In April 2004, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) initiated the Tier 2 Studies to begin work on the next phase of study of the long-awaited I-69 connection between Indianapolis and Evansville. INDOT hired Lochmueller Group (Lochgroup) as the Program Management Consultant to oversee the project development activities of six section consultants charged with preparing six Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and alternatives analysis.
With 142 miles of interstate highway, the sheer size of the project and impact to the human and natural environment necessitated an intense and effective public involvement plan and a variety of communication tools. Those tools included public meetings, stakeholder meetings, presentations, brochures and handouts, plus an extensive project website with over 800 pages that Lochgroup designed, programmed, and managed.
Throughout the effort, Lochgroup also worked closely with INDOT to coordinate the overall public involvement program including message strategy planning and monitoring and issues inventory, tracking, and reporting. To better communicate with INDOT, Lochgroup periodically prepared a report that reviews the content of public and stakeholder comments as obtained from the hotline and provided by the section consultants.
Lochgroup also worked with each section consultant to coordinate public involvement activities with technical activities including key dates, announcements, and meetings with INDOT and FHWA and to ensure that summaries of this involvement were prepared. Lochgroup has also been responsible for encouraging and facilitating public participation throughout the development of each section by maintaining regular communication with section consultants to monitor outreach activities.
In addition, Lochgroup coordinated construction site and mitigation site media tours and stakeholder and agency van tours. On these tours, each participant was provided with a binder containing maps, daily agendas, logistics, list of participants, and the purpose of the tour, along with relevant information and issues for each stop.
Several unique aspects of the project involved:
Kitchen Table Meetings (KTM)
This involved development of a process to expedite land acquisition involving individual discussions with property owners all along the I-69 route. During these KTMs, team members met face-to-face at the property owner’s home to learn their concerns and educate them on the project and the acquisition process. The concept for the KTM was developed by Lochgroup and INDOT during Section 1 design and then carried forward and refined in later sections.
As part of the Section 4 Design Team, Lochgroup’s Public Involvement Department was instrumental in developing and implementing an improved approach to Customer Service for state projects utilizing “Kitchen Table Meetings”. Meetings were held with over 230 property owners prior to the initiation of any topographical or geotechnical survey activities on their properties. In October 2011 the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recognized INDOT with a Gold Performance Excellence Award for the “Kitchen Table Meetings” held in Section 4. The award recognizes projects with performance excellence results that meet the highest standards of quality, service, and performance.
A unique aspect of coordination on I-69 involved working with local and state law enforcement agencies. Protestors attempted to sabotage the highway’s development by protests, tree-sitting in the right-of-way, and destruction of construction equipment and project team offices. Lochgroup worked with the Indiana State Police; the Joint Terrorism Task Force; the FBI; IDNR’s Law Enforcement Division; County and City Law Enforcement Officials; the Office of the Governor of Indiana; and INDOT to ensure safe, secure events, including major ribbon-cuttings.