AARoads Forum

National Boards => General Highway Talk => Topic started by: Mergingtraffic on May 03, 2011, 08:26:31 PM

Title: Public Comment
Post by: Mergingtraffic on May 03, 2011, 08:26:31 PM
How many of you respond to public comments on projects ot STIPs or the long range trans plans?

 A couple around my area just reissued their transportation long-term plans and I commented.  The response was favorable although I wonder if they are actually considered if they don't follow the mold. 
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Scott5114 on May 04, 2011, 08:06:51 PM
I know that our member J.N. Winkler commented on the 2009 MUTCD and was even successful in getting FHWA to retain the option for traditional stippled-arrow diagrammatics.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: 3467 on May 04, 2011, 11:16:01 PM
I do and on any Environmental Impact Statements as well. Sometimes they pay attention sometimes not
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: hbelkins on May 05, 2011, 07:51:29 PM
Each transportation district in Kentucky is in the process of establishing a set of priority routes for purposes of future construction and where it sits on the pecking order list for maintenance. In my district we are actively soliciting public comments and even created our own new email address specifically for that purpose. We also plan to use it when we have public hearings, public informational meetings, etc. I understand from our planning engineer that we have been getting comments and they are being taken under advisement.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Alps on May 06, 2011, 06:15:11 AM
I'd love to comment on more projects and attend public meetings, but worry that working for an engineering firm may make it difficult to respond as a private citizen. Even if I officially don't represent them, in a way I always do.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Landshark on May 06, 2011, 06:03:34 PM

It is essential that we citizens speak up.  In my state, the DOT massively misdesigned an important interchange (I-5, US 101 in Olympia/Tumwater) 30 years ago.  I have been pushing them to fix their mistakes in the future.  We need more people speaking up!
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Scott5114 on May 06, 2011, 10:32:18 PM
I'd love to comment on more projects and attend public meetings, but worry that working for an engineering firm may make it difficult to respond as a private citizen. Even if I officially don't represent them, in a way I always do.

Afraid of being a lobbyist? :P
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Alps on May 07, 2011, 03:00:29 AM
I'd love to comment on more projects and attend public meetings, but worry that working for an engineering firm may make it difficult to respond as a private citizen. Even if I officially don't represent them, in a way I always do.

Afraid of being a lobbyist? :P
Afraid of saying something that:
* may go against my company's position (or those higher up)
* may be construed to represent my company because i am an employee (if i or my name is recognized at any point)
* furthermore, may be seen as a "plant" by my company, which is in very poor form
* may lead to ethical issues if my comment causes a decision chain that favors my company
* may lead to job security issues if my comment causes a decision chain that works against my company
* casts blame, intentionally or not, on any company including my own
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Scott5114 on May 07, 2011, 07:36:33 PM
If they tried to fire you because you commented on a public project then that would absolutely be grounds for a wrongful-termination lawsuit. As long as you don't go in there and say "I am Steve Alpert of WXYZ Engineering and it should be like that" you can hardly be faulted for having an opinion on a public issue. And you can't be faulted for that not being the same opinion as your superiors. I'm sure we all disagree with our employers on one thing or another—hell, I have strenuous moral objections to my company's hiring policy, for example.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: corco on May 07, 2011, 09:30:08 PM
Ideally, that's what you could do, but if Steve were to make a public comment that were to lead to problems for the company he may get fired and he may have a wrongful termination claim, but I'd bid him the best of luck finding a new engineering job.

It sucks that the world works that way but it does.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: J N Winkler on May 08, 2011, 02:08:20 PM
Afraid of saying something that:
* may go against my company's position (or those higher up)
* may be construed to represent my company because i am an employee (if i or my name is recognized at any point)
* furthermore, may be seen as a "plant" by my company, which is in very poor form
* may lead to ethical issues if my comment causes a decision chain that favors my company
* may lead to job security issues if my comment causes a decision chain that works against my company
* casts blame, intentionally or not, on any company including my own

I don't think it is necessary to have an absolute rule against commenting on transportation projects while working for a PEF, but it is certainly ethically responsible to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and to state (if you are employed as an engineer) that you are commenting in a strictly private capacity, as a private citizen, and that your comments are not to be construed as an attempt to practice engineering.  It is also worth thinking about the context in which the comments are made since this influences whether any disclaimers are accepted as credible.

In Kansas we had a situation similar to this some years ago, as part of the long-running South Lawrence Trafficway saga.  Pretty much every KDOT secretary since the 1980's has wanted to build the SLT, as has the power structure in Douglas County, but as a result of significant local opposition the proposal has gone through an EIS process three times.  At one point the proposal looked like it had been talked to death when Mike Rees, who was then KDOT chief counsel, made several interventions in favor of it.  Rees claimed in subsequent newspaper interviews that he was acting strictly in a personal capacity, and this might even have been true (a quick Google search suggests that he now practices law in Lecompton, which is just west of Lawrence), but at the time he was widely considered the wholly owned creature of E. Dean Carlson, who was then KDOT secretary and had a reputation for fractious dealings with localities.  Many thought Rees was "double-dipping" in the environmental process on Carlson's orders and this caused much resentment.

Carlson's successor, Deb Miller (the current KDOT secretary), took a much more low-key approach to the SLT and I believe this is why it is now in design with good prospects of being let to construction in the next two years.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Alps on May 09, 2011, 07:29:08 PM
If they tried to fire you because you commented on a public project then that would absolutely be grounds for a wrongful-termination lawsuit. As long as you don't go in there and say "I am Steve Alpert of WXYZ Engineering and it should be like that" you can hardly be faulted for having an opinion on a public issue. And you can't be faulted for that not being the same opinion as your superiors. I'm sure we all disagree with our employers on one thing or another—hell, I have strenuous moral objections to my company's hiring policy, for example.
NJ is employment at will. So they can fire me for any reason they want and not tell me why. Just FYI.

I don't think it is necessary to have an absolute rule against commenting on transportation projects while working for a PEF, but it is certainly ethically responsible to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and to state (if you are employed as an engineer) that you are commenting in a strictly private capacity, as a private citizen, and that your comments are not to be construed as an attempt to practice engineering.  It is also worth thinking about the context in which the comments are made since this influences whether any disclaimers are accepted as credible.

Thanks - that's not an angle I thought of for some reason but it's a good point. I might try that next time.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Mr. Matté on November 01, 2013, 11:56:14 PM
Sorry for the bump, but I think someone from this forum made this comment about a new state highway in southern Ohio:

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/districts/d10/d10planning/Lists/Public%20Comment%20SR%20733/SR%20733%20Public%20Comment%20Form.aspx
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: jeffandnicole on November 02, 2013, 11:02:08 AM
I attend some public meetings and comment on some TIPs, mostly in NJ. 

I find many public meetings are really just information sessions.  What I say isn't written down, and who knows what is remembered or brought back for suggestions.  I guess I could follow up with a written email/letter.  Many times, it seems if a public official says something, it carries a lot more weight than if Joe Public says something, even though Joe may utilize the road on a daily basis, and the public official may rarely use that intersection, but heard a complaint from 90 year old Margaret that our roads are too dangerous and is simply passing that along.

For the NJ TIP, which is actually run thru the DVRPC in Philly, my experience has been less than positive.  A few years ago, I wrote 3 comments, all regarding state roads.  For some reason, 2 of those comments were passed onto the County planning department, which responded back that they don't have jurisdiction for those roads (duh).  The 3rd comment did get to the State, and the official response was that it would be looked into, but I never heard anything since.

For what it's worth, that comment was adding overhead signs on NJ 73 between the NJ Turnpike & 295.  It's a short, busy stretch of roadway where lane positioning is important, and often times the smaller signs off to the right shoulder are missed due to trucks and other traffic, and aren't totally accurate anyway.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: Duke87 on November 02, 2013, 03:28:20 PM
I attended a public meeting about the proposed reconstruction of the US 7/Merritt Parkway interchange in the spring of 2008. Someone from ConnDOT who I spoke to there was impressed by my knowledge of roads and was about ready to offer me a job until he learned I wouldn't be graduating for another year. Then later that year the market crashed, ConnDOT started laying people off, and the project the meeting was about got put on indefinite hold... ah well, eh?
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: mass_citizen on November 02, 2013, 03:37:05 PM
NJ is employment at will. So they can fire me for any reason they want and not tell me why. Just FYI.

Employment at will or not, there are still laws against firing in a discriminatory manner (i.e. race, religion, gender, etc.). Not that that would help you in this case, but just saying there are reasons for which someone cannot be fired.

I think the best way to handle a situation like yours would be to take it on a case by case basis. If there is a project that affects you personally that you want to express your opinion on, you can talk to your superior and just give them a heads up. You can also ask them if they foresee your company's involvement in the project, and if not, you should be good to go.
Title: Re: Public Comment
Post by: renegade on November 24, 2013, 10:33:33 PM
Sorry for the bump, but I think someone from this forum made this comment about a new state highway in southern Ohio:

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/districts/d10/d10planning/Lists/Public%20Comment%20SR%20733/SR%20733%20Public%20Comment%20Form.aspx

   

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