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Prairie Parkway Phase I Engineering Study

Project Abstract

The need relates to improving regional mobility, addressing local transportation deficiencies, improving access to regional jobs and improving transportation safety. The Prairie Parkway Study is intended to identify alternative transportation improvements in a North-South corridor between I-80 and I-88 that will meet projected needs.



This is one of 33 case studies included in National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 642 entitled Quantifying the Benefits of Context Sensitive Solutions, published in November 2009. According to the authors, “The objective of this project is to develop a guide for transportation officials and professionals that identifies a comprehensive set of performance measures of CSS principles and quantifies the resulting benefits through all phases of project development”. The report documents a wide range of case studies in which the principles of CSS were applied. Each of these case studies was evaluated to determine the benefits of applying CSS. NCHRP Report 642 is available here.

Location: Kane, Kendall, Will, Grundy, LaSalle and DeKalb Counties 50 miles west/southwest of Chicago

Lead Agency: Illinois DOT

Contact Person: Rick Powell

Phase Completed: Final Environmental Impact Statement

Source: Stamatiadis, Nikiforos, et. al. GUIDELINES FOR QUANTIFYING THE BENEFITS OF CONTEXT SENSITIVE SOLUTIONS. NCHRP 15-32. April 2009.

CSS Qualities


Project Team (make up)
During the Phase I Project Development Study, multidisciplinary team approach with: 1) an IDOT oversight group (upper management), a local interest group (PAST), a Technical Advisory Group (local government officials, other stakeholders & PAST) and a resource agency group (applicable state and federal agencies). Once the purpose and need was established, the Technical Advisory Group was superseded by a Corridor Planning Group (consisting of representative from local jurisdictions to aid in the development and assessment of alternatives. Several task forces (transportation, environmental and land use) with representatives of interest groups, municipal staff, and county staff provided technical input and recommendations to Corridor Planning Group. IDOT utilized a Project Study Team consisting of IDOT District 3 personnel, Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade & Douglas and Smith Engineering Consultants to develop the DEIS. After the issuance of the DEIS, the Corridor Planning Group continued to provide the Project Study Team with guidance concerning CSS, access, roadway enhancements, environmental impacts and mitigation, and public involvement.

Stakeholders (make up, utilization, interaction)
The stakeholders included resource agencies (U.S Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Department of Agriculture, FAA, FEMA and FHWA). Additionally, local governments from 7 counties and 32 municipalities as was the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning were consulted. Several IDOT agencies (aeronautics and rail) and regional planning and soil conservation districts were involved as well. A variety of civic, business and other interest groups were involved in the project through meetings and membership in the project advisory groups/task forces.

Public involvement (types, documentation)

During Phase I, over 100 public meetings were held to identify transportation needs in the region. A telephone survey on area transportation needs was conducted with 1,000 respondents. Other public involvement included focus group meetings, newsletters and fact sheets, presentations to interested groups and a website. Following the development of the purpose and need statement, public meetings were held to review transportation alternatives as part of the DEIS and FEIS public hearing processes.

Design solution (process, modes and alternatives examined)
The proposed route is intended to meet high anticipated population growth in the region and accommodate new businesses. The preferred alternative is to construct a new North-South freeway connecting I-80 and I-88 and to widen an existing state route (IL 47). The project has a total length of 37 miles. Transit, no-build and other alternatives were reviewed under the NEPA process, but rejected as not meeting the purpose and need. One build alternative was evaluated that had somewhat lower impacts, but which did not best address purpose and need. Significant stakeholder/public involvement was employed during development of the project purpose and need, selection/evaluation of project alternatives and formulation of alternative designs.

CSS concepts by project phase
During the Phase I project development study and in subsequent phases of project development, stakeholder/public input was sought by a variety of means including the creation of advisory groups, surveys and public meetings. Those inputs were used to assist the Project Study Team in scoping, selecting the preferred alternative and developing design features for the alternatives. Concepts employed included minimizing disruption by avoiding environmental/community impacts to the greatest extent possible, coordination with resource agencies to develop acceptable mitigation, accommodation for a multi-use facility, improving mobility and economic (job) opportunity and conformance with local land use plans (to the greatest extent possible). Use of CSS is to be employed throughout the normal project development process (including construction). 

Lessons learned

Communication - The IDOT Phase I Project Development process successfully involved the public and stakeholders. Some public/stakeholders and DOT project team members felt that there were too many meetings and that the project dragged on as a result.

Public and Stakeholder Input -
The public/stakeholders appreciated having a voice in project decision making. It helped diffuse criticism of the project and promoted trust of IDOT. IDOT consultants cooperated with the public and stakeholders. While some public/stakeholders thought that input was not factored into some decisions, others believed that their input was solicited, valued and taken into consideration. Project team members believed that it was better to bring the public/stakeholders into the process early to avoid having to explain prior project history and decisions. They also noted that it takes time to built trust. Where competing stakeholder interests arose, it was useful for IDOT to act as a decision broker or referee. Some thought that too many people participated in the technical task forces making them unwieldy and unnecessarily extending project development. They believed that participation should have been limited to parties having pertinent knowledge about applicable issues.
Project Development Process - The public/stakeholders appreciated the use of CSS on the project. They thought it promoted better transportation decisions especially where different community interests existed. The project team thought that CSS facilitated the project though extensive resources and time were required. CSS helped promote project acceptance even from opponents though some were reluctant to accept project findings or decision making. Project team members thought some communities were unrealistic in their enhancement “wish lists”.

CSS Principles


A fundamental aspect of the NCHRP 642 research effort was the identification of CSS principles. The principles below were developed by a multidisciplinary team and were based on previous work by FHWA and AASHTO participants in the 1998 “Thinking Beyond the Pavement” conference, and others.

For this case study, web-based surveys were developed to solicit the expert opinions of the project team on the level of satisfaction from the application of the CSS principles on the project. The analysis of the scores noted in the survey, and presented in the following table, is based on a 4.0 scale, where 4.0 is Strongly Agree, 3.0 is Agree, 2.0 is Disagree, and 1.0 is Strongly Disagree. Additional information on the data analysis, a summary of the scores for each case study, and general findings (from all case studies) is presented in the NCHRP Report 642, available here.


CSS Principle   

Project Team

Use of interdisciplinary teams

3.5

Involve stakeholders

3.9

Seek broad-based public involvement

3.9

Use full range of communication methods

3.5

Achieve consensus on purpose and need

3.5

Utilize full range of design choices

3.4

Address alternatives and all modes

3.8

Maintain environmental harmony

3.0

Address community & social issues

3.3

Address aesthetic treatments & enhancements

3.4

Consider a safe facility for users & community

3.6

Document project decisions

3.6

Track and meet all commitments

3.5

Create a lasting value for the community

3.2

Use all resources effectively (time & budget)

3.3

Note: The project team and stakeholder scores are based on the survey results of a 4.0 scale (4: strongly agree; 3: agree; 2: disagree; and 1: strongly disagree). 

Discussion on CSS principles



Project team’s perspective
There were 8 respondents to the survey that were considered as project team members, including the team leader. The project team indicated that all principles were present. The lowest overall rating was given to “maintain environmental harmony”. The Prairie Parkway project was large encompassing 37 miles of road construction traversing numerous communities. Direct and cumulative impacts were inevitable; however the extensive efforts of IDOT to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts conformed to that CSS principle. The highest ratings for “involve stakeholders” and “seek broad based public involvement” reflect the many meetings and use of advisory groups to drive project decision making. 

The project used interdisciplinary agency/stakeholder teams that addressed all anticipated (required) areas. Project team member survey responses were received from team members who identified themselves as transportation planners, traffic engineers, design engineers, environmental specialists, community and regional planners, community specialists and project managers. Several team members were involved in the Phase I Project Planning. Five were involved in project planning. Several members were also involved in project design. Most of the project team were new to CSS with 0-3 years of experience, while several had a longer experience (over 4 years). Finally, all project team members had more than 10 years of relevant experience.

On the positive side, there are three principles that the team was in agreement that were highly met. These include the “Involve stakeholders” (3.9), “See Broad-based Public Involvement” (3.9) and “Address Alternatives and All Modes” (3.8). These ratings were in agreement with some of the project team survey comments. Other principle ratings ranged from 3.0 to 3.6 with 6 being 3.5 or above.

 

CSS Benefits


Surveys were also utilized to ask the project team, as well as external stakeholders in the process, about their perceptions of the benefits derived from a CSS process. As with the surveys regarding CSS Principles, the Benefits were scored on a 4.0 scale, where 4.0 is Strongly Agree, 3.0 is Agree, 2.0 is Disagree, and 1.0 is Strongly Disagree.

CSS Benefit

Measured

Stakeh.

Team

Improved stakeholder/public feedback

NA

3.0

Increased stakeholder/public participation compared to other projects

NA

3.2

Increased stakeholder/public participation

2.9

2.8

Increased stakeholder/public ownership

2.8

3.0

Increased stakeholder/public trust

3.0

3.0

Decreased costs for overall project delivery

NA

2.0

Decreased time for overall project delivery

NA

2.8

Improved predictability of project delivery

2.7

3.4

Improved project scoping

NA

3.0

Improved project budgeting

NA

3.0

Increased opportunities for partnering or shared funding or in-kind resources

2.9

2.0

Improved opportunities for joint use and development

3.0

3.3

Improved sustainable decisions and investments

NA

3.0

Improved environmental stewardship

NA

3.3

Minimized overall impact to human environment

2.9

3.2

Minimized overall impact to natural environment

3.2

3.0

Improved mobility for all users

3.2

3.2

Improved walkability

2.1

3.0

Improved bikeability

3.0

3.4

Improved safety (vehicles, pedestrians, and bikes)

3.2

3.2

Improved multi-modal options

2.6

2.6

Improved community satisfaction

2.8

3.0

Improved quality of life for community

2.7

3.0

Fit with local government land use plan

2.6

3.3

Improved speed management

3.3

3.3

Design features appropriate to context

3.1

3.2

Optimized maintenance and operations

NA

2.5

Minimized disruption

2.6

3.5

Increased risk management and liability protection

NA

--

Discussion on Benefit Values
The responses were relatively balanced (stakeholders-16; project team-8). In general, the stakeholder scores were lower than those of the project team. Of interest are the somewhat low overall ratings for “increased stakeholder/public participation” and “increased stakeholder/public ownership” due to the numerous attempts by IDOT to engage stakeholders and the public through open forums, multi-representative project teams/task forces and surveys. The project team and public/stakeholders greed that the resulting project incorporated features appropriate to its context. This is a large project and significant disruption could be expected. One projected outcome was that the population in the impacted areas would eventually become shifted due to the project and perhaps there was some concern on the part of the stakeholders/public about those impacts upon communities and the natural environment. Another concern may have been the significant impacts on farmland, though some of this land may have been qualified for farm land though it was currently undeveloped. 

Semi-Quantitative Benefits:
Semi-quantitative benefits were provided from survey responses and those of the stakeholders and project team were listed in the last table. Sufficient survey replies were received for both the stakeholders (16) and project team (8) to provide sufficient validation of the semi-quantitative benefits.

Quantitative Benefits
In addition to the semi-quantitative scores obtained above, the following quantitative metrics were obtained for some of the benefits. 

 

CSS Benefit

Metrics

Increased stakeholder/public participation

Many meetings (100+) were held with stakeholders/public.
Stakeholders participated in providing information
that contributed to project decision making.

Decreased costs for overall project delivery

 

Decreased time for overall project delivery

 

Improved predictability of project delivery

 

Improved project scoping

 

Improved project budgeting

 

Increased opportunities for partnering or
shared funding or in-kind resources

 

Improved environmental stewardship

The project conforms to IDOT agriculture land
preservation policy.

Minimized overall impact to human environment

Minimal takings

Minimized overall impact to natural environment

 

Improved mobility for all users

The project is projected to
save 66,000 travel hours per day by 2030.

Improved walkability

 

Improved bikeability

 

Improved safety (vehicles, pedestrians, and bikes)

The preferred alternative will result in
710 fewer accidents per year in the region.

Improved multi-modal options

 

Improved speed management

 

Optimized maintenance and operations

 

Minimized disruption

 

Increased risk management and liability protection

 

Other benefits
The project will address large regional growth (28 percent from 1990 to 2000) and projected increase through 2030 (91 percent) and provide needed access to jobs in the Chicago Metropolitan Area that don’t exist locally. This is necessary to improve/maintain the economic viability in the region. Mobility and safety were improved to aid motorists.

Arnstein comparison
The surveys conducted for this case study included a set of questions that could be used to evaluate potential differences in the level of satisfaction between project team members and stakeholders. These differences in satisfaction are known as the Arnstein gap, which is a heuristic metric by which the existing quality deficit of public involvement can be measured. Arnstein developed an eight-step scale (Arnstein’s Ladder) characterizing levels of public involvement in planning, ranging from “Manipulation” of the public (non-participation) to “Citizen Control” of the process. The NCHRP 642 authors adapted this approach to assess the perceptions of stakeholders and the project team.  

Arnstein Questions Part 1

Stakeh.

Team

I  am satisfied with the relationship we had with project team

3.5

NA

I am satisfied with the relationship I had with the stakeholders

NA

3.7

I am satisfied with the relationship I had with the interested public

NA

3.2

I am satisfied with the procedures and methods that allowed input to project decisions

3.5

3.0

Note: The project team and stakeholder scores are based on the survey results of a 4.0 scale (4: strongly agree; 3: agree; 2: disagree; and 1: strongly disagree). 

Arnstein Questions Part 2

Stakeh.

Team

My relationship with the project team was best described as

2.5

NA

My relationship with the stakeholders was best described as

NA

2.0

My relationship with the interested public was best described as

NA

1.3

Note: The project team and stakeholder rankings are based on the survey results of a 4.0 scale (4: Stakeholders provided direction; 3: Stakeholders partnered with DOT; 2: DOT consulted with stakeholders; and 1: DOT informed stakeholders). 

Overall level of success
This project is a successful application of CSS primarily in the Phase I project development study which featured extensive stakeholder/public outreach by IDOT. The subsequent project development through the issuance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement incorporated continued extensive involvement of stakeholders/public. Avoidance and other mitigation actions were complete and most impacted communities endorsed the preferred alternative. Considering the magnitude of this project, CSS succeeded in generating sufficient stakeholder/public approval to facilitate its progress.





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