Public Involvement Action Plan


Introduction

Project Development and Public Involvement

Role of the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)


Training


Level of Public Involvement During New Project Development


Glossary


Appendix

Introduction

Public participation is critical to the successful implementation of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) transportation program and projects. More than just public participation, this policy promotes an on-going public partnership to ensure that the subregional and/or regional transportation benefits are considered within the context of communities directly impacted by the project. This policy also ensures early, frequent and continuous consultation with the public by committing to public notification to the affected parties, citizen input in the identification of the solutions and dedication on the part of NJDOT to make the public’s input meaningful and that there is follow through on their input. We strive to include the public in clearly defining services and/or infrastructure options and we will strive to implement construction with minimal impact on people, business and the environment. NJDOT retains the right to advance projects in matters of critical safety needs.

Objectives

  1. Provide a program that promotes the public’s decision-making role in developing projects, programs and plans.
  2. Build public support and gain public agreement on problem definition.
  3. Build public support for a recommended solution through early public involvement in the identification of options and the early selection of a preferred alternative.
  4. Engage the public in the implementation of the preferred alternative to ensure that the design of a project takes into consideration all identified public concerns.

Benefits

  1. Enables NJDOT to gain public recognition of a transportation problem that needs resolution.
  2. Identifies early in the process any potential “fatal flaws” that would prevent NJDOT from adequately addressing the transportation problem.
  3. Provides the opportunity for the public to identify options to be studied and allows the public full participation in selecting the preferred option.
  4. Enables NJDOT to design a project that takes into full consideration public concerns early in the design process thereby decreasing cost and delivery time of final design.
  5. Allows for the development of a construction schedule that takes into consideration the special needs of the public.

Affected Parties

Affected parties include interested citizens, public and private interest groups and elected officials, and additional local stakeholders as identified by elected officials. It also includes organizations that have an official responsibility in developing, selecting and approving specific actions taken by NJDOT. These groups may include the New Jersey Transit, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s), the State Planning Commission, and other governmental departments, commissions or specially established task forces. It is the objective of NJDOT to ensure the involvement of all affected and impacted citizens.

Public Involvement

The public’s involvement in a project’s development will vary with the project type, its complexity, the environmental sensitivity and the community interest. A project which addressesa critical safety need, maintenance, requires immediate attention, or is an emergency that is unforeseen in which public input indicates a need for prompt relief, may be immediately directed to the scoping stage. Projects which start with project planning/concept development, that result in land acquisition, (23CFR 771) residential or commercial displacement, significant increases or changes in traffic patterns, or have major environmental impacts, will have a fully developed and agreed to public participation plan while in project planning/ concept development. The Capital Program Committee will select a preliminary list of projects to be forwarded to the MPOs for prioritization in conjunction with those local needs the MPOs prioritize. Capital Project Management, in coordination with the Office of Community Relations (OCR), will develop the necessary public involvement plan or strategy that is appropriate for each prioritized project. The PIAP will be a project specific document.

Responses to public comments will occur at each stage in the project pipeline. The level of documentation of these responses is based upon the forum in which they are received. The documentation outlines the public involvement for every project regardless of funding; however, if a project is federally funded, there are additional federal requirements including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Congestion Management Study (CMS) and Major Investment Strategy (MIS). There are numerous methodologies for effective public involvement. There is public involvement and there is communication with the public. Three examples of communication methods the NJDOT currently uses are as follows:

  1. Public Information Centers and Public Meetings - Minutes
  2. Letters to NJDOT - Written responses
  3. Public Hearings - Formal written response

Records of public involvement are accessible at the Office of Community Relations in chronological order and by project, as follows:

  1. Minutes of all public meetings including sign-in sheets. Any follow up; including responses to the public’s concerns will be included in the minutes or later attached to the file when information is provided.
  2. Handouts distributed at internal and external meetings.

Capital Investment Strategy

The Capital Investment Strategy (CIS) is a continuous process that defines the goals and objectives that are to be achieved through strategic infrastructure investments. The CIS does not identify specific projects. The CIS relies primarily on the maintenance, bridge, congestion management, pavement and public transportation management systems to help establish levels of investments needed to address infrastructure renewal and congestion relief objectives. The CIS is also developed within the context of State objectives regarding economic development, the environment and the State Development and Redevelopment Plan. In developing the CIS the Department seeks input from the FHWA, MPOs, state legislators and public and private interest groups.

Project Pipeline And The Public Involvement Process

Although NJDOT has developed a project pipeline process that requires a project to undergo a series of reviews and studies, not all projects follow the process. Regardless of whether a project follows the pipeline process, a public involvement action plan will be developed and implemented, and revised and updated as needed at each stage. The Capital Program Committee serves as a feedback loop by remanding to an earlier stage in the project development process any project it deems in need of more public involvement.

Project Development and Public Involvement

Public Involvement begins during planning and is a continuous activity tracking and developing along with a project. Following are the stages of project development.

I. NJDOT Long Range Plan
The concept for future transportation needs.

II. Concept Development
Agreement of need is established. Needs are identified by either NJDOT staff or through an external party, including the general public, elected officials and county and local governments and the MPOs. NJDOT relies on its management systems and field observations to identify problems that may require infrastructure investments. A Problem Statement is developed for each issue identified followed by a work program. The MPOs are consulted on the planning work program.

III. Capital Program Committee
Reviews and approves work programs which result in a project moving from scoping to construction within three years. These programs will reflect the Capital Investment Strategy.

IV. Initial Scope Development
Capital Program Committee forwards a proposal for a feasibility study.

V. Capital Program Committee
Once the scoping effort is complete, Scope Development will present to the Capital Program Committee for inclusion in the final scope development process.

VI. Final Scope Development
A preferred alternative/solution is completed (NEPA requirements must be initiated at this stage).

VII. Capital Program Committee
Possible inclusion in the DOT’s project pool final design. At this point NEPA is complete.

VIII. State Transportation Improvement Plan/Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP/TIP)
The MPOs develop the Transportation Improvement Program which when combined for all three MPOs constitute the State Transportation Improvement Program.  NJDOT’s requirement for public involvement on the State Transportation Improvement Program is met through the MPOs public involvement process in developing their Transportation Improvement Program.

Concept Development (Project Planning)

The Director of the Office of Community Relations is responsible for coordinating and preparing the PIAP in conjunction with concept development staff. The Planning Department reviews problem statements within the context of corridors and will enter problem statements into the three year planning work program. By examining corridors, rather than specific problems, a total subregional or regional and a multi modal set of solutions can be considered. NJDOT has developed Mobility Strategy Areas that provide an opportunity for NJDOT to assess transportation needs from a multi-corridor perspective. One key aspect of the planning process is consideration of “fatal flaws” that would prevent NJDOT from advancing a particular transportation solution. The planning process “fatal flaw” analysis attempts to evaluate the community, environmental facility condition issues that must be considered in building a corridor strategy for providing mobility. At the conclusion of the planning process conceptual options to address issues within a problem statement (s) are established which can enter the scoping program as described above.

Public involvement opportunities include the establishment of Corridor Task Forces, project oriented task forces or public meetings to discuss particular conceptual solutions. These concepts are described in greater detail in the Appendix.

Public involvement in the planning process is intended to:
  • Get the public involved in decision-making regarding public investments and their transportation system.
  • Assess the issues in coordination with affected parties to identify need.
  • Gain public buy-in of the project purpose and need.
  • Establish understanding of community issues and limitations.
  • Develop and select concepts for scope development.

Scope Development

The Scoping Work Program consists of the assessment of conceptual options that have been identified through the planning process, or have bypassed the planning process because of the unique nature of the project. The scoping process undertakes a detailed review of environmental, right-of-way, community and other issues that must be addressed to determine the best approach for advancing a project.  Working with the community, the initial scoping effort permits the development of an option that best resolves the transportation problem and achieves a level of community acceptance. This option must also include how construction activities will impact the traveling public and the local community. As scoping moves to its conclusion, a preferred alternative is advanced. It is critical that at least one public forum be held prior to any project progressing to final design. A municipal resolution supporting the preferred alternative is sought by NJDOT, although failure to obtain one would not preclude the advancement of critical regional investments.

The public involvement steps needed to address the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, the USDOT Act and the Historic Preservation Act are included in these public forums. They are not separate public processes, but are integrated into the overall public involvement process for projects. The steps are outlined in Title 23, Part 771 and Title 49, Part 622 - Environmental Impact and Related Procedures; Title 36, Part 800 - Protection of Historic Properties; FHWA Technical Advisory T 6640.8A - Guidance for Preparing and Processing Environmental and Section 4(f) documents. Copies of these documents are available in the legal sections of most libraries and at the Bureau of Environmental Project Support, NJDOT.

As outlined in these documents, the types of public notice and public involvement will vary with the nature of a project and its potential to cause significant environmental impacts. For example, for most small projects that do not require an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a formal public hearing is not required. Larger projects, which may cause significant environmental impacts, however, will normally include formal public notices of intent to prepare Environmental Assessments or Environmental Impact Statements, public availability of environmental documents and formal public hearings, which are required for an EIS and optional for an EA. In addition, information on the status of impacts on historic properties is routinely presented for all projects at public forums.

For every project being scoped, NJDOT will conduct some level of public outreach. Simple projects may require only public notification through the Town Administrator. More complex problems may require a series of public meetings or the establishment of a Scoping Task Force.

Public involvement in the scoping process is intended to achieve:
  • A partnership review of all conceptual options.
  • Selection of the best alternative developed in project planning/concept development to be advanced to design.
  • Municipal resolution in support of the preferred alternative.
  • Federal Highway Administration approval of the NEPA document

Note: See Public Hearings for NEPA scoping requirements.  All Section 106 public involvement will be conducted in accordance with NEPA process. Additional opportunities for public involvement will be identified on a project by project basis.

Design

Prior to final design, NJDOT will hold public meetings or information centers to further educate the community about the design and identify any additional issues that should be addressed prior to completing the design. NJDOT believes that a public involvement process in the planning, scoping and early design stages will preclude the need to make changes in final design plans since such changes are costly and delay the construction of projects.

Public involvement in the design stage of a project is intended to achieve:

  • Concurrence with the final design plan and construction phasing of the project as it affects the local stakeholders.

Construction

NJDOT will work closely with local elected officials and the business community to ensure the least impact on traffic and business caused by construction. NJDOT conducts pre-construction conferences and or information centers to ensure maximum support for the construction schedule and minimal disruption to the community.

Public Hearing

In addition to the public meetings and outreach efforts described in this plan, NJDOT will also hold public hearings and other public outreach efforts as required by federal and or state law.

Role of the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)

In New Jersey, there are three Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) that have been established to carry out a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive planning process that results in plans and programs consistent with planned development of the region. The MPOs include representatives of local governments who adopt planning work programs, for their region of the State, the Regional Transportation Plan and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The three MPOs covering New Jersey are:

  • South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), which includes Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem Counties;
  • Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), which includes Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer Counties;
  • North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), which includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren Counties.

Each year, the MPOs review proposed projects in their respective area based on local need and the NJDOT project pool, sets priorities and approves a TIP. All projects must be in that TIP.

The MPO process is another opportunity for the identification of transportation problems. During the development of the TIP, NJDOT staff works with the MPO staff and county representatives to review the various projects and determine relative priority among proposed capital investment strategy priorities. Public meetings are held on the MPO TIP and the State TIP. Comments received at these public meetings could result in changes to the draft TIP/STIP that would be reflected in the final documents. Following this outreach effort, the final MPO TIP and STIP is processed for approval by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration.

Training

The PIAP will be distributed throughout the Department to each Bureau/ Division Manager outlining the purpose and need for this plan. The Department Manager in turn will circulate the document among his/her employees for their action and/or information. In addition, since Project Managers are responsible for projects from inception up to and including construction, the Office of Community Relations with assistance from the Capital Program Management trainers, will develop training that will educate the Project Managers and the Construction Resident Engineer on the goals and requirements of the PIAP. The training will include a discussion of the roles and responsibilities of the Project Manager for the development of the PIAP for each project (including identification of affected parties, notification to these parties, follow-up on the public’s input, and methods for evaluating the effectiveness of the public involvement plan so that corrections can be made throughout the process.

Level of Public Involvement During New Project Development


*Minimum Public Outreach  =  5 Public Meetings/ Sessions

Purpose
Basic
Major/ Complex Studies
Concept Development Project Planning *(2) Meetings at minimum Problem Identification resulting from partnership of all impacted and affected parties.
Determine if CMS or MIS are required—adhere to 23 CFR 450 for public involvement.
Establish state/ local team to guide planning assessment. Invitation to stakeholders and locals, other outreach officials, briefings. Set up formal steering or advisory committees.
  Setting assessment scope Set broad objectives; identify issues and potential products. MPO, processes and partnership meetings. Nothing extra
  Specifying problem(s) Define/document problem(s) requiring action Information sessions, public meetings, partnership meetings. Focus groups town meetings, interest group outreach sessions (chamber of commerce, etc.
  Screening concepts Select concepts for detailed assessment Information sessions, public meetings, partnership meetings Nothing extra
  Analyzing concepts Evaluate concepts and formulate balanced, multiple concept approach (technical assessment). Partnership meetings Formal steering or advisory committee meetings, as appropriate
  Obtaining consensus Secure community support for recommended approach(s) Information sessions, public meetings partnership meeting charette(s) Focus groups, town meetings, interest group outreach sessions (chamber of commerce, etc.) charette(s)
  Finalizing recommendations Advance recommended concept(s) to CPC for funding and promotion to scope development Public announcements, newsletters, press releases, etc. Nothing extra

*Minimum Public Outreach  =  5 Public Meetings/ Sessions

Purpose
Basic
Major/ Complex Studies
Scope Development *(1) Meeting at Minimum Outreach discussions with community officials to present preferred schemes and identify preferred alternative. Host impacted communities agree on level of public involvement and preliminary project schedules and estimated funding costs are discussed. A NEPA Scoping Meeting is required for Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), adhere to 23 CFR 771 for public involvement. Concurring resolution from host community supporting preferred alternative and acknowledging partnership with DOT in resolving this shared transportation problem. Broader legislator briefings as needed
Design 

*(1) Meeting at minimum
DOT will hold pubic meetings and/or information centers to educate the public and obtain their comment and input on the proposed project prior to completion of final design. DOT will present to the public all pertinent material including proposed project plans and a handout detailing the project including a defined project schedule and estimated costs. Traffic mitigation and community outreach plans prepared
Construction

*(1) Meeting at minimum
Construction activities may create impacts. DOT will conduct a pre-construction public information center after the award of contract, just prior to actual construction, to inform the public when construction will occur and who can answer questions. Pre-construction Information Centers are not intended to change the design of the project but to discuss and keep the public informed of possible impacts such as detours, lane closures, signage, etc., and provide home telephone #’s to facilitate communication. Community contacts on traffic mitigation continues throughout construction

Glossary

AFFECTED PARTIES: Interested citizens, public and private interest groups,property owners, elected officials, other local stakeholders identified by local officials, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), the State Planning Commission, State Historic Preservation Office and other governmental departments, commissions or specially established task forces.

CAPITAL INVESTMENT STRATEGY: The goals and objectives that are to be achieved through strategic infrastructure investments, such as maintenance, bridge, congestion management, pavement and public transportation management systems. It is in concert with objectives regarding economic development, the environment and the State Development and Redevelopment Plan.

CMS: Congestion Management System - A study designed to document the way in which the requirements for programming federal funds for projects that increase Single Occupancy Vehicle carrying capacity in the North Jersey nonattainment areas are to be met.

CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT/ PROJECT PLANNING: The Planning staff, and their conceptual options to address issues within problem statement(s).

CONSTRUCTION: The goal of Department activities in concert with public involvement.

CRITICAL SAFETY NEED: A critical situation where emergency measures must be taken to protect the safety of the public.  These projects will proceed as expeditiously as possible; however, they are not exempted from appropriate levels of public involvement.  Local input will be obtained through the town administrator, at a minimum.

DESIGN: The development of a final design required to construct a project.

INDIVIDUALS RESPONSIBLE FOR PIAP AND DESIGN: The Office of Community Relations, the Division of Transportation Systems Planning, Scope Development, Design Services, and Capital Program Management.

METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS (MPOS): MPOs are designated in three areas of the State. The jurisdiction of the three areas combined covers the entire State. Under federal law, they have a clear role in the development of priority projects funded by the federal government.

MIS: Major Investment Study - Identifies solutions to major mobility problems on a corridor or subarea level.

NEPA: National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 - Provides for the examination of alternatives to a proposed action. It is the basis for cooperating, interdisciplinary reviews and public and agency coordination. Copies of this document are available in the legal sections of most libraries and at the Bureau of Environmental Services, NJDOT.

PLANNING WORK PROGRAM: Planning staff’s effort of reviewing problem statements and advancing them to scoping.

PROBLEM STATEMENT: Feedback from internal management systems and field observations, or external parties, to identify problems that may require infrastructure investment.

PROJECT PRIORITIZATION: The MPO role is extensive and includes prioritization of projects. The NJDOT public action plan is intended to work in tandem with the efforts of the three MPOs located in New Jersey, and ensures that public involvement complements the scheduling of projects.

PROJECT PIPELINE AND THE PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT PROCESS: As a project undergoes a series of reviews and studies, external support is sought. Regardless of whether a project follows the pipeline process, or varies due to emergencies, etc., a public involvement action plan will be developed and implemented.

PUBLIC HEARING: A formal process for receiving public input, from which formal, written replies are generated.

PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT: Provides an arena for information exchange between the citizens of a community and the State.

SCOPING WORK PROGRAM: The Scoping Work Program consists of the assessment of conceptual options that have been identified through the planning process, or have bypassed the planning process because of the unique nature of the project, and advances to design.

23 CFR 450: Code of Federal Regulations with regarding to planning assistance and standards. Copies of this document are available in the legal sections of most libraries and at the Bureau of Environmental Services, NJDOT.

23 CFR 771: Code of Federal Regulations with regard to implementing the environmental policy act. Copies of this document are available in the legal sections of most libraries and at the Bureau of Environmental Services, NJDOT.

Appendix


Public Hearings

The purpose of a public hearing is to ensure adequate public participation on the need for a proposed project involving major social, economic, environmental or transportation impacts. Hearings also provide a formal opportunity for public comment on project alternatives and the social, economic or environmental effects of the alternatives and if the proposed project is consistent with local and/or regional planning goals. Hearings represent the most formal element of a public participation process and generally are held only when significant social, economic or environmental issues or impacts must be evaluated in making major transportation project decisions.

Requirements

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) will conduct a public hearing for any new construction project, on projects involving new alignment, on projects requiring an Environmental Impact Statement or on projects involving local or regional significance. Public hearings may also be held for any project at any time at the discretion of the Commissioner.

Public hearings are considered part of a formal project record. Therefore, all interested parties are given the opportunity to have comments; suggestions and any objections to the proposed project entered into the public record. Public hearings do not provide for discussions between the presenters and staff; however, an information center is always held concurrently with the public hearing in an area separate from the official hearing to allow discussion on an informal basis.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requires that the NJDOT hold public hearings or the opportunity for a hearing for any federally funded project which meets the following criteria:

  • requires significant amounts of right of way;
  • substantially changes the layout and purpose of connecting roadways or of the facility being improved;
  • has a substantial adverse impact on abutting property;
  • has a significant social, economic or environmental effect;
  • is determined by the FHWA to require a public hearing in the public interest.

The following factors require providing the opportunity for another hearing:

  1. Substantial changes to proposals discussed at an earlier hearing.
  2. Substantial unanticipated development in the area of the proposed project.
  3. An unusually long lapse of time since the last hearing.
  4. Identification of significant social, economic or environmental effects not previously considered at earlier hearings.
Notice of Hearing

The public is advised of any hearing through a Public Notice. This notice is published in a newspaper having general circulation in the vicinity of the project. A Public Notice for a scheduled public hearing is published at least twice. The initial publication is at least (30) days before the hearing. The second publication is made between 5 and 12 days before the hearing. While the officials notice is published in the legal section of a paper, a press release is submitted to all newspapers covering New Jersey by Communications one to two weeks prior to the hearing. This encourages general news coverage of the scheduled hearing but publication of the press release is at the discretion of the newspaper.  This information will also be included on the Internet at a website available to the public.

The notice for a hearing tells readers where they may obtain reports or maps that explain the project and its impacts. The notice provides any other information required by state and federal laws, executive orders, or regulations. Each public notice describes the project, gives the time, date and place of the hearing and describes any specific procedures to be followed at the hearing.

In addition to the legal public notice, the NJDOT informs interested agencies, groups and individuals through general letters of invitation. These letters are mailed to elected officials and the affected and interested public three weeks prior to the public hearing.

Hearing Format

A public hearing is a formal process, but is held at a place and time convenient for the persons affected by the proposed project. A hearing officer is assigned to conduct the hearing. The officer is joined by representatives from the various areas in the NJDOT involved with the project. The hearing officer, Community Relations Manager or Capital Program Management representative makes a formal presentation that explains:

  • the scope and location of the project;
  • the description and impacts of each alternative studied;
  • any social, economic or environmental studies that have been conducted and any reports issued;
  • land acquisition and relocation assistance;
  • the laws and administrative directives that govern the project and the hearing itself;
  • the date for closing the hearing record;
  • any procedures for commenting or submitting written statements and how any comments will be reviewed and considered in project decisions.

The public hearing process provides a full and formal opportunity for interested citizens, organizations and public officials to comment on transportation proposals. Both oral and written testimony will comprise the official public hearing transcript. All persons wishing to give oral testimony must sign up at the registration table. They will be called to speak in the order they are registered. Each speaker will be allowed five minutes to make a presentation. A court stenographer will record all oral testimony and all questions posed during testimony will be addressed by the NJDOT in writing after the close of the public hearing record.

Written statements may be submitted instead of oral testimony. These statements must be submitted to the NJDOT by the closing date of the hearing record. Written statements will be addressed by the NJDOT in writing after the close of the public record.

The date for closing the record is determined before the hearing and included in the public notice. It is normally not less than ten days or more than thirty days after the public session.

A handout describing the proposed project including the estimated cost and project schedule may be available for distribution at the meeting but only at the discretion of the NJDOT

Public Meetings

Public meetings are a versatile public involvement technique, as they have a dual purpose - to furnish information to the general public, and to obtain public comments on a current or proposed project. Public meetings could be held throughout the life of a project to heighten community awareness, obtain public feedback and involve the public in project decisions. For controversial projects, public meetings are an essential intermediary step before conducting public hearings.

Requirements

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) conducts a public meeting when a Public Information Center will not address the public need and a more organized process is required; when a concept for a project is being introduced to the public for the first time; or when a new comprehensive design for a project has been developed.

Notice of Meeting

The NJDOT notifies interested agencies, groups and individuals of any public meeting through general letters of invitation. These letters are mailed to elected officials and the affected and interested public three weeks prior to the public meeting. A press release is submitted to all newspapers covering New Jersey by Communications one to two weeks prior to the meeting. This encourages general news coverage of the scheduled meeting but publication of the press release is at the discretion of the newspaper. This information will also be included on the Internet at a website available to the public

Meeting Format

Public meetings are considered a formal process and are recorded as part of the project record. A facilitator runs the meeting and NJDOT representatives provide a presentation of the project, its alternatives and the anticipated impacts. The public is then provided an opportunity to comment and ask questions. Normally questions are answered as part of the meeting. When the information is not available, a response may be provided after the meeting when sufficient details have been gathered.

A handout describing the proposed project including the estimated cost and project schedule may be available for distribution at the meeting but only at the discretion of the NJDOT.

The length of a public meeting is contingent upon the size of the audience. With a large audience, the meeting facilitator may impose time limits on each speaker but all public comment must be exhausted before the meeting is adjourned. 

Public Information Centers

Public Information Centers are informal public gatherings that promote an open exchange of information between Department representatives, elected officials, interested citizens and public interest groups on a project's development. It allows public input into the earliest stages of a project's development and enables problems and solutions to be assessed, with community input, without significantly extending the overall process. Information Centers provide an opportunity for the Department to address community issues, consider modifications to project alternatives and even abandon project alternatives for which no community support exists.

Requirements

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) will conduct a public information center early in the design process (Phase II) of a proposed project to obtain input from local residents, officials and the business community. The public involvement process should begin early and parallel the decision process so public concerns can be addressed in proposed solutions.

Notice of Public Information Center

The NJDOT notifies interested agencies, groups and individuals of any public meeting through general letters of invitation. These letters are mailed to elected officials and the affected and interested public three weeks prior to the public meeting. A press release is submitted to all newspapers covering New Jersey by Communications one to two weeks prior to the meeting. This encourages general news coverage of the scheduled meeting but publication of the press release is at the discretion of the newspaper. This information will also be included on the Internet at a website available to the public.

Public Information Center Format

An open-house format is generally used as the forum for public information centers. No formal presentations are made. Instead, displays are exhibited and the public is invited to study them at their leisure, with the project manager and technical specialists available to answer questions or note unanswered concerns. Since no presentations are made, exhibits of the proposed project and alternatives should be clear to a lay audience and citizens should be able to interpret them with little or no explanation. The exhibits are supplemented with handouts given to the public at the entrance to the public information center. A typical handout includes the following information:

  • The purpose of the public information center describing how the open-house forum works and how citizens can submit comments.
  • A brief summary of the project background.
  • A full description of the proposed project, including the estimated cost if available and a notation if right of way acquisition is necessary.
  • An anticipated project schedule.
  • The name of a contact person should further information be required.

Public information centers are usually held towards the end of the workday. Typical times are 3 to 7 p.m. or 4 to 8 p.m. This gives the public ample time to participate.

Updated:
Apr 01, 2004

Last Maintenance Correction:
June 7, 2004