20 Nov

Three Public Involvement Tips to Help Work Through Conflict

By Mimi Rasor, President

When it comes to roadway improvement projects, it’s not uncommon to see concerns from the public in the initial stages as they gather information about proposed upcoming changes. The Red Bank Corridor Project was no exception. Proposed as part of the Eastern Corridor Program, the Project was designed to improve access to Interstate 71 from the eastern communities of Cincinnati. Project partners were excited to move forward with communicating the benefits to the Red Bank communities, but unfortunately, misinformation and rumors were spreading at a rapid pace, which caused confusion and negative feelings about the project. Without community support, progress began to slow and more negative publicity began to appear.

Rasor Marketing Communications was tapped to assist project partners in creating a plan to effectively engage with the Red Bank community. We proactively spoke with key, influential community representatives to better understand concerns and issues. Next, we worked with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), project partners and the Red Bank community and businesses as they formed a Community Partner Committee.  Step by step, they worked through a process to achieve the best possible transportation outcomes while balancing the needs of the community. Several meetings took place where project partners outlined the issues and potential solutions, while the community provided their key priorities.

Success! From the project partners’ ongoing discussions with the Red Bank community, the scope of the project evolved to emphasize local area network improvements, which ultimately won the approval of the community and reduced overall project cost estimates by nearly 82 percent (from $143 million to $26 million).

1) Don’t underestimate a community’s dedication and perseverance. Start listening early and often.

2) Don’t try to eat the elephant in one bite. Sometimes a compromised solution that fixes many of the issues, but not all, is what can be accomplished.

3) In times of controversy, meet more often; face to face.  Communication is better in meetings – there’s less opportunity for negative emotions to be left unresolved.