INDOT Environmental Services Division, Public Involvement Update Due to Coronavirus

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Public involvement requirements are being evaluated and modified as the Indiana Department of Transportation work to combat the spread of the Coronavirus.

As of March 16, 2020 the requirement to make project documents available at public view locations/physical locations has been suspended.

All project documents are to be made available on-line for the public to access (NEPA document, preliminary design drawings, renderings, etc). For INDOT projects, officials will post to or link from the respective district’s webpage.  For LPA projects, officials will require the project sponsor to do the same.

Providing access to project documents is a cornerstone of public involvement and therefore must be mitigated in other ways.     

For federal-aid projects requiring public involvement, requirements can be satisfied by either holding a public hearing or offering the public the opportunity to request that a public hearing be held. This can done for most (not all) CE level documents.  For projects where a public hearing is mandatory (Historic Bridge, EA and EIS) we will have to transition to conducting Virtual Public Hearings. 

Below are procedures INDOT will follow to ensure they meet the INDOT/FHWA requirements for projects receiving federal-aid related to public involvement. 

Scenario #1 – Advertise public hearing opportunity (applies to CE level projects where INDOT need only to offer the public hearing opportunity)

  • Publish two legal notices in the local paper to advertise the project and offer the public the opportunity to request a public hearing
  • If you have a project mailing and wish to mail/email notices to key stakeholders, property owners, etc. – this is encouraged
  • Ensure project documents are available ON-LINE; Do not list any physical viewing location in your notice
  • Your notice MUST include a statement that offers the public the opportunity to request project information be mailed to them. This is very important as we cannot assume everyone has reliable internet service and/or access. The statement in your legal notice should read “Persons with limited internet access may request project information be mailed, please contact XXXXXX, Phone Number and Email address”……….
  • A copy of the CE may be mailed to anyone who specifically requests a copy; otherwise project information to be mailed (upon request) should simply include a project summary, a map, project description, etc.
  • The CE and preliminary design plans/drawings/renderings must be posted ON-LINE via a project webpage/district page; if desired, a powerpoint presentation may also be posted on-line to provide the public with a more reader-friendly way to learn about the project
  • The public must be offered a minimum of 15 days in which to submit comments or to request a public hearing; the 15 days are calendar days (not business days) and the 15-day comment period begins the date the first of the two notices is published
  • The notice must still offer the public the opportunity to request a public hearing be held, however no hearings will be scheduled at this time. It is still important to keep this language in the notice
  • At the end of the 15 day comment period, all comments received must be responded to; all comments and responses are to be documented
  • If hearing requests are received, the project sponsor can decide if a hearing is to be held or not (certainly at this time no hearings will be scheduled)
  • If no hearing held, submit all public involvement materials to INDOT for review and to receive public involvement certification
  • Once PI certification is received, submit PI materials to INDOT Environmental Services to initiate request for NEPA document approval
PIA

Scenario #2 – Hold Public Hearing (for projects where a public hearing is mandatory, such as CE projects involving Historic Bridges, EA and EIS)

  • Publish two legal notices in the local paper to announce the public hearing
  • If you have a project mailing and wish to mail/email notices to key stakeholders, property owners, etc. – this is encouraged
  • Ensure project documents are available ON-LINE; Do not list any physical viewing location in your notice
  • Your notice MUST include a statement in the notice that offers the public the opportunity to request project information be mailed to them. This is very important as we cannot assume everyone has reliable internet service and/or access. The statement in your legal notice should read “Persons with limited internet access may request project information be mailed, please contact XXXXXX, Phone Number and Email address”……….
  • Projects requiring/mandating a public hearing be held (Historic Bridge, EA, EIS) an on-line/virtual public hearing must be conducted to take the place of an in-person public hearing
  • The project team should work with Central Office & District Communications to determine equipment and logistical needs to conduct a virtual public hearing
    • ADA stakeholders must be considered as part of the virtual public hearing
  • A copy of the CE may be mailed to anyone who specifically requests a copy of the CE document; otherwise, project information to be mailed should simply include a project summary, a map, project description, etc.
  • The hearing cannot take place sooner than 15 days from the date the first legal notice is published
  • Hold formal public hearing as a virtual/online public hearing; a formal presentation must be given. We will need to capture public comments during the virtual public hearing. We will have an email address where comments may be sent, list a phone number where verbal comments could be left as a voicemail. We will determine other ways in which comments can be submitted. 
  • For verbal comments, we will transcribe comments and enter them into the public hearing transcript
  • Allow two weeks following the virtual public hearing for public comments
    • The comment period actually begins once the first legal notice is published, but it is a good practice to allow a couple of weeks after a hearing to receive comments
  • Prepare a public hearing’s transcript (an accounting of all public involvement activities undertaken, including the virtual public hearing)
  • Submit transcript and public involvement materials to INDOT for review and to receive public involvement certification
  • Once PI certification is received, submit PI materials to INDOT Environmental Services to initiate a request for NEPA document approval
PIB
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