The State of Practice in Community Impact Assessment


The objective of this research was to provide recommendations to the Illinois Department of Transportation for updating and revising the “Community Impact Assessment Manual” in accordance with the latest research and practice. The guide incorporated findings from a literature review, a scan of state department of transportation (DOT) community impact assessment (CIA) guidance and manuals, a survey of practitioners from state DOTs involved in CIA, and a series of interviews with those same practitioners to recommend process updates. According to the Federal Highway Administration, community impact assessment can be defined as “an iterative process to evaluate the effects of a transportation action on a community and its quality of life,” which includes elements of health, safety, air quality, connectivity and access, and equity. Six states had publicly available CIA guidance. While all manuals provided basic guidance, some were more detailed in prescribing analytical methods for different types of impacts or provided more structure for conducting the analysis, such as report templates, technical memos, interactive screening tools, field visit checklists, and community context audit forms. According to surveys and interviews with state DOT practitioners, DOTs varied in how or whether they conducted CIA, whether they screened for the need for CIA in advance of conducting it, and what factors they consider when conducting them. A few DOTs had innovative practices with respect to CIA, such as mapping tools, an equity and health assessment, and robust community engagement. The CIA guidance produced as a component to this project constitutes the state of the art in practice, including quantitative and qualitative analytical methods for screening and methods for conducting and documenting CIA. The guidance also emphasizes equity in the assessment process.

Jesus M. Barajas
Jesus M. Barajas
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy