ISTEA requires states, cities, and counties to consult citizens

Under ISTEA, we citizens must now be given a reasonable opportunity to comment on the highway projects and plans that affect our lives. The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration told agencies to:

"aggressively support proactive public involvement at all stages of planning and project development."

This new Federal policy has finally given citizens a foot in the door. No longer is it OK for agencies to hold a poorly-advertised hearing at the end of a project to tell folks what they're about to do to people's lives. While we've got a long way to go before citizen voices are routinely given the weight they deserve, ISTEA has brought us a long way.

ISTEA requires:


What will happen to public involvement in the new law?

It depends who wins the battle in Congress. There are those who want to go back to the old way and those who want to forge ahead, building a stronger public voice.

ISTEA2

In ISTEA2, the role of citizens in transportation remains a key ingredient. After all, citizen organizations were strongly represented in setting the goals and drafting the platform!

Is there any wonder that groups like the Sierra Club, the United Church of Christ Commission on Racial Justice, the Quinault Indian Nation, and the Kent Healthy Transportation Task Force are among the supporters of the ISTEA2 proposal?

Opposition comes from many State DOTs*

Many state DOTs absolutely hate being told to involve their citizens. The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), for example, believes the Federal requirements are "too prescriptive." Yet many of us have been unimpressed with how MDT actually does public involvement. They often seem to go through the motions but don't seem to listen. People get the impression that they come in knowing what they want to do and aren't about to be swayed.

They SAY they want real "public involvement" but actions speak louder than words. Regarding MDT's handling of the Highway 93 public process, the Bitterroot Star said, "There is something fundamentally flawed with the so-called 'public hearing' process..." (1/8/97). The Ravalli Republic said, "State officials have gone out of their way to squash opposition to the preferred alternative." (1/14/97)

 Other Proposals Other proposed bills, including those backed by many state DOTs, either cut back on the public's right to get involved or they give the states more power, or they do both.
 

If you'd like to see a copy of the actual rules on public involvement, we've got them on-line. There's one rule for states and another metropolitan areas.


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