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Public Involvement with Customers and Stakeholders – PMGB

Project Management and Public Involvement Project Classification
Capital Improvement Projects Safety Projects Asset Management Projects Maintenance Projects
1. Introduction to Public Involvement x x x x
1.1 Public Involvement Defined x x x x
1.1 Roles and Responsibilities x x x x
2. Public Involvement in the Project Development Process x x x x
2.1 Public Involvement Timeline x x x
2.2 Public Involvement Plan x x x
2.3 Early Public Involvement in Preliminary Design x x x
2.4 Later Public Involvement in Preliminary Design x x
2.5 Review, Summarize, and Address Public Comments x x x
2.6 Identify and Study Additional Alternatives (if required) x x x x
2.7 Public Hearing (if Applicable) x
3. Public Involvement for Other Project Types x x x x
3.1 Safety Projects x
3.2 Asset Management Projects x
3.3 Maintenance Projects x
4.0 Public Involvement Strategies x x x x
5.0 Associated Articles x x x x
6.0 Reference Documentation x x x x
x = Information from the topic may be applicable for the project classification.

1. Introduction to Public Involvement

A critical element of all projects, public involvement encompasses more than a single meeting or hearing near the end of the project development process. It should begin early in the project and remain ongoing throughout. To avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts, as well as to narrow the range of alternatives, it is essential to understand the values of the community impacted by a project. Opinions expressed by the public are important considerations in the transportation decision-making process.

1.1 Public Involvement Defined

Public involvement is the process of actively engaging and involving the public in decision making. KYTC carries out public involvement activities to solicit input, receive feedback, and formally consider public perspectives during transportation planning, design, and implementation processes (1).

The public includes the following stakeholders (2):

  • All users of the facility (irrespective of transportation mode)
  • Individuals, businesses, and organizations affected by the project (including those that reside in the project area)
  • Elected officials
  • Others interested in the project’s outcome

Regardless of the types and methods of public involvement used, the Project Manager (PM) and Project Development Team (PDT) should implement seven basic steps to execute the public involvement process for any decision or activity (2):

  1. Create a plan for public involvement activities.
  2. Identify the interested and affected public.
  3. Provide information to the public and conduct outreach.
  4. Offer assistance to the public to facilitate their involvement.
  5. Conduct public involvement activities.
  6. Review and consider public input. Provide feedback to the public.
  7. Evaluate public involvement activities.

Red Flag

Make sure to account for the cost of public involvement and its impact on the project schedule when planning outreach. Cost depends on the level of public involvement and includes staff time and consultant fees (if needed, there are consultants who specialize in public engagement). When estimating impacts to the project schedule account for the time needed to prepare for meetings and other activities, advance notification requirements, and time for the PDT to review public feedback.

 Side Note

If significant time has passed since public involvement activities and the project letting, consider updating the public through social media, newsletters, websites, traditional media sources, or other means as appropriate.

1.2 Roles and Responsibilities

The KYTC Public Involvement Plan is the primary resource that governs public involvement activities in Kentucky. The (Highway Design Guidance Manual HD-600) describes the roles and responsibilities of PDT members involved in public involvement activities. This information is summarized in Table 1. Each District functions slightly differently, and some of these responsibilities could be delegated to others on the PDT. PMs need to be familiar with the roles and responsibilities of each team member. For planning study projects see the Planning Guidance Manual (PL-701.2) for the approval chain.

Table 1 Roles and Responsibilities for Public Involvement Activities
Person/Team Roles and Responsibilities
Project Development Team (PDT)
  • Considers creating a public involvement plan (defined in Section 2.2). Helps execute public involvement activities. If the project is in-house or public involvement is not included in a consultant’s scope of work, the project team creates documents, displays, handouts, and other information provided to the public.
Project Development Branch Manager (PDM)
  • Initiates public involvement. Defines the level of public involvement. Creates a public involvement plan. Schedules and holds public hearings and meetings. This includes selecting the venue (check for ADA compliance), meeting format, meeting preparation, meeting materials, and offering an opportunity for comment. Advertises and develops notifications for public hearings and meetings. Offers an opportunity for public hearing. Often the PDM delegates these activities to the Project Manager.
Project Manager (PM)
  • Responsible for public involvement activities delegated to them by the PDM and documentation for public hearings and meetings.
Chief District Engineer (CDE)
  • Provides concurrence on public involvement activities.
District Public Information Officer (PIO)
  • Assists the PDT with public involvement activities. Can help upload information to the District webpage and social media accounts and submit project information to traditional media sources.
Central Office Public Involvement Coordinator
  • Can help the PDT with public involvement activities if requested. Distributes public hearing/meeting documentation to appropriate Divisions and agencies.
Consultant (If included on the PDT)
  • Helps the PDT execute all public involvement activities. Creates documents, displays, handouts, and other information provided to the public. Compiles public hearing and meeting documentation.

2. Public Involvement in the Project Development Process

The level of public involvement can vary significantly between projects and depends on the project location, type, and magnitude. For example, on projects where several alternatives are under consideration or projects that trigger greater public controversy, more public meetings may be necessary. 

Understanding tradeoffs and constraints associated with each alternative is critical for informing the public and increasing the likelihood of public acceptance. Early public involvement lets community members offer critical insights about the project’s goals, needs, and its effects on the community.

Section 2.1 provides typical timelines for public involvement in the project development process for two project types — (1) Categorical Exclusion (CE) projects and (2) Environmental Assessment (EA), Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) projects. Section 2.2 addresses public involvement plans and provides additional information about key points during public involvement.

Although the subsections below focus on projects that include public hearings and meetings, the PM should keep in mind that the level and types of public involvement varies between projects. When deciding how to approach public involvement, the PM must select methods that will provide clear and accessible information to affected communities and provide stakeholders adequate opportunity to provide feedback while working within project budget and schedule constraints.

Red Flag

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that as part of the project development process, accommodations be made for individuals with Limited English Proficiency. Being able to reach and engage all communities and individuals is critical to gaining a full understanding of project needs and issues. Information on requesting language accommodations in public involvement notifications/advertisements can be found in Section 2.2.

The Office of Civil Rights and Small Business Development has developed a Title VI informational flyer (link coming soon) that has been translated into several languages. The English and Spanish versions are to be made available at all public meetings (also available in online and virtual formats). Translations in other languages are required to be provided if 5% of the eligible population or more than 50 people in the study area speaks a specific language (USDOT 70 Fed. Reg. 74095, 76 Fed. Reg. 21765). A voluntary demographic information survey (link coming soon) has also been created that is used to help gain insight on the communities that have been engaged during the project development process. This survey can also be incorporated into virtual public involvement such as online surveys and StoryMaps. 

2.1 Public Involvement Timeline

Several opportunities to engage the public are available during the project development process. Most of these opportunities occur during Preliminary Engineering prior to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approval. Early public engagement can be used to identify the public’s issues and concerns. Public engagement during later stages of project development can be used to communicate project details to the public and to show the public how the project addresses their concerns.

Figure 1 indicates when public involvement typically occurs during project development on a typical capital improvement project where the NEPA document is a CE.

Figure 1: Public Involvement Process Timeline for a Typical Capital Improvement Project (EA, FONSI, or EIS NEPA Document)

A public hearing must be held for projects with a NEPA document including an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Environmental Assessment (EA) or a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Figure 2 shows when the public hearing takes place for these project types. Additional information on Public Hearings is available in the Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-603 and Exhibit 200-06)

Figure 2: Public Involvement Process Timeline for a Typical Capital Improvement Project (EA/FONSI or EIS NEPA Document)

Red Flag

One of the first decisions the PM makes about public involvement is whether a public hearing is needed for the project. Making this determination requires working with the District Environmental Coordinator and holding a Scope Verification Meeting with the Federal Highway Administration (if the anticipated NEPA document is a CEIII or above). PMs need to consider impacts to the project schedule and budget along with the recording and documentation requirements.

2.2 Public Involvement Plan

It should be determined whether a formal public involvement plan (PIP) or an informal plan will be used on the project.

Although a PIP is only mandatory for projects that require an EIS, PMs should consider developing a PIP for every project advanced through project development (2). Whether or not a PIP is used, public involvement activities can be scoped/documented in the Pre-Design Meeting Minutes.

A PIP’s content should be tailored to individual project needs and may include items or activities ranging from contacting individual property owners on small projects to conducting a series of public involvement meetings or public hearings on more complex projects. Some PIPs may prescribe the formation of a citizens advisory committee, the purpose of which is to involve property owners or special interest groups when significant environmental issues or concerns must be addressed. A PIP must facilitate communication between KYTC and the public so the Cabinet can make the best transportation decision possible.

The PDT should develop a PIP outline during the early stages of project development. The plan must include any federally required public hearings. Supplemental public involvement meetings that will contribute to better decisions on the project location or details may be included as well. The plan may be modified as the project advances, and it should be reviewed by the PDT at critical stages in project development. The PIP should describe the specific methods that will be used to conduct public outreach, such as telephone surveys, newsletters, social media, websites, and focus groups (2).

The KYTC Public Involvement Toolbox website contains examples of PIPs. The following template can be used when developing a PIP:

1. Identify the purpose of the plan

    a. What transportation decisions are to be made?

    b. What is the desired level of public involvement/influence?

2. Status of the project development process (brief summary of the process up to this point, including planning).

3. History of public involvement related to the project (brief summary of past public involvement     activities, including Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) comments, Metropolitan Planning Organization/Area Development District (MPO/ADD) engagement, and planning activities).

4. Understand the affected communities/public. List and briefly describe each. The PM can also create an Excel spreadsheet that compiles contact information of interested parties for future coordination and project updates. For each community, the PIP should include:

    a. A community profile (social, economic, and political structures)

    b. Key community issues and interests

    c. Assessment of community awareness of and knowledge about the project

    d. Identification of special sensitivities and/or requirements related to public involvement methods and activities

5. Summarize the overall approach to public involvement. List and briefly describe each:

    a. Outreach

    b. Education

    c. Gathering of input

    d. Opportunities for direct involvement

    e. Pathways for incorporating input into decision making

    f. Providing feedback to the public on decision making

    g. Plan for monitoring, evaluating, and readjusting the PIP

6. Define specific action steps, techniques, and timing for public involvement (i.e., who will do what, on what timeline, and with what resources).

All interested members of the public must have an opportunity to participate in the public involvement process. Public involvement notifications/advertisements are to include a notice that translation services are available at no cost to the public upon request for Limited English Proficiency populations. The Office for Civil Rights and Small Business Development can be contacted to obtain these services. The KYTC Public Involvement Process provides minority and non-English-speaking newspaper and radio resources that can be used to communicate project information to these communities. It also contains basic demographic information that could be used to identify these populations.

Efforts must be made to identify and accommodate any individuals with disabilities (ADA) or other special needs participants. This includes arranging for meeting venue facilities to accommodate people with physical disabilities (2). Meeting notifications and advertisements distributed to the public must include a request for accommodations (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Sample Meeting Notification with Request for Accommodations

2.3 Early Public Involvement in Preliminary Design

For larger or controversial projects — those whose NEPA document is an EA, FONSI or EIS — a public meeting must be held as soon as possible in the project development process to address the Purpose and Need statement. Projects where the NEPA document is a CE may also benefit from a public meeting.

The first public meeting is typically an informal public kickoff for the project. The purpose of this meeting is to gather information, describe the project development process and project timeline, determine community support for the project, and understand community issues as well as the public’s expectations for the project. A request for accommodations should be made part of any public meeting advertisement.

For large-scale projects and/or projects that involve a sensitive corridor, assembling a group of stakeholders may prove beneficial. Stakeholder engagement helps the PM and PDT develop a better understanding of conditions in the project area and can also provide the stakeholders with a better appreciation of what goes into the project development process. Stakeholder groups may include members with different backgrounds (e.g., local officials, emergency services, school transportation and/or administration, impacted utility owners). The composition of stakeholder groups should be tailored to the project’s needs and context. Often stakeholder groups continue to meet periodically to receive updates and discuss alternatives and other project-related information provided by the PDT. If more direct involvement with the PDT is needed, the PDT may engage a subset of the stakeholder group through a focus group.

Red Flag

Before any public meeting, stakeholder meeting, posting information to a project website, or disseminating information to the public in any manner, the PM must review all materials, displays, and handouts to verify their accuracy, clarity, and ease of understanding. Additional guidance can be found in the HKP articles Holding Effective Meetings and Effective Communications.

2.4 Later Public Involvement in Preliminary Design

Once the PDT has developed a reasonable number of feasible and competitive alternatives and understands the potential impacts of each, it may be appropriate to hold another stakeholder meeting to present alternatives, solicit opinions, and obtain stakeholder buy-in. This meeting may be held before or after identifying a preferred alternative. Once stakeholders have been brought up to date on the alternatives, another public meeting should be held to present the preferred alternative and obtain further public input.

Continued public involvement is very important for the progress of a project. The main objective of public meetings during the latter stages of alternative development is to let community members examine, review, and comment on the details of each alternative. Opinions voiced at late-stage meetings are important considerations when selecting an alternative. Public meetings at this juncture are also used to discuss how issues or concerns brought up at a previous meeting can be resolved, particularly challenges related to environmental commitments.

 Side Note

Members of stakeholder groups should be encouraged to attend public meetings. This allows them to interact with the public and hear concerns from their community. It also lets the public know that KYTC is committed to the transparent development of a project solution. One way of doing this is to hold the stakeholder meeting at the same location as the public meeting, but just prior to the public meeting.

2.5 Review, Summarize, and Address Public Comments

Public involvement efforts help the PM and PDT identify and document the community’s concerns about the project. After meeting with the public, the PM and PDT should prepare a summary that describes key issues voiced by members of the public. Close attention should be paid to special sensitivities, requests, and/or requirements advanced by community members. After examining public meeting records, the PM (assisted by the PDT) should address public comments and provide feedback to the community where they judge it appropriate to do so. The PM and PDT should also develop plans — if necessary — for resolving issues so the project can move forward. If a significant amount of time elapses between the public involvement meetings and project letting, consider updating the public through media, newsletters, websites, social media, or other means as appropriate.

Documentation is required for any public involvement activity or contact that is part of the project decision making process. For Public Hearings this documentation must include the items listed in the Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-603.1). Often referred to as the Public Hearing notebook, these items are summarized below. Public meeting records may also follow the documentation needs listed in HD-603.1, with a few of the components not being required (see below). Documentation of public involvement activities outside of public hearings and meetings can be accomplished by including a memorandum in the project files that summarizes methods used to conduct the activities and public feedback.

Documentation for a Public Hearing (best practice is to use for public meetings too)

  • Cover Sheet
    • Titled as Corridor or Design Public Hearing, county, item number, road name; and date, time, and place of hearing
  • Table of contents
  • Notification to manager of advertising section of newspaper
  • Legal notice
    • Not needed for public meetings
  • Tear sheet from newspaper
  • Sketch map showing the project on which the hearing was held
  • Copy of handouts
    • If a presentation is given, copies of slides can go here.
  • Sign-in sheets, including KYTC staff, consultants, FHWA, and all persons attending
  • For formal hearings, a transcript of the entire proceedings. For informal hearings, all oral statements received.
    • The record will include all statements made and identify the persons who made them. The record should show throughout that all pertinent subjects were open to discussion and that everyone had an opportunity to speak.
      • Not needed for public meetings
    • The record should include a certification that states the transcript is a true, complete, and accurate record of the hearing and/or oral statements received.
      • Not needed for public meeting
    • Written statements, endorsements, etc. Copies should be obtained and made part of the hearing record.
      • For public meetings, questionnaire responses can be shown in this section, including any from online sources. Charts and graphs can help summarize the responses received.
    • Copies of replies to statements made.
      • Not needed for public meetings
    • Copies of statements and exhibits used during the public hearing.
      • For public meetings pictures of exhibits in the meeting room should be included. Comments the public attaches or draws on exhibits can also be compiled here.

Red Flag

Documentation of public meetings and hearings must be submitted to the Division of Highway Design Public Involvement Coordinator within 30-45 days after the date of a public meeting and within 45 days of a public hearing.

2.6 Identify and Study Additional Alternatives (if Required)

Based on comments or additional information received at the public meetings and/or stakeholder meetings, the PDT may need to study further alternative combinations, crossovers, or new alignments. New solutions must be evaluated at the same level of detail as previous alternatives before a final alternative selection is made.

If a new alternative(s) appears promising (e.g., achieves the Purpose and Need at a lower cost or with fewer impacts), the PM and PDT should discuss and then decide whether more time should be allocated to investigate it and collect relevant information. When deciding if a new alternative should be examined late in Preliminary Design the PDT must consider the project budget, schedule, and milestones. A new alternative that reduces impacts may simplify and compress the Final Design schedule and/or decrease the overall project cost, affording time and money for study while still meeting the targeted letting date. If studying a new alternative requires more design funding or time, the decision should be coordinated with the CDE and Central Office to obtain their approval.

2.7 Public Hearing (if Applicable)

On Federal-aid projects whose NEPA document includes an EA, FONSI or EIS, once the draft EA is completed and approved by FHWA, KYTC must: (1) give the public an opportunity to request a public hearing or (2) hold a corridor and/or design public hearing.

The primary objectives of a public hearing are to (1) circulate detailed project information for public review and comment and (2) discuss how issues and concerns voiced during earlier meetings have been resolved, especially those related to environmental commitments. For more information on public hearings see the Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-603).

3. Public Involvement for other Project Types

Public involvement should be a part of any KYTC project regardless of project type or magnitude. As noted, methods used for public involvement and the level of effort should be scaled to fit individual projects.

3.1 Safety Projects

Public involvement activities for safety projects typically focus on talking to affected property owners over the telephone or meeting them onsite to discuss project improvements and how they will affect their property. Communication can also take place over email. If the impacts are larger, a stakeholder or public meeting may be held. For projects such as community safety plans, holding recurring stakeholder or steering committee–type meetings are a good option. If road diets (roadway reconfiguration) are considered, the District cannot proceed without a public information/outreach effort (3).  

Coordination with the Central Office Traffic Safety Branch, which oversees the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), is essential for developing an appropriate public involvement strategy for safety projects.  

3.2 Asset Management Projects

Asset management projects (bridge replacement/rehabilitation and pavement rehabilitation) typically involve less public involvement than capital improvement projects. Depending on the project context, more in-depth public involvement may be needed, such as when right of way is required or if maintenance of traffic will produce significant disruptions (e.g., road closures, lane closures). In these cases, PMs need to coordinate with the District PIO.

3.3 Maintenance Projects

For planned maintenance activities the District PIO will communicate information provided by Division of Maintenance staff to the public before the anticipated start date. District PIOs convey this information through notifications on social media, updates to the District webpage, and press releases to the media.

For maintenance projects that include roadway or bridge closures, the CDE or their designated representative must notify the following entities that KYTC intends to close a facility (4):

  • County school superintendent
  • Post office
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Ambulance services
  • Fire department
  • Public transportation agencies

When KYTC expects maintenance work to impact traffic for a significant period of time, variable message signs can be used to provide additional notice.

Meetings with individual property owners typically occur if a question or concern is received from a property owner.

4. Public Involvement Strategies

Numerous methods and tools can be used to engage the public. These methods and tools fall along a spectrum, ranging from the lowest level of involvement/intensity to higher levels of involvement/intensity. Figure 4 visualizes this spectrum and lists common public involvement techniques used.

Figure 4: Spectrum of Public Involvement Activities

  • Public Hearings
    • Used when required. Refer to the Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-603) for an in-depth discussion on public hearing details including preparation, announcement, legal notice, how to conduct a hearing, and documentation requirements.
  • Public Meetings – Both in-person and virtual formats
    • Citizens’ Advisory Committees
    • Stakeholder Groups
    • Public Information Meetings – Typically adopt an informal format
    • Property Owner Meetings – Typically include property owners where right of way is needed
  • Design Charrettes
    • Meetings called to resolve problems or issues and can include members of the PDT, stakeholders, and the public. A time limit is imposed for participants to reach a resolution.
  • Newsletters
    • Can be emailed or issued via postcards
    • Local elected officials, homeowners associations, and other associations (such as business associations) can include project information in their newsletters
  • Press Release to Media
    • Distributed to print, television, radio, and online outlets
  • Social Media
    • If using Facebook, a Facebook Boost can be used to target specific audiences, such as those within a defined geographic location. It amplifies a post’s reach at a low cost.
  • Project Website
    • On District webpage
    • Project-specific webpage
  • ArcGIS StoryMaps
    • A web-based application for sharing maps, narratives, and multimedia content with the public.
  • Online Surveys
    • Metroquest, Mentimeter, and Surveymonkey are a few examples.
  • Variable Message Signs
    • Used onsite to notify public of upcoming meetings
  • Press Conference or press releases
    • coordinate with KYTC’s Office of Public Affairs
  • Telephone calls or email communications with public

Red Flag

If conducting a public meeting virtually (through an online meeting) consult the KYTC Virtual Meetings Guidance. Although virtual engagement can reach a wider audience, care should be taken to prepare for the meeting. This includes planning for technical difficulties, practicing the presentation ahead of time, assigning a person to serve as an online moderator, and deciding how to document and respond to public comments.

 Side Note

If it can be demonstrated that expenditures made to public meeting participants are “necessary and reasonable” this can be an acceptable use of federal funds as project expenses (5). Examples include, providing food and childcare at meetings, hiring of community-based organizations, and providing financial incentive/reimbursement for participation (5).

5. Associated Articles

Highway Knowledge Portal: Build Your Team

PMGB – PM & Preliminary Design (Coming Soon)

PMGB – Holding Effective Meetings (Coming Soon)

PMGB – Effective Communication (Coming Soon)

6. Reference Documentation

Project Management Guidebook Knowledge Book:

Access the complete Knowledge Book here: Project Management Guidebook

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