provided to the Design Division (at the time the item is sent for inclusion on the Commission's agenda), they will fill out the necessary form for the Commission Secretary and Chief Counsel's Office use. The e-mail will indicate if no conflict of interest exists.
  • In order to properly schedule hearing information for presentation to the Commission for design approval, the district will provide the information to the Design Division a minimum of 3½ weeks prior to the Commission meeting. This will allow for a 2 working day review and ensure the item has been thoroughly discussed before it is placed on the Commission agenda.
  • For an EA or an EIS project, the final location public hearing transcript must be received by the Design Division 30-45 days prior to the final EA or EIS document submittal to FHWA. This will be three to six months prior to the project being placed on a Commission agenda for location approval.
  • If a difference of opinion develops between the Design Division and the district concerning recommendations to the Commission, the Director, the Chief Engineer, or the Asst. Chief Engineer will be consulted to reach consensus. The recommendation provided to the Commission indicates the "DEPARTMENT'S" position and not those singularly identified as the position of the district or the Design Division.
  • With the information received from the district, the Design Division will ensure the item is placed on the Commission agenda and Commission backup is provided to the Commission. Based upon this information, the Design Division will place the item on the regular or consent portion of the meeting agenda. In doing so, a consistent format will be maintained for the Commission's benefit.
  • When the item is placed on the Commission's regular agenda (due to controversy or public interest), the district engineer will attend the Commission meeting and present the item for approval. If the item is placed on the Commission's consent agenda, it is preferred the district engineer be in attendance at the meeting to answer questions from the Commission in the event it is transferred to the regular agenda.

Following Commission action, the Design Division will prepare the necessary Commission minutes.

After the Commission has approved the location of the proposed improvement, detailed design of it can begin. After the Commission has approved the design of the proposed improvement, the acquisition of right of way to construct it can begin.

129.13 Public Involvement for Stormwater

A public hearing may be requested during the public notice period for MoDOT’s TS4 Site-specific State Operating Permit. The public notice will be posted on [www.modot.org/stormwater/ MoDOT’s stormwater page] and emailed to media statewide when MoDOT is submitting a renewal application to the MDNR, typically every five years.

The request must give reasonable cause for holding the hearing. A public hearing will be held if there is significant technical merit and concern related to the responsibilities of MoDOT. At least 30 days prior to the hearing MoDOT will post public notice of the hearing. The hearing will be held in the geographic area appropriate to the request.

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