Appendix C. Presentation Summaries
The PowerPoint presentations that were used are available on the Work Zone Web Site - http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/publicinfostrategies.htm.
Caltrans TMP Effectiveness Study
Caltrans develops Transportation Management Plans (TMPs) to different degrees based on estimated impact type and magnitude of projects implemented. In order to determine which TMP strategies were most effective, Caltrans did a study, looking at six TMP strategies:
- Public Information
- Motorist Information
- Incident Management
- Construction Studies
- Demand Management
- Alternate Routes
Caltrans found public information strategies to be the most effective, more so in urban areas, but also in rural areas. Public information strategies often provide the most "bang for the buck," meaning that the benefits of such strategies far outweigh the costs. Benefit/Cost analyses were performed as part of the study and the results showed that several strategies, such as media coverage, had little or no cost.
Lessons learned from the study included:
- Newspapers and TV news spots are effective ways of building public awareness.
- Media coverage usually comes at no cost for major projects.
- Using advance signage before decision points and on weeks and weekends preceding the project is important.
- The upfront dollars spent on brochures, ads, flyers, etc. have a high return on investment.
- Construction strategies are also very effective.
- Lane requirement charts should be adhered to.
- Lanes should be kept open whenever possible. Recommendations include narrowing lane widths or using shoulders during peak travel times.
Full Closure Success Stories
In 2003, FHWA conducted a study that looked at six sites (in Oregon, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Washington, and Delaware) using full road closures to reduce project duration and expedite completion. Each project studied used extensive public outreach and it was found that the public outreach was the key factor for several of the sites in the success of their full closure projects. All of the projects reported positive public sentiment and 2 projects received no complaints. In addition, all sites noted reduced impacts to travelers and less congestion on alternate routes than expected.
Through strong emphasis on public outreach, the Delaware DOT found success during the full closure of I-95 near Wilmington. They used ads in local newspapers and attended numerous outreach events and public meetings. They also created a "Survival Guide" to help drivers through the construction area and special bus routes, known as "Expresso" routes. Coupons for free coffee were given to riders to encourage use of these bus routes. DelDOT also created a colorful character known as the "Traffic Creep." This character attended public events and encouraged travelers to "beat the creep" by taking alternate routes and using carpools and transit. DelDOT's public outreach efforts led to a lack of congestion on the day the full closure began, completely shocking the media.
The full closure study also found that mitigating business impacts is an important component to outreach and communication strategies. While an implementing agency may not always be able to solve all the problems, they should consider business impacts early on in the process and work with businesses to adequately communicate the potential impacts. Some examples of doing so are as follows:
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has used the Full Road Closure approach on several occasions to eliminate the mobility and safety impacts that would normally accompany traditional part-width construction and reduce overall construction exposure while maintaining quality. The study found that for one project, ODOT created a brochure for the public that guided them on how to get to businesses whose entrances were effected by the full closure. This brochure proved to be effective in not only helping travelers, but keeping the businesses happy during the full closure period.
In Detroit, Michigan a full closure interrupted the traffic flow to one of three local casinos. There was concern that the other two casinos would get more business due to the blockage from construction, so signs were put up directing people to the affected casino. As a result, concerns surfaced that the other two casinos were going to lose business because they didn't have similar signs, so MDOT installed signs for all 3 casinos.
These successful full closure projects illustrate the many benefits of using public outreach both in advance of and during a project. Public outreach is not only important to the traveling public, but also to businesses near the project. If motorists have enough meaningful and accurate information, it is likely that they will avoid the area once the project begins.
As part of an effort to document successful public outreach practices and highlight lessons learned, Battelle, under contract to FHWA, conducted a scan of approximately 30 construction projects in approximately 25 states to learn about the outreach strategies used. The scan documented information on the duration and location of the work zone and the public outreach strategies that were implemented as directly related to travel through the work zone (vs. outreach related to the project itself). The outcome of the scan will be used in the writing of a public outreach guidance document meant to assist practitioners with the implementation of the revised rule on work zone safety and mobility.
The scan found that there are several key elements to conducting effective outreach:
- Plan ahead and continue to plan during the project
- Recognize that outreach needs may differ depending on the project
- Collect as much information as possible.
- Use all available resources
- Recognize that there are many different audiences
- Use a variety of messages
- Use many different methods of communication
- Timing is important
The scan highlighted the need for an adequate outreach plan, documenting needs, resources, partners, audiences, messages, communication methods, communication timing, and evaluation. Examples of outreach plans from various states were given to workshop participants. The scan also found that outreach needs will differ depending on the scale and nature of the project, including:
- The facilities affected and the duration that they will be affected.
- The amount of delay and anticipated safety problems.
- Special conditions such as heavy truck traffic and weather.
- Disruptions of other modes; e.g. airport traffic.
- If the project is on an evacuation/hazmat route.
- The number and location of emergency responders affected (hospitals, fire stations, military).
- The number and location of businesses and residents affected.
- The number and location of planned special events affected.
When collecting information, agencies can use resources within the agency, analytical tools such as QuickZone, surveys to learn more about travel patterns, and community meetings. Collecting information may be an ongoing effort throughout the project in order to ensure that all information disseminated is meeting traveler and business needs. In terms of using available resources to conduct outreach, this may include in-house expertise, public relations firms, existing technology and ITS, and by partnering (with other State and local agencies, elected officials, major employers, transportation management and business associations, neighborhood associations, traveler information providers, and planned special events coordinators). With regard to audience types, the presentation highlighted several different audience groups:
- Types of travelers
- Pre-trip, enroute
- Personal (commute, non-commute, long distance)
- Commercial (local, long distance truck drivers)
- Types of attractors
- Major employers, malls, business districts, other modes, planned special events
- Types of people
- Residents, workers, small business owners, limited English, elderly, children
The presentation also identified several message themes that are important to use in work zone public outreach:
- Safety first
- Workers, motorists, others
- How to minimize delay and frustration
- Work zone details
- Travel times and delays
- Alternatives (mode, route, timing, destination)
- We care
- Public acceptance
- Building trust
- Relationship building
The presentation also stressed the importance of using many different kinds of communication. Numerous methods were mentioned and can be found in the presentation in Appendix D of this report. However, the methods can be summarized as follows:
- Web sites (e.g. Katy Freeway www.katyfreeway.org) – may include camera images and email alerts
- Printed flyers, brochures, newsletters, door tags
- Dynamic Message Signs (e.g. Central Arkansas )
- Mass media
- Free ("earned media") (e.g. I-64 in Louisville, KY)
- Paid Advertising (e.g. I-64, Upgrade I-74 in Peoria)
- Press kit (e.g. Upgrade I-74)
- Web-based (e.g. I-95 New Haven, www.i95newhaven.com/flash/improvements.html)
- Printed (e.g. Dallas High Five)
- Direct Mail (e.g. Mission Street newsletter)
- Project hotline (e.g. Upgrade I-74 at 1-866-I74-NEWS)
- Business survival kit (e.g. www.i235.com/business_kit.htm)
- Information kiosk center (e.g. Springfield Interchange)
- Branding (e.g. Upgrade I-74, www.upgrade74.com) – using a common logo or theme to tie all materials together
One of the primary methods noted was the use of project web sites. Web sites can provide useful traveler information and assist with travel demand management by allowing users to change their trip start time or find an alternate route to their destination based on traffic reports seen on the web site. As part of the scan, several project web sites were analyzed, including the Katy Freeway reconstruction in Texas, the I-235 reconstruction project in Iowa, the upgrade project on I-74 in Illinois, and the I-95 improvement project in New Haven, Connecticut. The type of information provided via web sites was analyzed, along with format and content. Some of the key items found on the analyzed web sites included:
- Email alerts to notify subscribers of project changes.
- It is important to note that the quality of the emails is important, the information must be accurate and from a trusted source.
- The scan found that some of the information included in emails may come from transportation management centers.
- One of the presenters in attendance noted that in North Carolina, the public has the ability to provides information, which is verified before it is sent out. The North Carolina DOT also meets with the highway patrol to stress the importance of collecting real time information and getting that information out.
- Last update dates – pages with last update dates inform users of the timeliness of the information.
- A business survival kit, meant to help businesses "survive" during the project. (This can be found on the I-235 web site).
- A press kit with all of the information that the media needs to help get the word out about the project.
The scan also found that credibility of information on web sites is important, even if it's information residing on another web site. Many sites have links that take users to other sites, but users may not trust that information so in many cases, it is best to try to keep all information on the project web site. In addition, it was found that when project is completed, it's a good idea to put something on the web site that indicates that the project is done. This relates to the key outreach element that timing is important. For all outreach materials, it is important that the materials provide information before the project starts (general details, where to go for information), during the project (specific, timely information), and lets the public know that the project has been completed.
Following the presentation, one attendee asked about the benefits of giving out items such as key chains or pencils and wondered if the perception might be that the State is just throwing away money on these items since most people never use them. Another attendee agreed, stating that they tried something similar to this in New Hampshire and the media highlighted it as a poor way of spending money. The scan did not provide any insight as to this, but it was noted that these items are usually very cheap, even if they aren't the most effective. These types of items might work initially when the project first starts and may help to raise awareness, but their effectiveness will likely wear off after a while. It was suggested that more research be performed on this.
The Springfield Interchange reconstruction project is a 700 million dollar project in Northern Virginia, being undertaken to improve traffic flow in the interchange, which is the point of intersection for three major freeways including I-95, I-395 and I-495. Because of the magnitude of the project and the number of drivers affected, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is using extensive public outreach and communication techniques. Of the total project budget, about one percent (six to 7 million dollars) is allocated to communication and outreach strategies.
Throughout the presentation, several notable outreach materials or mechanisms were described:
- Project "store"
- Relationship with the media
- Project web site (www.springfieldinterchange.com)
- Attendance at community meetings
- Detour map
- Children's activity book
- Teen driver's guide
One of the most notable outreach mechanisms a project "store", operated out of the Springfield Mall, where motorists have access to maps, live construction cameras, 3-D models, and other information. The store is open six days a week and is often the location of school field trips and association outings. VDOT is currently working on a mobile version of the store, which will be reused for other projects once the Springfield Interchange is completed. The store allows people come in and complain about things, often times unrelated to the project. However, it was noted that this is a good thing because as an agency, if you can do something good for the public then they will have faith in the agency. The store also has toys and games to occupy kids' time so parents can come in and have time to learn about the project. The store is good if the location is geographically consistent to where the project is.
In addition to the store, VDOT has developed a close relationship with the news media and also meets with community groups and attends community functions to get the word out about the project. The news media is perhaps the best no or low-cost outreach mechanism. Attendees were encouraged to treat all news media the same, whether they are a large national paper or a small community paper, as it is important to build relationships with the people who get the information out to the public.
VDOT has found that the store and strong community relationships, along with the project web site, and the dedicated full-time staff, have been most beneficial to project stakeholders. In terms of the project web site, attendees once again heard that a web site is only as good as its information. Even if the site points to information on another site, if that information is bad then users will not trust your web site. The presenter, Steve Titunik, stated that the Springfield Interchange web site is updated hourly if necessary, from his home, using information he receives through his telephone. In addition, everything in the store can be found on the web site. In terms of the full time staff, four people are on staff for the communication portion of the Springfield Interchange project. Mr. Titunik noted that while using a PR firm or advertising agency is good for helping you to develop the message and print materials, they will not be able to disseminate your message in the same way you can.
Several other outreach materials were noted, including the development of map to show people that they don't always have to go through Springfield to get to where they want to go. Through grant money, VDOT was able to package the map in a plastic cover to make it more durable. Other materials include a children's activity book that included information about the project and a teen driver's guide to help young drivers navigate through the project area. The presenter, Steve Titunik, noted that each year he presents a public outreach project to his superiors and then gets $25,000 to $30,000 to do the project. The activity book and teen driver's guide were two of these projects. The importance of branding was also noted in the presentation. Mr. Titunik noted that he always wears a shirt with the Springfield Interchange logo and often when he is in public, someone will see it and ask questions, giving an easy opportunity to talk and inform about the project.
Since the project started, the project location has experienced three to four incidents a day. VDOT has found that it is important to have a communication and outreach representative on site so that they can know the status of activity in the project area at all times. Mr. Titunik noted that he is on call at all times, and may get called out to the work site in the middle of the night when an incident occurs so that he can be there to handle interaction with the media.
Throughout the presentation, the importance of working with State police, fire and rescue was stressed. In addition, Mr. Titunik offered the names of two people could help spread the word about construction projects through the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Trucking Association:
- Doyle Kirkland, National AAA, for Interstate projects he can get the information out to all AAA members
- Mike Russell, American Trucking Association, can get information out to truckers
Mr. Titunik stressed the importance of working with the public in order to get them to embrace you. It is important to always meet with community groups when they invite you to speak, even if it's not the most convenient time, as this will help to build relationships with these groups. It's also important to work with businesses and get them on your side so that they can help spread the word about the project. While news media can be adversarial when it comes to a project that has great impacts on the community, it is important to turn negative situations around and let people know that you are a member of the community and want to help them.
The I-29 Project in Fargo, North Dakota is a 130 million dollar project to reconstruct 1-29 through Fargo. The project expands over eight miles and includes replacing interchanges and building new underpasses and lengthening the railroad separation. The project area includes one of four major north south routes in Fargo, with a regional shopping center along the corridor, and has affected almost everyone in the area. As a result of the public impacts of the project, the North Dakota DOT (NDDOT) has taken on a significant public outreach effort. Outreach mechanisms and materials include:
- Partnership with media
- Radio ads
- Partnership with business advisory group
- Leave behinds
- Web site (www.I29fargo.com)
- Requiring contractor to provide a PR person
- Providing contact information
The overall goal of outreach for the project is to reduce crashes and inform the public of travel interruptions. NDDOT will spend $380,000 over four years on outreach which is primarily targeted to roadway users. Of this amount, NDDOT spends approximately $80,000 per year to do press releases, maintain the web site, do press conferences, and attend meetings and ribbon cutting ceremonies.
For this project, the biggest obstacle faced was changing the mindset that construction was going to be horrible and life altering. In order to change this mindset, NDDOT focused on public education so that the public and businesses were aware of what was going on.
NDDOT began with a small public relations office, employing two people, but they were not trained to do the outreach that needed to be done for this project and they were too far away from the project location to be effective. So, NDDOT decided to hire a PR firm to work with the media, serving primarily to filter out the engineering lingo to create press releases that make sense to the public. However, even with the PR firm, the presenter, Kevin Gorder, still plays a large role in public outreach and serves as a face for NDDOT. However, the PR firm has assisted greatly, such as for example when NDDOT had to unexpectedly shut down a bridge, the PR firm helped get the information out and quickly clear the road. Furthermore, in 2000, when there was no PR firm involved, the project had 42 crashes; however in 2001, when the PR firm was on board, there were only 19 crashes. One citizen provided feedback that the PR firm was the best money spent on the project.
One of the first steps of public outreach for the project was to do a media tour, in which Mr. Gorder and representatives from the PR firm went to all media outlets and sat and talked with them, answering questions and generally making them feel comfortable about the project so that they could get the correct information out to the public. Aside from the media tour, NDDOT also used the media by purchasing advertising in newspapers and did radio ads during peak commuting times. Spending on advertising has been about $20,000 per year over the past three years. However, in some cases, they were able to get one free ad for every two purchased.
Mr. Gorder stressed the importance of building partnerships. For example, a billboard advertising the project showed the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) logo, emphasizing the partnership between the DOT and the AGC. Other partnerships included those with business advisory groups. In the Fargo case, the CEO of the mall that was along the project corridor was part of the local business advisory group. In order to perform the road work, the main entrance to the mall needed to be closed for three months. By working together with the CEO to allow him to pick the time to close the entrance, the process went smoothly. The mall chose to do a $19 million reconstruction at the same time the construction was taking place in front of the mall.
The partnership with the business advisory group also helped businesses in the area plan for construction. In addition, emergency responders were invited to meetings of the group so that they could plan for the construction and rearrange their travel routes. In the end, the businesses that were part of the group helped to reinforce the positive message about the project.
In addition to partnerships, NDDOT uses "leave behinds" to get information out to the public. These are small pieces of paper with project information and a map. They have proven to be so popular that businesses have made their own copies to hand out, meaning that NDDOT no longer has to pay to print them. It is possible that in the future, in addition to leave behinds, NDDOT may try stuffing informational notes about the project in payroll checks in local businesses.
NDDOT also developed a project web site, which is updated by the PR firm. The site includes live webcams of the project, as well as project pictures, and a link to provide feedback. The emails sent through this link go to Mr. Gorder, his boss, and the PR firm. From web statistics, NDDOT has been able to tell that people are bookmarking the live webcam web page or using it as their main entrance page in their web browsers.
Mr. Gorder informed the attendees that NDDOT includes a note in their plans that require the contractor to provide a public information person. This person cannot be involved with construction or be the superintendent, he must be dedicated to PR. The main point of the job is to focus on relations with businesses, rather than the general public. There is no bid item for this, however.
Finally, Mr. Gorder stressed the importance of always being ready and prepared with information. He noted that whenever he goes to meetings he carries a book that includes information detour routes, business phone numbers, and contact names. It is important to provide the public with contact names and information so that the public calls NDDOT and not the media. However, Mr. Gorder noted that in the case of the I-29 project, they put enough information out that they actually got very few calls.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) recently implemented a statewide 511 system to provide the public with advanced traveler information. The system is meant to integrate the many separate traveler information services within North Carolina. The highway information within the system is provided through NCDOT's Traveler Information Management System (TIMS).
As the 511 system can serve as a strong source for disseminating work zone information, NCDOT is now currently working to do so within its system. NCDOT recently deployed several smart work zone systems to monitor traffic mobility and provide real-time traveler information on and around affected highways. They are now currently working to integrate the information from these systems into the statewide 511 system.
NCDOT currently gets work zone information from various sources:
- Real Time:
- Construction/Maintenance Personnel
- TMC personnel
- Incident Management Assistance Patrols
- Smart work zones (under development)
- Construction/Maintenance Personnel
- TMC personnel
This information is being integrated in a database and web site to allow it to be disseminated to HAR systems, the 511 system, media feeds, dynamic message signs, and any additional ways they may be able to get information out to the public. NCDOT recently implemented kiosks at welcome centers and rest areas so people can get construction information there as they travel through the State. In addition, they offer a free service to send information to pagers, blackberries and cell phones.
The presenter, Jo Ann Oerter, described the US-1 project as a specific example of the use of 511 in work zones. This is a project on a heavily congested four lane divided roadway that serves as a major arterial into Raleigh from the south. The goals of the project are to widen the roadway and install ITS with minimal disruption and to provide real time information about the project to the public. The majority of the work on this project is done at night, however, unexpected congestion has occurred during the day due to people trying to get a look at the project site.
In order to get information to the public about the project, NCDOT is using:
- Dynamic message signs
- A dedicated web site
- Public workshops
Through 511, NCDOT is providing information such as the area of closure, begin and end times, the severity of impact, and detour information if available. Functionality to provide travel times and delay is currently under development. Information is entered into the system through field personnel and contractors as well as through smart workzone technologies. There have not been any issues so far with contractors inputting information, most likely because the type of information in the system reflects on the contractor so good information brings a positive image. NCDOT is currently considering requiring in the TMP that the contractor input information into 511.
It was asked how NCDOT can be sure that information is inputted uniformly into the system, especially since contractors might have different perspective of what that message should be versus what the agency thinks it should be. Ms. Oerter stated that they have developed a training manual that they give to everyone involved with inputting information. Furthermore, most of the input interface is drop down menus, which eliminates free text inputs.
In order to get people to use 511, NCDOT is trying to use slogans that people can relate to. For example, April is "Reduce Stress Month" so the marketing slogan for the month is "Use 511 to reduce stress." NCDOT is tracking how many people are using the 511 system for work zone information through the use of a live operator (from a full time TMC) for the US-1 project and through a feedback area of the web site. Through this feedback they have learned that people do take alternative routes as a result of the information they receive through the system. NCDOT has received numerous comments from the web site about work zone information on 511 and often tries to modify the system based on these comments. Beyond just tracking how many people are using the system for work zone information, NCDOT is also tracking where the callers are coming from and has found that 26% of the calls have come from out of state, from every state as well as Puerto Rico and 3 Canadian provinces.
Some of the obstacles faced in using 511 for work zone information are:
- Keeping information real time
- Dual entries into the NCDOT Travel Information Management System (TIMS), with the risk of providing conflicting information between the web site and the 511 system
Solutions to these obstacles include working with field forces and contractors ahead of time to define expectations and provide training and to provide better quality control over the system.
Successes that have been realized include:
- The system is easily accessible; people can call in at any time to get work zone information.
- Communication and defining of expectations among all involved.
- Advanced marketing through media, flyers, tray liners, brochures, etc.
- Training and making sure everyone knows how to use the system and input information
NCDOT has also developed several lessons learned that can help as they move along in the 511 effort and can also help other States as they begin to use 511 for work zone information. One of the most important lessons learned is the need to include all stakeholders from the start. NCDOT realized that there were some stakeholders that they did not include, such as local organizations, who could have provided valuable resources. One way that this issue could have been resolved was to bring in an external PR firm to help define the stakeholder group early on.
Another lesson to keep in mind is that 511 is an excellent resource but it is only as good as the data within it. Data must be kept current, which can be done through working with partners and making sure everyone is trained on how to input information in the system. Data must also be reliable and accurate, which can be done through a strong quality control process.
NCDOT is currently working on more marketing of 511. They are looking into having phone or gas cards with the 511 logo on them. These cards are something that people will pull out to use and have to look at repeatedly. When it comes to marketing, it is important to make use of something that is used repeatedly.previous | next