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Section 4: Public Hearing

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Overview

Public involvement is an ongoing phase of the project planning process that encourages and solicits public input and provides the public the opportunity to become informed regarding project development. A public hearing is a specific format that gives the public access to the decision-making process. This section discusses a formal avenue of public involvement and is required with specific project proposals.

This section includes the following tasks, listed in chronological order:

3500. Conduct public hearing

3520. Respond to public hearing comments

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3500: Conduct public hearing

Description. A public hearing (see the Environmental Manual) is held to present project alternatives and to seek public comment on the proposed project location, design, and environmental impacts. A hearing includes portions for introductory remarks, a technical presentation, and receiving public comments.

Pertinent Project Types. An opportunity for a hearing must be afforded when required by law.

Responsible Party. Advanced project development engineer

Helpful Suggestions.

  • Afford (provide) an opportunity for a public hearing by the Electronic Business Daily. If, in response to the advertisement, someone requests that a hearing be conducted, a hearing must be held. If it is anticipated that the hearing will be requested, then the hearing may be scheduled without first affording the opportunity.
  • In addition to projects requiring hearings, a hearing might be appropriate in the following situations:
    • acquisition of a large amount of right of way is proposed
    • the roadway function changes substantially
    • there is public controversy related to a project
    • for a high-profile project.
  • For non-EIS projects, the project development team should go to the hearing with a clearly “preferred” alternative presented. A preferred alternative does not have to be presented for an EIS project. No final decisions should be made until after the public has the opportunity to provide input.

Critical Sequencing.

  • Approval for further processing of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), EA or CE must be obtained before advertising for the hearing. Approval of a CE, EA or DEIS is obtained from the FHWA for federally-funded projects or from the Environmental Affairs Division for state-funded projects.
  • For controlled access projects or projects requiring an Environmental Impact Statement, approval of the geometric schematic (see 2920: Obtain approval of final geometric schematic) must be obtained before advertising for the hearing. Check with the Design Division Field Coordination Section for exceptions to this requirement, particularly for rural projects with few abutting property owners.

Resource Material. TxDOT Environmental Manual

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3520: Respond to public hearing comments

Description. The public has the opportunity during a public hearing and a minimum of ten days after a public hearing (“hearing”) to comment on any aspect of the project. During the hearing, these comments can be made in writing or orally. After the hearing, the comments must be received in writing.

TxDOT is required to prepare a public hearing summary and analysis which includes the oral comments (see the Environmental Manual) received during the hearing, written comments received during the comment period, and responses to all comments.

Pertinent Project Types. Projects having a hearing.

Responsible Party. Environmental coordinator

Sub-tasks.

  • Obtain all comments from the hearing and any additional comments received after the hearing.
  • In cooperation with the project manager, prepare responses to the comments - soon after the hearing. Review comments and responses with the advanced project development engineer.
  • Submit required documentation on the hearing to the Environmental Affairs Division.
  • Coordinate external review of schematic revisions (see 2860: Review geometric schematic with stakeholders) with project manager.
  • Prepare and distribute comment and response report, and public hearing summary and analysis. For more information, refer to the Environmental Manual, Chapter 4, Section 2, and the discussion regarding “ Post Public Hearing Events.”
  • Use hearing information to select a preferred alternative. The preferred alternative may be selected as originally proposed, or it may be selected with modifications, or a new alternative may be selected.

Helpful Suggestions. Comments and responses should be viewed with the following question in mind: “How can this result in a better overall project for the public?” If this is used as the standard, then responses and project changes made as a result of comments will be in the public’s best interest.

Resource Material. TxDOT Environmental Manual

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