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3 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION INTRODUCTION tions had been adopted as formal processes that would help to identify community characteristics and values, and facil- The purpose of this synthesis is to document the experiences itate public involvement in the decision-making process. In of transportation agencies and other relevant entities in the 2000, the Executive Order on Limited English Proficiency application of techniques used to involve the public in the was signed, which placed increased emphasis on providing development of transportation plans and projects. This sec- meaningful access to decision-making information. The tion provides the project background, discusses the technical Executive Order was followed by the release of FHWA's approach, and describes the organization of this report. 2002 publication Public Involvement Techniques for Trans- portation Decision-Making. More recently, the 2005 trans- PROJECT BACKGROUND portation re-authorization legislation placed emphasis on improved community quality of life through exercising The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1950 was the first piece flexibility in solving transportation problems. Each of these of legislation that required "public involvement." This legis- successive steps has sought to effectively engage all of lation required states to hold public hearings for projects "many" publics in our society in transportation decision bypassing cities and towns. It provided notification to the making to integrate their issues, values, and preferences in public that a project would be constructed, and advertised the process. that a public hearing would be held where information about the project would be available to the public. The demographic Since 1950 there also have been dramatic changes in the of the times gave rise to minimal "public involvement plans" ways and instruments used to receive and send information. that mirrored narrow life and work styles. Notification con- Newspaper circulation has declined as some newspapers sisted primarily of placing advertisements in the local morning have folded and others have been reduced to on-line news. and/or evening newspapers and on local radio, as television Radio's focus has changed from a primary source of infor- was still in its infancy. mation to entertainment. Television has come of age and gone from black and white to color and from free to subscription. Since the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of Telephones have changed from multi-party operator-assisted 1950 and the federal transit laws originally enacted in 1964, lines to individual multi-line wireless cell units. All media interested parties have been given important opportunities to has been overshadowed by the power of the Internet with voice their perspectives in the development of transportation streaming video, Skype, and the advent of social network- solutions. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensured ing vehicles such as Flickr, Facebook, My Space, and that individuals would not be denied an equal right to partic- YouTube. ipate on the basis of race, color, or national origin in all pro- grams receiving federal-aid assistance. This was followed by Change has also come to the face of America, as it has passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 gone from a nation dominated by European immigrants to a and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970, which decisively nation of immigrants from all countries. As such, it is esti- established the opportunity for public involvement through- mated that "Caucasians" in America will be the minority out the location and design processes. before mid-century. Other demographic changes such as increases in those with longer life expectancies, those more The passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation than 65 years old, those with low literacy, those living in Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) extended the opportunity for poverty, and those speaking a non-English language continue public involvement in the transportation planning process. to occur. In addition, more of the nation's population now It was followed by the signing of the Executive Order on lives in urban rather than rural areas. Environmental Justice in 1994, which sought to ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected commu- These changes, and others yet to be defined, create even nities in the transportation decision-making process. Within more social, technological, and financial challenges for two years, the FHWA released its Community Impact Assess- agencies as they attempt to provide effective public involve- ment, A Quick Reference for Transportation, and, by 1998, ment and ensure equity and inclusiveness for all in public Community Impact Assessment and Context Sensitive Solu- involvement.