Project-Level Public Information and Outreach Examples
At the project-level, work zone public information and outreach strategies are used to communicate with road users, the general public, area residences and businesses, and appropriate public entities about project information; road conditions in the work zone area; and the safety and mobility effects of the work zone. According to some states, public information is one of the most cost effective work zone impacts mitigation strategies, in both urban and rural areas.
Effective use of public information and outreach strategies can lead to improved driver and worker safety, less traffic delay, and reduced driver frustration. The Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule requires that public information and outreach strategies be included in Transportation Management Plans (TMPs) for significant projects.
The examples on this page are not the only types of public information and outreach strategies, and are not meant to advocate a "one size fits all" approach.
I-90 Summer 2012 Construction Video - Washington State DOT Example
The Washington State DOT (WSDOT) developed a six-minute video providing motorists with information about upcoming construction projects that are part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Project. This project is located in a heavily traveled mountain pass between major population centers. The video is unique in that it tells a story through hand drawn animations along with a voice-over that uses language that makes it easy for motorists to understand what is happening and why. The video describes how motorists can plan their summer trips and avoid construction delays. It also provides background on the project and information about why WSDOT is improving this five-mile section of roadway and making other improvements along the corridor.
Public Input for I-96 Reconstruction - Michigan DOT Example
The Michigan Department of Transportation is asking motorists, businesses, and local leaders for their input on what traffic scenarios to consider when construction begins on I-96 from Newburgh Road to Telegraph Road in late 2013. The project involves the reconstruction of the road and rehabilitation of bridges in a seven-mile corridor, including on and off ramps and will affect 130,000 – 143,000 vehicles on a daily basis. Options being considered include a complete closure of the road that will last one construction season or limited closures and lane crossovers that could extend the project two to three years. Public input is being collected via a survey on the project web site.
- 96Fix Project Web Site
- "Motorists Given Choice in I-96 Repair" - article in The Detroit News, March 5, 2012
I-295 Traffic Cameras - MaineDOT Example
MaineDOT installed camera equipment on the sign trusses above the medians on I-295 in Portland in advance of the upcoming construction season in order to prepare for the I-295 bridge rehabilitation project. Once construction begins, views from the cameras will be posted on MaineDOT's web site, which will allow motorists to assess congestion around the project area prior to getting in their car and determine if they want to use an alternate route. The cameras will also enable work crews to monitor traffic and determine when equipment can be moved around as well as to move equipment quickly if emergency vehicles need to get through. Traffic cameras are rarely used in Maine and the feeds from cameras that do exist are typically not made available to the public as they will be for the I-295 project.
- I-295 Project Web Site
- "Drivers Will See Traffic from I-295 Web Cams" - article in The Portland Press Herald, February 28, 2012
I-405 Full Closure - Los Angeles, California Example
Both directions of a 10-mile stretch of the I-405 Freeway in West Los Angeles were fully closed the weekend of July 16-17, 2011 for 53 consecutive hours to demolish the Mulholland Drive Bridge. This freeway segment has very high average daily traffic and is regularly one of the top-10 freeway bottlenecks in the U.S. Officials warned motorists to plan ahead, stay home, or avoid the area. The Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Metro and Caltrans conducted extensive public outreach to warn motorists far in advance of the closure. Outreach efforts included public service announcements in English and Spanish starring celebrities, Twitter messages from celebrities, numerous news releases and fact sheets, and a count-down clock that other organizations could post to their web sites. In addition, JetBlue Airlines created a special flight route between Burbank and Long Beach and offered $4 flights for the weekend to help the public get around without driving. The closure did not have the catastrophic effect that was anticipated and many believe it is due to the intense use of social media and other public outreach strategies to warn motorists far in advance of the closure. Officials plan to use similar strategies for a second, similar closure in 2012.
- I-405 Project Web Site
- "JetBlue Offers Solution to 'Carmageddon'", article on CNN.com, July 14, 2011
- "The Carmageddon Effect", article on Planetizen, July 18, 2011
- "Carmageddon II: Officials likely to use same fear-factor approach", article in LA Times, July 17, 2011
- "Carmageddon – A word that got attention and creator gets his due", article in LA Times, July 16, 2011
Consolidated Web Site for Multiple Projects - Utah DOT Example
The Utah DOT implemented an interactive web site for the 2011 construction season that lets drivers know where roadway construction work is being done and allows them to watch the construction via freeway cameras. It also enables visitors to see the messages displayed on variable message signs on the freeways. The web site is part of UDOT's Know Where, Know Why public outreach campaign, which aims to provide information about UDOT's 25 biggest roadway construction projects in order to help drivers stay informed about delays and closures. As part of this campaign, UDOT is also sending weekly text messages to subscribers and distributed a road construction guide to more than 200 Subway restaurants across the state, plus hotels, motels and rental car companies.
- Utah DOT Web Site - the orange Know Where, Know Why button on the top right of the web site will bring up a screen with the interactive construction information.
- New UDOT Program Improves Notifications on Construction - article on Fox13now.com, May 1, 2011
I-15 CORE Project - Utah DOT Example
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is making a significant effort to help motorists and local businesses cope with construction during the I-15 CORE project. The project involves rebuilding 24 miles of I-15 in Utah County and will take 2.5 years, with completion expected in December 2012. In order to minimize delays for local motorists, UDOT is providing real time arterial traffic information, comparing local road travel times to freeway travel times. This information is disseminated through variable message signs located in and around the project area and the I-15 CORE web site. Motorists are directed to take the least congested routes - either I-15 or the state road US-89, leading to a reduction in delays, stops, emissions, and the number and severity of traffic incidents. In order to provide local businesses with information about the project and help them create strategies for success during construction, UDOT held a series of workshops in 2010 that were targeted at business owners. UDOT is also encouraging businesses to participate in Utah's TravelWise program, which has transportation strategies and alternatives to driving alone and provides commuters with ways to reduce the impact construction has on their travel time. Businesses can use resources from this program to help develop a construction travel plan. A section of the I-15 CORE project web site is dedicated to employers, providing the presentation from the workshops, suggested strategies for coping with construction, and tips for truck drivers and dispatchers. UDOT has also developed 35 videos, available on the UDOT YouTube channel to inform motorists about the project. This includes a video, entitled "End is Near", which describes what can be expected in the last phases of the project, and is being shown as a movie trailer in Utah County movie theaters in July and August 2012.
- I-15 CORE Project Web Site
- Employers Section of I-15 CORE Project Web Site
- TravelWise Web Site
- Video: Innovation in Motion, Utah DOT's I-15 CORE Project -AASHTO Transportation TV video that showcases the innovations used in the project.
- Utah DOT YouTube Channel - Features 35 videos on I-15 CORE
- "UDOT Reaches Out on Big Screen" - Article in July 19, 2012 issue of the Daily Herald
- "Innovative Traffic Information System" - Article in May 31, 2011 issue of ITS International
- "New Signs Help Drivers Find Best Route from Provo to Lehi" - Article in November 4, 2010 issue of the Daily Herald
Full Closure Project Videos - Caltrans Example
These documentaries demonstrate to the public mobility and safety benefits that are attainable through the use of full freeway closures to allow fast track improvement or repair projects.
- "Amazing: The Rebuilding of the MacArthur Maze" - about the collapse and rebuilding (in only 26 days) of a key portion of the Bay Area's MacArthur Maze.
- "A Span in Time" - about the 2007 Labor Day weekend full closure of the Bay Bridge.
- "Rebuilding the Boat: Fixing I-5 in Sacramento" - about the full closure of one of Sacramento's heaviest traveled roads.
Minnesota DOT Example
In 2007, the Minnesota DOT (Mn/DOT) embarked on a five-month full closure for reconstruction of a 2-mile segment of Highway 36, a high-volume, commuter-heavy roadway, that passes through North St. Paul. Mn/DOT performed extensive outreach and market research before, during, and after the project to gauge acceptance of the closure and help the public and businesses cope with the closure. In addition to surveying the community, Mn/DOT held open houses and workshops to educate the surrounding community about the project and answer questions. They also provided regular updates during construction at city council meetings and business and local organization gatherings, as well as worked with businesses to help them incorporate the closure into advertising and marketing. Mn/DOT coordinated numerous public events throughout the project, such as celebrations to mark the start of the closure and other milestones, and disseminated project information through the project web site, email, and the media. A survey held before the project indicated that respondents were split 50/50 over using full closure versus partial closure. The survey after the closure found that 90 percent of respondents were happy with the closure, which can in part be attributed to the outreach efforts. Because this was the largest full closure in Minnesota history, Mn/DOT funded a study by the University of Minnesota to evaluate all traffic operation alternatives in the greater project area, compare costs and benefits with other construction alternatives, conduct market research to identify the public's acceptance of the project during and after completion, and identify lessons learned with the goal of using this information for future projects.
- TH-36 Full Closure Construction: Evaluation of Traffic Operations Alternatives
- "A Mix of Innovations Succeeds in Minnesota", article in May/June 2009 issue of Public Roads
- Transforming Highway 36 Through Innovation - Presentations from a November 2007 event held to discuss the innovations being used on the Highway 36 reconstruction project, including a presentation on marketing and outreach for the project.
Traveler Information During Capital Beltway Construction - Virginia DOT Example
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) installed five flat-screen televisions in Tysons Corner Center, a shopping mall in Northern Virginia, to provide shoppers with real-time traffic updates while construction is underway on the Capital Beltway's high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes and Metrorail to Dulles Airport. The televisions are near mall exits and display information on traffic conditions and delays, traffic videos, bus routes and schedules and construction-related lane closures. VDOT paid $400,000 for software development and installation of the screens, which will cost an additional $100,000 a year to maintain. The screens are part of the state's $21 million transportation management plan for the HOT lanes and Metrorail construction effort.
Consolidated Web Site for Multiple Projects - Seattle, Washington Example
The City of Seattle has a web site that consolidates information about projects planned for 2011-2012 by city, regional and state transportation agencies. The site contains a Construction Coordination Map with details on the affected streets and sidewalks, detours, information on the construction projects, bicycle and freight routes, and a link to real-time congestion information so that travelers can make informed decisions about their route through the city.
Using Twitter, Facebook to Report US 93 Updates - Arizona DOT Example
Arizona DOT used Twitter and Facebook to provide real-time information about detours and restrictions, notices when there are travel delays and construction impacts, and alerts with holiday travel information, construction schedule changes, and completed major milestones for the US 93 project. The US 93 work between the Hoover Dam and milepost 17 started in mid-January 2009 and was completed in November 2010. An ADOT project newsletter (PDF, 873KB) describes the outreach effort.
I-64/US 40 Closure - Missouri DOT Example
In St. Louis, Highway 40 (Interstate 64) - the region's central artery - was closed January 2, 2008 through December 7, 2009 as part of a $535 million rebuilding effort. The closure was expected to bring the largest traffic disruption in decades, so the Missouri DOT (MoDOT) treated the closure as if it was a catastrophic event, such as an earthquake or bridge collapse, and committed to ensuring that the public had the most up to date information about the closure and related impacts. MoDOT set up a command center that was staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Highway engineers in the command center gathered information concerning traffic volumes and tie-ups, and analyzed the data to let the public know where bottlenecks were and where congestion was growing. Twice a day, the department held internal briefings and news conferences to update the public. MoDOT also collected information from the public about how they were impacted by the closure through an online survey linked from the project web site. As a result of the extensive public outreach effort and the command center, MoDOT found that commutes during the closure went fairly smoothly, due to drivers adjusting their work hours and avoiding routes that were known to be problem spots and MoDOT's ability to respond quickly to problem spots and incidents. An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch even apologized for assuming that the closure would lead to a disaster and admitted the effort went well, "…we were wrong about the Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway 40. The alternative routes devised by MoDOT and its experts have worked spectacularly well. Public works departments in St. Louis County and affected municipalities synchronized traffic lights brilliantly." (From the editorial, "Bigly Goatish", February 12, 2008, St. Louis Post-Dispatch). A grand opening celebration was held on December 6, 2009 to thank St. Louis citizens for their patience during the closure and included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a 5K run, and a food drive.
- Project Web Site
- Public Survey Results and Overall Communications Assessment Report
- Command Center Keeps Eyes on Road - Data on Traffic Conditions Are Analyzed So Problems Can Be Fixed Quickly, article in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 9, 2008. Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, copyright 2008.
- Interstate 64 stretch in St. Louis to open early, under budget, article in the Columbia Daily Tribune, November 7, 2009.
- I-64 Grand Opening Celebration - "Fun on the Freeway!" (PDF 175KB)
Work Zone Best Practice Fact Sheets
- "Communicating Work Zone Information to Truckers in North Carolina" (HTML, PDF 239KB)
- "Arkansas Uses Public Outreach to Pave The Way During Interstate Rehabilitation" (HTML, PDF 125KB)
- "Delaware's Survival Plan for the I-95 Shutdown" (HTML, PDF 1.6MB)
- "Oregon's Quickfax Service" (HTML, PDF 1.7MB)
NCHRP Synthesis 413: Techniques for Effective Highway Construction Projects in Congested Urban Areas
NCHRP Synthesis 413 (PDF 5.1MB) identifies strategies and successful practices used by transportation agencies to address the challenges and impacts of construction projects in congested urban corridors. The study found that stakeholder communication is an essential part of every urban construction project, and consequently, the use of the media has become routine in these projects. The report offers strategies for stakeholder and public involvement in Chapter 6 and for Media Relations in Chapter 7.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
One of the key goals of most highway agencies' construction programs is to satisfy the desire of motorists for a good driving experience. One way agencies determine how well they're meeting that goal is with customer surveys. Surveys are often conducted before, during or after construction, and are used to help agencies plan projects, adjust construction and traffic management strategies, and improve success on future projects. The June/July 2008 issue of FHWA Innovator describes customer satisfaction surveys for projects in Minnesota, Georgia, and Utah.
Arizona Department of Transportation
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) places importance on including the public in the development of transportation management plans (TMPs), construction communication, and traffic management outreach strategies. By definition, all funded Arizona projects are significant and therefore a public information and outreach component is included in all TMPs. ADOT's Communication and Community Partnerships Division (CCP) is responsible for developing work zone public outreach and communications plans in conjunction with TMP development. Before and during construction projects, CCP coordinates Transportation System Management (TSM) meetings to review traffic management issues, propose alternatives, and discuss community implications. The TSM meetings involve ADOT staff and a variety of stakeholders relevant to the corridor (e.g., public safety agencies, contractors, businesses, schools, neighborhood groups) and are valuable to ensuring the coordination of multiple projects in a corridor as they help to bring the perspective and input from a variety of stakeholders. A short document on Work Zone Safety and Mobility Public Information and Outreach Strategies (PDF 497KB) includes information and guidance on media relations, general public communication, project communication and coordination, outreach tactics, and budgeting for outreach/communication for ADOT road construction projects.
Colorado Department of Transportation
The Colorado DOT has a special provision for Public Information Services within its Standard Specifications for Road and Bridge Construction. This provision calls for the contractor to provide public information services on an ongoing basis throughout the duration of the project, through the use of a Public Information Manager (PIM). The required qualifications of the PIM vary depending on whether or not the project is a significant project. The provision also describes the duties of the PIM, as well as the specific public information and outreach strategies to be used for a project.
Maryland State Highway Administration Public Information and Outreach Guidance
The Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) provides guidance for developing public information and outreach plans as part of a transportation management plan (TMP) for a project. This guidance is not intended to be a self-contained how-to guide on public relations. Project managers and engineers are required to work with the MDSHA Office of Communications to develop an organized approach to the communication needs of any project. Coordination with the Office of Communications is intended to help to ensure success of a public information and outreach effort, particularly for significant projects.
- Public Information and Outreach Plans Development Guidance (PDF 165KB)
- Public Information and Outreach Template (PDF 88KB)
Web sites are an easy means of getting information about a work zone project out to the public. Web sites may provide real time or static information, but regardless of the type of information, all content on a Web site should be timely and accurate. Web sites can be used to provide traffic information and maps, alternate routes, project status information, press kits, business survival kits, points of contact, and even electronic copies of print materials such as brochures or fact sheets. The following links provide several examples of work zone project web sites. This list of examples is not exhaustive but provides a range of ideas for what to include on a project web site and how to design a project Web site.
- Rebuild US 27 (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
- I-85 Corridor Improvement Project (Davidson County and Rowan County, North Carolina)
- I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements (Los Angeles, California)
- I-15 CORE (Utah County, Utah)
- US 41 Project (Brown County and Winnebago County, Wisconsin)
- Get Across I-80 (Colfax, California)
- The New I-64 (St. Louis, Missouri)
- I-70 Mountain Corridor (Denver to Grand Junction, Colorado)
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