Minnesota Department of Transportation

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MnDOT Policies

Public Engagement

MnDOT Policy #OE008
Revised: February 17, 2021

View/print signed policy (PDF)

Public Engagement Guidance

Please go to the MnDOT Org Chart to find specific contact information: Org Chart.

Responsible Senior Officers: Deputy Commissioner/Chief Engineer and Deputy Commissioner/Chief Administrative Officer
Policy Owners: Deputy Director of Public Engagement, Office of Communication and Public Engagement and Director, Office of Civil Rights
Policy Contact: Deputy Director of Public Engagement, Office of Communication and Public Engagement

Policy statement

Effective public engagement is essential to the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT’s) commitment to offer opportunities for meaningful input and to advance equity in transportation. MnDOT encourages the public to:

  • engage early and often;
  • assist in identifying transportation challenges and solutions; and
  • participate in decision-making processes.

MnDOT employees must operate in an inclusive and transparent manner throughout the planning, project and modal program development and delivery processes to keep the public informed, listen to and acknowledge concerns and aspirations, and provide feedback on how public input can influence decisions and outcomes.

MnDOT must comply with all laws, policies, and executive orders referenced in this policy during its engagement activities. In addition, MnDOT employees must follow all applicable requirements in the Public Engagement Guidance and the NEPA Public Involvement and Public Hearing Procedures documents.

Reason for policy

The Public Engagement Policy focuses on the internal duties and responsibilities related to plans, projects, programs, services, and activities at MnDOT. This policy serves as the foundation for MnDOT’s commitment to public engagement by its employees.

Establish Expectations

Public trust and confidence in MnDOT and its employees are critical to the success of the department. MnDOT must exercise its authority and use its resources in a manner that advances the public interest. The department also expects its employees to adhere to the highest ethical values when conducting State business (see MnDOT Code of Ethics Policy and Minnesota Statutes §43A.38).

Ensure Legal Compliance

There are numerous legal provisions that require MnDOT to actively pursue public engagement. All MnDOT employees are responsible for understanding and complying with all laws governing their work to ensure that the public has the opportunity to participate in transportation decision-making.

  • As a recipient of federal funds, MnDOT and its sub-recipients must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes. The Title VI Program is MnDOT’s pledge to ensure that its policies, programs, activities, and services do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin (including limited English proficiency), age, sex, disability, or income status. Under MnDOT’s Title VI policy statement, MnDOT aims to provide inclusive processes that require consideration of historically underserved persons and groups. The Title VI Coordinator partners with a Title VI Liaison in each district/office to coordinate the collection of Title VI Information for reports, including demographic data and analysis, translation and interpretation requests, public engagement planning and activities, complaint reporting, and Title VI training.
  • MnDOT public involvement and public hearing procedures must comply with FHWA and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulatory requirements to ensure everyone can participate. MnDOT must obtain FHWA approval for the procedures. (See 23 U.S.C § 128 and 139, 40 C.F.R. parts 1500 through 1508, and 23 C.F.R. 771.111 (h)(2)). In addition to NEPA, there are other laws and regulations that may require public engagement during the environmental review process if a resource or community that the law aims to protect is impacted by a project.

Environmental justice at MnDOT means identifying and addressing any disproportionately high and adverse effects of the department's programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations to ensure an equitable distribution of benefits and burdens. Full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process assists in achieving environmental justice.

  • Federal Executive Order 12898 (pdf)  – Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (1994) directs agencies to “promote nondiscrimination in federal programs substantially affecting human health and the environment and provide minority and low-income communities’ access to public information on and an opportunity for public participation in, matters relating to human health or the environment.”  MnDOT must incorporate environmental justice principles by:
    • Ensuring it does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin;
    • Identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its actions on minority and low-income communities; and
    • Providing opportunities for community input in every phase of project development and other programs and services to the greatest extent practicable.
  • Federal Executive Order 13166Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (2000): requires each agency to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance provide meaningful access to its programs and activities, including applicants and beneficiaries with limited English proficiency (LEP). LEP applies to individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have limited abilities to read, speak, write, or understand English.
  • Minnesota Executive Order 19-24 (pdf) – Affirming the Government to Government Relationship between the State of Minnesota and Minnesota Tribal Nations: Providing for Consultation, Coordination, and Cooperation (2019): While MnDOT’s public engagement responsibilities pertain to relationships with the public and stakeholders, the Office of Tribal Affairs, in accordance with Executive Order 19-24, maintains meaningful consultation and coordination with Tribal Nations, on a government-to-government basis. Minnesota Executive Order 19-24 acknowledges the State’s unique legal relationship with federally recognized tribes in Minnesota. Public engagement alone does not amount to meaningful consultation with Tribes. The MnDOT Tribal Nations Policy requires that MnDOT consider the principles of the Tribal Nations policy at all phases of planning and project development in the establishment, development, operation, and maintenance of a comprehensive, integrated, and connected multimodal transportation system.
  • Minnesota Statutes §116D.04, Subd. 2a - MnDOT public involvement and public hearing procedures must comply with the relevant provisions in the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act.
  • Minnesota Statutes §161.162-161.167 - MnDOT must adhere to the Municipal Consent process by partnering with local governments in required public hearings to obtain approval.

Applicability

All MnDOT employees must comply with MnDOT policies. MnDOT programs and activities have many beneficiaries and affect people statewide. Public engagement begins with identifying and understanding persons and groups interested and affected by the work of MnDOT.

Key internal stakeholders affected by this policy include:

  • Commissioner
  • Executive Leadership Team
  • Senior Leadership Team
  • Office Directors
  • District Leadership
  • Modal Office Leadership
  • Office of Civil Rights
  • Office of Communications and Public Engagement
  • Planning and Program Delivery Supervisors/Managers
  • Project Managers
  • Maintenance and Operations Supervisors/Managers
  • Specialty Offices

Definitions

Public

For purposes of this policy, whenever the term “public” is used, it refers to the broadest sense of public to include the general public, stakeholders and transportation partners.

  • General public: any individual or group not necessarily associated with decision-making power or special interests but may have an interest in the outcome of a decision. 
  • Stakeholder: any individual or group that has, or perceives they have, a real and particular stake in the outcome of a decision. 
  • Transportation partners: Governmental or nongovernmental entities that work in partnership with MnDOT to facilitate transportation-related efficiencies, effectiveness, and cooperation, and to promote and encourage economic and technological development in transportation.

Public Engagement

Public engagement is any process that:

  • Involves the public in identifying and solving challenges and problems;
  • Uses public input to make sustainable decisions;
  • Educates or informs the public about a topic or issue; or
  • Seeks to build meaningful connections and trust with the public through communication and interaction. 

Examples of public engagement activities by MnDOT include: inviting and facilitating community participation in MnDOT’s planning, project development, and decision-making processes; holding community events to educate the public or celebrate achievements or project milestones; seeking community input to identify and solve problems or help MnDOT make a decision; and reviewing and analyzing data collected to inform decision-making.

Responsibilities

Public engagement is a responsibility shared in the work of many employees in various functional areas across MnDOT. The following section provides primary responsibilities that must be assigned within MnDOT’s positions and roles – recognizing that District Engineers and Office Directors have discretion in determining the specific roles, responsibilities, and job descriptions of their staff positions.

Commissioner and Senior Leadership Team

  • Set the “tone at the top” in recognizing the importance of public engagement in MnDOT’s work.
  • Support the Public Engagement Policy and ensure adequate resourcing to allow MnDOT programs, projects, and planning to carry out the objectives and requirements of the policy.

District and Modal Leadership and Office Directors

  • Oversee the development, execution, and monitoring of public engagement activities, including planning, resourcing, and ongoing relationship-management with the public.
  • Ensure staff understand and comply with all governing laws, policies, and executive orders listed in this policy to ensure that the public has the opportunity to participate in transportation decision-making.
  • Ensure all critical public engagement responsibilities are clearly assigned to specific individuals or teams.

Office of Communications and Public Engagement

  • Collaborate with districts and offices to define best practices for public engagement activities and coordinate public engagement training for staff.
  • Provide training, consultation, and coordination for public engagement activities.
  • Prepare, distribute, and communicate guidance on public engagement.

Other roles responsible for public engagement may include:

  • District and office/modal public engagement and communications professionals
  • Planning and program delivery professionals
  • Project and program managers
  • Maintenance and operations supervisors/managers

Critical public engagement responsibilities to be assigned by District/Modal Leadership and Office Directors:

  • Develop, implement and manage communications and public engagement plans that include goals, strategies and tactics to effectively engage with the public in transportation planning, scoping, and project and program-development and delivery.
  • Ensure participation in engagement and outreach activities is representative of impacted communities and that historically underrepresented communities (e.g., minority, low-income, non-English speaking, and other underserved populations) have opportunities to provide input into all phases of planning, project and program development and other appropriate decision-making processes.
  • Develop and implement procedures for documenting and tracking MnDOT’s compliance with all legal requirements for public engagement, including all requirements that fall under NEPA and critical Title VI information, including demographic data collected and analyzed, utilization of translation and interpretation services, records of public engagement activities, discrimination complaints received, and Title VI training received.
  • Provide citizens and communities an opportunity to engage in environmental assessments during Federal agency decision-making process.
  • Collect and document public comments and recommendations and respond to public and community needs in planning, scoping, and project and program-development and delivery.
  • Evaluate public engagement efforts to continually improve public engagement planning and implementation activities based on feedback from the public.
  • Develop and implement a strategic approach to build and maintain ongoing and lasting relationships with the public and key partners and stakeholders. (For example, plan unstructured or informal interactions to learn from the community and other stakeholders.)
  • Manage consultants who are conducting public engagement activities on MnDOT’s behalf to ensure all contractual obligations and MnDOT standards are followed.
  • Collaborate with public engagement and communications staff to ensure that graphics, websites, social media, print, and video are customer-focused and compliant with the Website Development and Management Policy, plain language, and ADA standards.
  • Ensure public input collected during the planning phases is shared during the scoping phase and incorporated into the project-development process or program-development level when appropriate. Develop and manage public information and engagement assets (e.g., stakeholder and partner contact lists, website content, etc.).
  • Provide broad communications support in developing written, visual, web, and social media content and materials.
  • Under the guidance of the Office of Tribal Affairs and the relevant office or district, communicate and engage with Tribal Nations and affected tribal populations.

*Note:  Position descriptions may delegate roles and responsibilities to individual employees in greater detail based on the discretion of the District Engineer or Office Director.

Specialty Offices

  • Provide consultation and coordination in areas such as: Civil Rights, Environmental Stewardship, Planning and Project Management, and Communications and Public Engagement.
  • For more information and contacts go to:

Policy Owners (Deputy Director of Public Engagement, Office of Communications and Public Engagement; Director, Office of Civil Rights)

  • Review the policy every two years, or sooner as necessary, to ensure the policy remains up-to-date.
  • Ensure guidance and training related to the implementation of the policy is available and remains current.
  • Work with the Policy Coordinator to revise the policy and/or confirm its accuracy.
  • Communicate policy revisions, reviews, and retirements to stakeholders.

Resources and related information

Processes, Procedures, and Instructions

Resources

History and updates

Adopted

September 27, 2016

Revised

  • First Revision: February 17, 2021 (also renumbered #OE008 from #OP008)

Policy Review

This policy's next scheduled review is due February 2023.