127.3 Community Impact Assessment

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127.3.1 Discussion Overview

Transportation investments have major influences on society, with significant economic and social consequences. However, in many instances in the past, impacts on people did not receive the attention they deserve. The community impact assessment process alerts affected communities and residents, as well as transportation decision-makers, to the likely consequences of a project, and ensures that human values and concerns receive proper attention during project development. Specifically, community impact assessment is important for:

Quality of Life A high-quality standard of living for all Americans means we must protect the essential elements of existence, including neighborhoods and community values. Community impacts assessment supports sustainable, livable communities; promotes community values and thriving neighborhoods; and contributes to general well being.
Responsive Decision-making Assessing community impacts helps ensure that transportation policies and investments embrace the concerns of neighborhoods, communities, and society as a whole. Understanding the relationship between transportation actions and community life aids conflict minimization and the resolution of potential problems. Actively involving affected parties leads to better decisions and greater project acceptance, while creating a sense of community ownership and enhancing agency credibility.
Coordination Community impact assessment helps coordinate and integrate independent plans for land use, economics, and transportation to achieve common goals. This process aids communities in meeting state and local regulations and policies, such as zoning ordinances, environmental quality regulations, growth management and adequate facilities legislation, and comprehensive planning.
Nondiscrimination Community impact assessment ensures that we act on our obligation to achieve environmental justice through practices and procedures that do not discriminate. It alerts decision-makers to the effects on all segments of society and the potential for disproportionately high adverse effects on specific populations.

Community impact assessment is a process for evaluating the effects of a transportation action on a community and its quality of life. The assessment process is an integral part of project planning and development that shapes the outcome of a project. The information obtained is used to continuously mold the project and provide documentation of the current and anticipated social environment of a geographic area with and without action. The assessment is to examine all topics of importance to people, such as mobility, safety, employment effects, relocation, isolation, and other community issues.

Economics of Highways
Report 2007
Report 2007
Summary 2007
Report 2003
Report 2007
Report 2003
Transportation Development, Social Impact
Summary 2004
Report 2004
See also: Innovation Library Laws and Regulations

In addition to the practical reasons for community impact assessment, multiple major federal regulations, statutes, policies, and Executive Orders legally require and support it.

  • Intermodal Surface Transportations Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA)
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes
  • 23 USC 109(h), Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970
  • 23 CFR 771, Environmental Impact and Related Procedures (1987)
  • Executive Order (EO) 12898 on Environmental Justice (1994) and proposed Department of Transportation Order on Environmental Justice (1996)
  • Farmland Protection Policy Act (1981), as amended in 1994 (7 CFR 658)
  • Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (1970, referred to as the “Uniform Act”), as amended in 1987
  • FHWA Environmental Policy Statements (1990 & 1994)
  • Recommendations of the President's Council on Sustainable Development

FHWA guidance for the practitioner on community impact assessment includes:

  • National Community Impact Assessment Research Design Team Recommendations for Development of the Strategic Plan, prepared for FHWA by the Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida (April 1999)
  • Community Impact Mitigation Handbook, Publication No. FHWA-PD-98-024 (May 1998)
  • Community Impact Assessment, A Quick Reference for Transportation, Publication No. FHWA-PD-96-036 (September 1996)
  • Guidance for Preparing and Processing Environmental and Section 4(f) Documents, FHWA Technical Advisory T 6640.8A (October 1987) Process

Community impact assessment is integral to the entire project development and decision-making process. For example, the assessment of community impacts, along with other relevant environmental impact studies, helps shape project decisions and outcomes within the NEPA process. The assessment provides critical information about community values for the formulation of project objectives and the development of alternatives.

Throughout project decision-making activities and until construction, the community impact analyst assures that consequences to the social fabric of an area are given consideration with other environmental impacts. The analyst plays a vital role on the project development team as a vigorous advocate for community values.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice apply to federal activities. Compliance with the FHWA’s NEPA process will accomplish appropriate implementation of Title VI and EO 12898. This process includes fully identifying social, economic, and environmental effects; considering alternatives; coordinating with agencies; involving the public; and utilizing a systematic interdisciplinary approach. Addressing the issues coupled with full implementation of 23 USC 109(h) (e.g., community cohesion, availability of public facilities and services, adverse employment effects, etc.) will prevent the potential for discrimination or disproportionately high and adverse impacts. Community impact assessment is key to this preventive approach.

Although the assessment of community impacts rarely follows a fixed, predictable series of steps, there is a basic logic behind the assessment process, which incorporates the following components:

Define the Project Study Area

In coordination with district engineers, develop various project alternatives that satisfy the project purpose and need and identify areas of potential impact.

Develop a Community Profile

Determine the characteristics of the affected area, such as neighborhood boundaries, locations of residences and businesses, demographic information, economic data, social history of communities, and land use plans.

Analyze Impacts

Examine the impacts to the community of the proposed action versus no action. Identify and investigate the consequences of the transportation action.

Identify Solutions

Identify and recommend potential solutions to address adverse impacts. Techniques include avoidance, minimization, mitigation, and enhancement.

Use Public Involvement

Use public participation as a basis to develop project alternatives, a source of information to develop the community profile, a tool to identify and evaluate impacts, and a method to identify acceptable ways to address impacts. Public involvement is an integral element of all the above steps.

Document Findings

In addition to oral presentations, prepare the findings of the community impact assessment in written form for use by decision-makers, to record findings, to disseminate to interested parties, and to support subsequent decisions.

Iterative Process

Communities are dynamic and constantly changing. As options change, the analyst must make appropriate re-evaluations and adjustments in findings, particularly if there are substantial time lapses in project development.

Although the steps in the community impact assessment process are logically sequential, they overlap in practice. The assessment process is iterative in that analysts must be prepared to revisit prior steps and be aware of future steps in conducting the assessment. In the early steps, when helping to frame the project and community profile, the community impact analyst must think about the probable relationships between the project and the community so that relevant data are collected. Later, if new impacts are identified or decisions are made, the analyst must go back to the community profile and gather additional information or data regarding populations affected.

127.3.2 Project Development Milestones Initial Screening Stage

At the initial project screening stage, design division environmental staff performs a cursory identification of potential issues related to community impacts. Initial information collection involves gathering general information. As potential impacts are identified later in the process, additional data on the community is targeted to specific needs. The environmental specialist uses databases related to these resources and possible contacts with district personnel to determine the likelihood that the project will have a negative impact on the community.

The district initiates this process by submitting an RES to the design division; usually no additional information will be required from the district. Findings pertinent to the project will be relayed to the district in the RES response, which will also indicate what type of coordination is believed necessary, if any. Location/Conceptual Plan Stage

At the location/conceptual plan stage, design division environmental staff use various tools and databases to screen the project but may also contact local entities to determine whether they have any concerns with the project.

The district initiates this process by submitting an RES to the design division, or for projects that require an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the design division and the district will determine when to begin this process. The district may be required to gather and submit additional information about the project at this stage. Findings pertinent to the project will be relayed to the district in the RES response and through core team participation. Impact Assessment

Community Impact Assessment Data List
Population and Demographic Characteristics
Historical background
▪ Trends in population growth and demographics
▪ Ethnicity and race
▪ Age and gender distributions
▪ Income levels
▪ Educational attainment
▪ Employment status
▪ Community Impact Assessment population subgroups, such as disabled persons
▪ Indian tribal governments, as appropriate
Economic and Community Impact Assessment History/Characteristics
▪ Community historical background and context
▪ Community values and issues (e.g., security and solitude)
▪ Economic base (e.g., agriculture, manufacturing, and service)
▪ Property values
▪ Tax base
▪ Other economic characteristics (e.g., port city, tourism base and lumber town)
Physical Characteristics Relating to Community Activities
▪ Community centers/activity centers
▪ Infrastructure (e.g., roads, transit, and water and sewage systems)
▪ Public services and facilities (e.g., schools, police, fire, libraries and hospitals)
▪ Land-use plans and zoning
▪ Community Impact Assessment areas, historic districts, and parklands
▪ Businesses
▪ Housing (availability, age, and type)
▪ Planned and approved future development
▪ Community focal points or informal meeting places (e.g., places of worship, playgrounds, hair salons and laundromats)

Data sources include:

Contact Points
Source Primary Uses
Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) Economic base, land-use and zoning plans and area planning history
State and local government planning and community impact assessment service departments/agencies Economic base, land-use and zoning plans, taxing districts, Community Impact Assessment and economic programs and business and marketing information
State employment agencies or labor departments Employment trends, unemployment rates and economic base
State, local, and university libraries (for local newspaper clippings and other local sources) General information, community historical background, economic base and business and marketing information
Local historical societies and State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) Community historical background and location of historic structures, landmarks, and districts

Data collected include:

Data Collections and Activities
Source Primary Uses
Census Bureau publications and statistical abstracts Population trends and demographics, economic indicators and housing
Aerial maps and road maps Community boundaries and physical characteristics; location of activity centers, infrastructure, houses and businesses
Field or windshield surveys and reviews Locations and numbers of structures and activity patterns
Yellow Pages or city directories Businesses and community facility locations and type
Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) databases Business location, type and number of employees
Donnelley Directory (available on CD-ROM) Business location, type and number of employees
Tax records Property values
Building-permit records Approved or built development
Real estate market surveys, regional real estate journals, and interviews with realtors Housing prices; trends in sales, age or characteristics of structures; and neighborhood compositions
Interviews and public involvement with businesses, community leaders, and residents Community values and issues

For projects that require an EA or an EIS, the community impact analyst will ensure that comments concerning potential impacts to the community are solicited from local entities through written requests. The impact assessment process described previously must be initiated prior to alternatives development and is to be used to guide that development. This activity fulfills the NEPA requirements relating to the selection of alternatives and the information obtained is used in the EA or EIS documentation or Categorical Exclusion determination (CE2).

Refer to the Community Impact Assessment Data List box to the right for examples of the types of data collected and incorporated into environmental documents. Addressing Impacts

When adverse community impacts are identified, the community impact analyst will propose potential methods for addressing them. This step of the community impact assessment process involves problem-solving and generating solutions. There are four primary methods for dealing with impacts, to be considered in the order listed below.


Alter the project so an impact does not occur.


Modify the project to reduce the severity of an impact.


Undertake an action to alleviate or offset an impact or to replace an appropriated resource.


Add a desirable or attractive feature to the project to make it fit more harmoniously into the community. (Not intended to replace lost resources or alleviate impacts caused by the project.)

Project design options are typically based on an ideal engineering standard. When adverse community impacts are identified, analysts are to:

  • Work with the project development team to identify design or engineering options to deal with these impacts—starting with avoidance and then moving on to minimization and mitigation techniques.
  • Finally, consider enhancement opportunities that are a reasonable expenditure of public funds and help the project fit harmoniously into the community.

Community impact analysts should recognize that an effort to address one impact may create other adverse impacts. Analysts must consider the potential impacts of these measures on the community, ensuring that the approaches considered support the purpose and need of the project. Whatever approach is selected, it is important to monitor and follow through on commitments.

Public involvement can provide important information to aid in identifying acceptable solutions to address adverse impacts.

The Categorical Exclusion (CE), Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and Record of Decision (ROD) documents as well as the draft and final EIS must include the commitments.

Practical examples include:


  • Change an alignment so that there are not displacements.
  • Redesign a road segment as an underpass to avoid cutting off access to a community facility.


  • Reroute or shift a highway segment to reduce displacements.
  • Limit interchanges to minimize incompatible land-use development.
  • Phase the project to minimize impedance to business access during peak periods.
  • Alter an alignment to increase the distance between the facilities and residences to minimize noise impacts.


  • Set aside land for a park or add to public recreation areas to replace lost facilities.
  • Erect sound barriers to mitigate noise to surrounding communities.
  • Provide a bicycle/pedestrian overpass or underpass to provide access to public facilities.
  • Provide compensation for properties acquired (a mandatory measure under the Uniform Act Amendments).


  • Provide signage to recognize specific cultural or historic resources.
  • Development bicycle trails or path adjacent to roadways.
  • Plant trees and add park benches.
  • Add public artwork or a facade to a transportation facility to match the aesthetic design goals of a community.

There are two types of enhancements: 1) Environmental enhancements, which may be added to a transportation project to improve community acceptance (see 1990 FHWA Environmental Policy Statement) and 2) Transportation enhancements, which are funded through a provision of SAFETEA-LU with funds set aside from the Surface Transportation Program.

Environmental enhancements are incorporated into a project as part of routine decision-making to make it more compatible with and sensitive to community needs. Transportation enhancement activities offer communities the opportunity to expand transportation choices with safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities, scenic routes, beautification, and other investments that increase opportunities for recreation, accessibility, and safety for everyone beyond traditional highway programs. Transportation enhancements funding may be available to help meet these needs. Preliminary Plans Stage

At the preliminary plans stage, if no community impact issues have been identified previously, a process similar to that described for the initial project screening is repeated. The district initiates this process by submitting an RES to the design division. The environmental specialist screens the project for changes and verifies that no new information has become available since the last screening. Any new findings pertinent to the project will be relayed to the district in the RES response and the environmental specialist will discuss appropriate actions with the project manager.

At this stage, if it has been determined that the project could have an impact on a community, the environmental specialist will continue coordinating with local entities and the district to determine and design the necessary solutions. ROW Plan Stage

At the right-of-way plan stage, if no community impact issues have been identified previously, the process described for earlier stages is repeated. The district initiates this process by submitting an RES to the design division, whereupon the environmental specialist will screen the project for changes and verify that no new information has become available since the last screening. Any new findings pertinent to the project will be relayed to the district in the RES response and the environmental specialist will discuss appropriate actions with the project manager.

At this stage, if it has been determined that the project could have an impact on a community, solutions with the affected entities should begin or should be underway. Final Design Stage

At final design stage, if there have been no community issues identified to date, the process described for earlier stages is repeated. The district submits an RES to the design division and the environmental specialist screens the project for changes and verifies that no new information has become available since the last screening. Any new findings pertinent to the project are relayed to the district in the RES response and the environmental specialist will discuss appropriate actions with the project manager. If no issues are identified, the district is notified that the community impact assessment issues are clear for this project.

Solutions to community impacts that are part of the project design should be finalized at this point. Bid Opening

Agreements with local entities and design elements that are part of community impact solutions must be clearly described in the project proposals for accurate bids. Post-Bid Opening Activities

At this stage, the primary concern is assuring that all MoDOT resident engineers and inspectors are informed of any community issues, requirements, and JSPs prior to construction. Contractors should also be informed of these issues prior to construction. If MoDOT fails to implement the agreed upon measures, lengthy project delays could result.

127.3.3 Maintenance Activities

Schedule and implement special maintenance activities required to address community impacts as stipulated in agreements with local entities.