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.
Lochmueller Group (Lochgroup) prepared all environmental documentation for the reconstruction and widening of a 20.9-mile section of KY 114 from south of Salyersville to just west of the US 23 interchange in Prestonsburg. Steep grades, numerous sharp horizontal curves, and limited sight distance combined to form a facility that was deficient by current standards.
An Environmental Assessment (EA) and eight baseline reports were prepared including:
- Air Quality Analysis
- Hazardous Materials
- Aquatic Resources
- Terrestrial Resources
- Noise Analysis
- Socioeconomic Analysis
- Historic Study
- Archaeological Study
Several environmental areas of concern were present within the limits of the proposed project. These included right-of-way and relocations; farmland impacts; impacts to wetlands and streams requiring permits; and archaeological and historic sites associated with a Civil War battlefield. The baseline reports were completed and approved by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Part of identifying possible impacts required interviewing residents and community leaders along the corridor. The problem was how to get to these parties to receive their comments. Lochgroup’s solution was to invite them to a party.
For two days, a roadside information station was manned by Lochgoup along with KYTC, and the Federal Highway Administration. Food was served and entertainment was provided by volunteers dressed as the Crash Test Dummies and Buckle-Up Bear. Balloons were given out to children, and people were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding the project. Almost 300 questionnaires were completed providing excellent information on the possible impacts to the residents and businesses along the proposed improvement project area. This innovative public outreach and accompanying media relations campaign contributed to the successful public perception and acceptance of this project.
Increased traffic along Illinois 159 prompted IDOT to consider alternatives to improve this 2.9-mile section of roadway. The goal was to enhance safety and mobility, as well as support the economic vitality of the area. Running directly through the center of Collinsville, this segment of the roadway passes through several neighborhoods, including a historic district, impacting a number of residents, businesses, and other community stakeholders. As such, public education and outreach was critical to a successful outcome.
As IDOT’s consultant responsible for public involvement for this project, Lochmueller Group (Lochgroup) devised a community outreach effort that included the formation of a Community Advisory Group (CAG). The community outreach effort was designed to solicit public input and the input of the CAG on potential solutions to congestion and safety issues, as well as on aesthetic considerations. Due to the urban constraints and numerous stakeholders affected, the public involvement effort conformed to IDOT Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) guidelines. As part of the CSS effort, Lochgroup used advanced 3D modeling to help stakeholders and team members visualize how the expanded roadway will impact the area after construction.
In addition to the formation of the CAG, the effort also featured a community outreach program, over 30 stakeholder meetings, a project website, community-wide public involvement meetings, and newsletters published at project milestones. The project website may be reviewed at http://www.idot.illinois.gov/projects/IL-159-Project. Electronic copies of the newsletters and exhibits used at public involvement meetings may also be found on this site.
When HUD announced its new Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program in 2010, the Evansville, Indiana region was one of the first 45 areas to receive funding. HUD awarded the Evansville MPO and the Sustainable Evansville Area Coalition (SEAC), a consortium of 21 local organizations and agencies, $1.4 million to develop a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD). The work covered the greater metropolitan area, which spans three counties in two states and has 285,000 residents.
The RPSD’s goal is to integrate land use, housing, and transportation planning. This includes establishing goals; developing performance measures; and devising strategies to implement projects, programs, and policies that advance livability principles. The plan includes recommendations at both regional and neighborhood levels with a focus on developing neighborhood niches. It will give special attention to three areas: the Evansville Arts District, located near downtown; the Boonville, Indiana downtown; and the Henderson, Kentucky East End neighborhoods. These three areas will be “case studies” to test best sustainable practices.
Lochmueller Group (Lochgroup) developed a project-specific GIS map that incorporates information on transportation facilities and services including sidewalks and bicycle paths, water/wastewater, utilities and other infrastructure; land parcels with zoning, sales, and assessed values; environmental hazards and resources; demographics; businesses; and governmental boundaries and designations.
This information was also used to expand the Evansville Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (EMPO) travel model to a hybrid/tour-based model and to develop a land use model that will work in tandem with the travel demand model to assess the impact of changes in land use and the built environment on travel behavior. These include impacts from increasing street connectivity, adding of sidewalks, altering the density of neighborhoods, and allowing mixed-use developments.
Lochgroup helped launch a public awareness campaign to educate, energize, and engage the public in the planning process. A Sustainability Summit featured nationally-known speakers who challenged more than 150 attendees to incorporate sustainable activities at a neighborhood, community, and regional level. Our team developed an RSPD website and social media campaign. We also distributed information and gathered surveys at the at the city’s Fall Festival, which draws more than 150,000 visitors.
Next, Lochgroup facilitated 12 public visioning workshops involving more than 300 participants. One workshop was held in Spanish. The success of this initial effort was recognized by the Indiana MPO Council for Outstanding Public Involvement at its 2011 conference.
Using the goals and objectives established in the initial meetings, Lochgroup used the transportation and land use models it developed, along with other analytical tools, to evaluate the relative success of different scenarios in accomplishing the plan’s goals and objectives.
The final phase of this effort featured another series of meetings, workshops, and public outreach documenting the results of the various scenarios and action items based upon the performance measures specified in Phase 1. Input from these meetings formed the final recommendations for the RPSD as well as a timeline to complete goals and projects.
The adopted plan includes 4 volumes: Volume I: The EMPO Regional Area Today, Volume II: The Millennial Plan for 2040, Volume III: 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (prepared by EMPO), and Volume IV: Fair Housing and Focus Area Plans.