As Congress and the Administration work toward reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program, the transportation community finds itself in a time of significant upheaval marked by a growing recognition that inclusive and meaningful public involvement will be critical to successful transportation investment decisions. I recently spoke with Julie Lorenz, Secretary of Kansas DOT and Lloyd Brown, former Director of Communications and Marketing at AASHTO and now Senior Strategic Communications Consultant at HDR to get their views on how agencies can prepare a winning strategy.
With the renewal of infrastructure funds gaining bipartisan support, we took some time to talk about the factors in play both in DC and across the country that will impact public engagement around transportation investments. We discussed:
- Equity and the growing recognition that, historically, transportation investments have in many areas contributed to the disenfranchisement of communities of color and lower income populations;
- Seismic mode and pattern shifts as the nation continues to reopen from historic COVID-19 restrictions with new transportation needs and expectations;
- The mounting focus on climate change and the role that transportation plays in greenhouse gas emissions;
- The need for BOTH high tech and high touch engagement to broaden outreach and listen deeply to community needs and priorities; and
- The recent changes to NEPA requirements and guidelines and the role that they play in public involvement.
Lloyd Brown and Julie Lorenz discussed some of the particulars of the transportation bill, and dove into a discussion on equity.
“It’s more important to try than to not do it,” Julie said succinctly. “If you’re humble about just saying, I want to do better, that’s a place to start…Part of [equity] is making sure that we’re reaching the right audiences and that we have strategies to get into communities to actually hear people in a real way and have that dialogue.”
The speakers also shared some useful tools and resources to help planners delve into public engagement for transportation planning, including the TRB’s research report Measuring the Effectiveness of Public Involvement in Transportation Planning and Project Development, and some innovative case studies that highlighted public involvement best practices that work well to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
“The bottom line is, the value in this is saying not just how many comments [you collected],” Lloyd said, “But really, did you end up with a good, measurable public involvement process that ended up with a solid result?”
For more insights and the full discussion, watch the full recording of this 60-minute webinar.
The transportation community faces several mounting areas of public attention and concern. In this webinar, we discuss post-pandemic recovery, the surface transportation bill and how agencies can prepare!