A panel of state DOT and local government executives convened during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2022 Spring Meeting in New Orleans to emphasize the importance of cooperation among agencies.
Panel participants described how states, regional planning commissions and municipalities are addressing transportation challenges. The agencies are working together to reach “shared goals” such as ensuring equity among transportation facilities and resources, expanding broadband internet access and establishing a national electric vehicle re-charging network.
“Transportation projects offer us an opportunity to rebuild local streets, multi-use trails, and reconnect neighborhoods to downtown areas,” said Monique Boulet, CEO of Louisiana’s Acadiana Planning Commission.
“Local partnerships help connect projects better with local communities – letting us walk through the tough questions and listen to what really matters to residents,” she explained. “It means using ‘non-traditional’ approaches to gather community input, holding events at churches and working with local pastors. We spend a lot of one-on-one time with them; they are critical to effective communications with affected constituencies. Finding such ‘trust spots’ is critical.”
Nancy Daubenberger, interim commissioner and chief engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, explained how “local connections’ encompass more than just transportation construction concerns.
“We established a local partnership program or LPP to help improve the state highway system – to identify where we needed improved turn lanes, roadway lighting, traffic signals, pedestrian tunnels, and sidewalks,” Daubenberger said. “Local partnerships are also key to our master maintenance agreements – to define responsibilities for snow control, vegetation management, pavements markings, fencing, draining, litter control, etc.”
Other participants emphasized that “partnerships” and “stakeholders” now come in a variety of shapes and sizes compared to the past.
“We know transportation projects take time to build – but many communities don’t understand that. That is another reason why engagement so critical. We are also now changing up our budgeting cycle to better align with municipal and county budgeting schedules so they can apply for and use state funding more effectively,” said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation
Malcolm “Mack” Long, director of the Montana Department of Transportation, described state DOTs as “builders” in their respective areas.
“We like to say we are the builders because we build the connections that bring communities together,” he said.
Source: AASHTO Journal