20 Nov

Public Involvement Tips from OTEC 2014

By Kaity Dunn, Account Associate

After having the privilege of working on multiple public works projects in my years with this Cincinnati public relations and communications agency, it was a great experience to attend the 2014 Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference (OTEC). Along with having the opportunity to attend one of the nation’s largest transportation conferences, I also got to meet a great number of transportation and engineering professionals, as well as attend breakout sessions.

While I have pages of notes, I thought I’d share just a few of my favorite conference insights:

From ODOT Environmental Supervisor Kevin Davis:

  1.   ODOT has updated their Public Involvement Manual.a. While legal requirements need to be met, the public involvement process is designed to go beyond simply meeting those requirements.b. Conducting Public Involvement to only meet legal requirements neglects the purpose of informing, engaging, and meeting the needs of stakeholders and the public.
  2. Public involvement is a part of each of the five phases of ODOT’s Project Development Process (PDP) no matter what size your project is. Public involvement can be scaled up or down, but should always be present no matter the project scope.

From Brian Hagerty, Stantec, and Marie Keister, Engage

  1. Make your maps consumer-friendly. They gave an example of how to redesign complicated engineering maps to make them more digestible for the public. They showed a “before” and “after” map of the I-71/670 project that included more legends, color-coding and callouts.
  2. Put people in the environment. I also loved their scaled down model of a road restriping project that allowed community members to stand on a model of the roadway. They could see first-hand they weren’t going to make lanes too narrow, just provide more clear definition of where cars and bikes could travel.

From Susan Daniels, Director of NEPA Planning at Lawhon & Associates

  1.  Controversy is not failure. If you learn something that makes you take a step backward, then it is a success. Getting feedback is why we do public involvement.
  2.  Get your mind in the right attitude before you walk in the door to a public involvement meeting, so as to make sure you don’t feel defensive, but rather, informative and helpful.
  3.  Know your audience and be aware of who has concerns. Make sure to train the person at the welcome table to watch for these community members, so they can be introduced to a project manager immediately to discuss their issue.

I hope you found these insights helpful. To learn more, click here for the full list of OTEC presentations.