Your public involvement toolkit: Part 1

Posted in: Bridges, Construction, Highways

TH 43 BridgePublic involvement is crucial to the success of any transportation project. Local citizens want to know about changes in their community and the roadways they use on a daily basis. There are many methods to inform the public, giving owners the opportunity to explore multiple outreach avenues.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s TH 43 Interstate Bridge project in the City of Winona, exemplifies the success that comes with using a variety of outreach initiatives. After facing a dire need for emergency repairs following a safety inspection in 2008, MnDOT was tasked with improving this Mississippi River Crossing. The chosen alternative is to rehabilitate the existing Interstate Bridge so it may be used for traffic traveling east into Wisconsin, and to construct a new bridge just upstream to accommodate traffic traveling west entering Minnesota. Public support would be critical to project success.

Dedicated to keeping the public informed on the project’s progress, MnDOT created a number of unique public outreach opportunities that lie outside the typical spectrum of public involvement efforts. Each of these public involvement efforts give the citizens of Winona unprecedented access to much-needed project information. You could apply these unique tools, shown below, to your next project.

Public forums

A tried and true method, MnDOT and the project team offered multiple in-person opportunities for the public to be involved with the decision-making process. This included a Visual Quality Review Committee formed from MnDOT officials, consulting partners, local city and county officials and public volunteers. This group was responsible for preserving the aesthetic integrity of the project during the design phases while seeing the finished product matched the historic characteristics of downtown Winona.

Media kits

Open for Business

The team helped coordinate a marketing strategy to aid local businesses that will be impacted during construction. This initiative, called “Winona is Open for Business” will distribute media kits for these nearby local businesses in an effort to demonstrate to the community that MnDOT and the City are looking out for the citizen’s best interests. The team is also in the process of developing a Winona Radio regional effort to keep commuters traveling to and from Winona informed on traffic changes and schedule updates.

Report cards

The public has an opportunity to keep MnDOT accountable during this project by using performance report cards to rank MnDOT’s performance. The ultimate goal of these cards will track Winona’s community goals, identified during the community-based risk assessment, and whether or not these goals are being met.

Project websites

MnDOT created a project website that provides full, detailed information of the project. Community members can access project background, contact information, project reports, environmental assessments, case studies, photos, schedule updates and project simulations with ease.

Incorporating public involvement effectively can create a positive relationship between engineers, citizens and stakeholders alike, resulting in a successful project in the eyes of the public. Visit our blog again soon for more innovative approaches to public involvement, as used by MnDOT.

Jay Wheaton, PE

About the Author

Jay Wheaton, P.E., is a transportation engineer with a wide variety of construction management experience from two-lane rural highways to complex urban streets, as well as freeway and bridge projects. Jay is committed to providing high quality work exceeding clients’ expectations.

Read more posts by Jay Wheaton, PE

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