Community input is key to successful, upcoming projects
Community input is important for large or small projects that are planned for the city, county or state. Decision makers that sit on city and county boards recognize that the community that uses the spaces that it’s planning for have an intimate and unique relationship with the area. For those hired to perform a study, design the project or build based on the final, approved blueprints, there might be a learning curve if they do not reside in the area. Knowledge from community members can provide new information on a project that has yet to be considered and can make the difference between a good and poor decision.
When the community is involved in the decision-making process of a project, it provides them with a feeling of ownership and satisfaction of the finished project. There, of course, will be negative and positive feedback on most projects due to feelings on the environmental impact, cost, location and more. But, the outcome is well-worth it when community input is provided.
The California Department of Transportation has published a draft of the California State Rail Plan. State transportation officials are accepting public comments on the plan through Dec. 11 and seven public workshops have been scheduled. Among its highlights, the plan calls for Caltrain’s electrification and elimination of existing freight-rail bottlenecks by 2022, high-speed rail from the Central Valley to Silicon Valley and fully operational integrated ticketing and shared passenger and trade corridors by 2027. The plan also includes high-speed rail service from Anaheim to San Francisco and high-speed rail connections in Sacramento, Inland Empire and San Diego by 2040.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has created an 11-member committee that will determine how Indiana distributes its nearly $41 million share of a Volkswagen settlement. The executive order, appoints a Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund Committee. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) also was named the beneficiary of the trust fund and will take on administrative duties. IDEM will begin taking public comments through email on a draft framework for distributing Indiana’s share of settlement funds. The proposal does not present specific projects that might be funded by the money, but instead offers four categories that bundle eligible uses for the funds. IDEM says that it will continue to update its website as it receives public comment and develops a draft mitigation plan, and will provide updates by email for people who sign up. The task force will also hold a series of public meetings throughout the state. Those who wish to submit public comment should do so by email.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) in Illinois will host a public meeting on Nov. 8 to discuss transit-oriented development plans near the Red Line. The agency is working on redevelopment concepts for properties near the line after the first phase of the Red and Purple Line modernization program wraps up.
At the meeting, CTA officials will present information about the proposed plan. Residents will be able to review area planning principles, consider redevelopment site concepts and offer comments. Announced in 2014, the first phase of the modernization program calls for rebuilding the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr rail stations, as well as more than a mile of adjacent tracks and track structure. The initial phase also includes construction of a Red-Purple bypass where Red, Brown and Purple lines intersect north of the Belmont Station. CTA will acquire a limited number of properties near the construction site. Some of those properties will be available for development when the project is finished. Major construction work is slated to begin in 2019 and is expected to last four to five years.
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) officials have started gathering community input on the future of high-speed rail service in the Richmond region. At a recent public hearing, thirteen speakers addressed the attendees, offering a range of views on where the Federal Railroad Administration should fund high-speed rail service between Richmond and Washington to the tune of more than $1 billion.
The hearing was the first of five events DRPT is holding this month during a 60-day public comment period on its draft environmental impact statement on the corridor, which it released in September. It is also accepting input online. The public comment period will close Nov. 7. In 2016, the previous Richmond City Council passed a resolution indicating Main Street Station as its preferred site. Factoring into decision was the station’s location in what is the city’s central business district and its potential to serve as a multimodal hub connecting other alternative forms of transportation, including the GRTC Pulse bus rapid transit line under construction. Currently, four passenger trains pass through Main Street Station each day. If chosen for the expanded service, that number could grow to 32 trains per day.
In Idaho, the city of Boise has plans for a $40 million sports complex and $60 million mixed-use development in the River District, and has been inviting the public to attend open houses and submit online responses to the potential project. Proponents of the stadium project have identified an 11-acre, $4.8 million parcel for its construction near the Boise River that would be contributed by a private developer.
A timetable for the stadium begins this fall, and by winter 2017, the Boise City Council and Greater Boise Auditorium District will consider its financial terms. In spring 2018, the stadium will undergo reviews of land use and design, with a groundbreaking in 2019 and a grand opening in 2020. For now, the city is putting the idea of the stadium before the public for input. Open houses on the project took place Oct. 5, 10 and 16.
City Council will be briefed next week about the public response. Going forward public session conversations with the council regarding the city’s financial participation with the Sports Park project will happen in coming weeks, but final details about when and how are yet to be determined.
Come next spring, the project will undergo a land-use process with the City of Boise Planning & Zoning Commission to study traffic, noise and light pollution among other issues. The public will have chances to weigh in then once again.