Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program

Executive Summary

In September 2004, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published updates to the work zone regulations at 23 CFR 630 Subpart J. The updated rule is referred to as the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule (Rule) and applies to all State and local governments that receive Federal-aid highway funding. Transportation agencies are required to comply with the provisions of the Rule by October 12, 2007. The changes made to the regulations broaden the former rule to better address the work zone issues of today and the future.

Growing congestion on many roads, and an increasing need to perform rehabilitation and reconstruction work on existing roads already carrying traffic, are some of the issues that have lead to additional, more complex challenges to maintaining work zone safety and mobility. To help address these issues, the Rule provides a decision-making framework that facilitates comprehensive consideration of the broader safety and mobility impacts of work zones across project development stages, and the adoption of additional strategies that help manage these impacts during project implementation. At the heart of the Rule is a requirement for agencies to develop an agency-level work zone safety and mobility policy. The policy is intended to support systematic consideration and management of work zone impacts across all stages of project development. Based on the policy, agencies will develop standard processes and procedures to support implementation of the policy. These processes and procedures shall include the use of work zone safety and operational data, work zone training, and work zone process reviews. Agencies are also encouraged to develop procedures for work zone impacts assessment. The third primary element of the Rule calls for the development of project-level procedures to address the work zone impacts of individual projects. These project-level procedures include identifying projects that an agency expects will cause a relatively high level of disruption (referred to in the Rule as significant projects) and developing and implementing transportation management plans (TMPs) for all projects.

To help transportation agencies understand and implement the provisions of the Rule, FHWA has been developing four guidance documents. This Guide is designed to help transportation agencies plan and implement effective public information and outreach campaigns to mitigate the negative effects of road construction work zones. An overall Rule Implementation Guide provides a general overview of the Rule and overarching guidance for implementing the provisions of the Rule. Two additional technical guidance documents, available starting in late 2005, cover other specific aspects of the Rule: work zone impacts assessment and TMPs for work zones. All four of the guides include guidelines and sample approaches, examples from transportation agencies using practices that relate to the Rule, and sources for more information. The examples help illustrate that many transportation agencies already use some policies and practices that the Rule either encourages or requires, and that there is more than one way to achieve compliance with the Rule. While what these agencies are doing may not yet be fully compliant with the Rule, their current practices still serve as good examples of how to work toward Rule implementation. While the guides cover aspects of the Rule, they also contain information that can be useful to agencies in all of their efforts to improve safety and mobility in and around work zones and thereby support effective operations and management of our transportation system.

State and local transportation agencies and FHWA are partners in trying to bring about improved work zone safety and mobility. Consistent with that partnership, the Rule advocates a partnership between agencies and FHWA in Rule implementation and compliance. Staff from the respective FHWA Division Offices, Resource Center, and Headquarters will work with their agency counterparts to support implementation and compliance efforts. This guidance document is one key element of that support.

Contents of this Guide

This Guide begins with a general definition of public information and outreach, the purpose of the Guide, and the intended audience for the Guide. The intended audience of this Guide is personnel in transportation agencies responsible for planning and operating work zones, as well as those responsible for public relations and public information. However, this Guide will also be of interest to transportation policy makers, work zone contractors, consultants, public relations firms, and emergency responders. Following this information, the Guide explains how work zone public information and outreach fits into the context of the updated Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility.

A work zone public information and outreach campaign involves communicating with road users, the general public, area residences and businesses, and appropriate public entities about a road construction project and its implications for safety and mobility. Developing and implementing a public information and outreach campaign should be started well before road construction begins and will need ongoing monitoring throughout the life of the project. Planning and implementing a public information and outreach campaign involves a set of key steps that ideally will be coordinated and outlined in a public information and outreach plan:

  1. Determine the appropriate size and nature of the public information and outreach campaign. The size and nature of a public information and outreach effort will be determined by the characteristics of a project, its location, and the anticipated impacts of a road construction project. Aspects to consider include size and duration of the project, the amount of delay anticipated, special traffic and safety conditions such as heavy truck traffic, and disruptions to other modes and key facilities such as airports, stadiums, and hospitals.
  2. Identify resources. In most cases, public information and outreach spending will need to be part of a road construction project budget. In addition, campaign managers will also need to tap existing resources, an operating 511 system for example, and leverage external resources such as free media coverage.
  3. Identify partners. Working with a range of partners to design and implement an information and outreach campaign will strengthen the strategies employed and may reduce the costs to the agency. Partners include, among others, State and local agencies, major employers, and business and neighborhood associations.
  4. Identify target audiences. A key to any communication strategy is to identify the target audience(s). This will help to determine the types of messages that need to be conveyed and the best ways of communicating those messages.
  5. Develop the message(s). In general, the messages communicated by the campaign should provide project information to maintain safety and minimize delay, and should indicate that the agency cares about the driving public. More specific messages might include details of the work zone, travel times through the work zone, and alternate routes and modes of transportation.
  6. Determine communication strategies. How information is communicated will depend on the audiences, the messages to be conveyed, and the campaign budget. This Guide discusses a wide range of strategies for communicating information about a project work zone.
  7. Determine communication timing. Public information and outreach should not be limited to when a work zone is up and running. Before work commences is the best time to begin developing partnerships and informing the public about the project, its anticipated impacts, and how to find out more information. Post-construction it is a good idea to publicize completion and to thank project partners.
  8. Evaluate campaign effectiveness. Evaluating the effectiveness of a public information and outreach campaign should be part of a long-term effort to improve safety and mobility in and around work zones. During a long road construction project it is advisable to periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the public information and outreach campaign with the aim of redirecting resources if necessary.

Section 2 describes and provides examples for each of these steps and Section 3 includes a checklist of the typical actions that are part of developing a campaign and a public information and outreach plan. Section 4 describes a number of strategies that can be used to communicate information about projects and provides examples of how these strategies have been used. The Guide concludes with appendices providing sample templates for developing public information and outreach strategies and plans.

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