“Getting you there safely, efficiently and conveniently” is the mission of the Iowa DOT. That mission starts off with the people who use mountains of data to look far into the future and put together plans with, and for, various groups within the agency to use as guidelines. Historically, plans haven’t gotten a lot of attention because they were fairly high-level policy documents that were more theoretical in nature. That’s all changing with a new school of thought that puts action to these planning efforts.
“I view our team as a little like Mighty Mouse,” said Garrett Pedersen of the Office of Systems Planning. “We are a small team of eight, but with a lot of planning muscle.”
Andrea White, a member of the planning team said, “One reason we’ve been able to create successful plans and projects is there’s great collaboration between team members and with other offices. There’s a genuine camaraderie among us. I think we all are glad that we’re on a team together and that we get to work with each other.”
Inside the Iowa DOT, the efforts of the planning team are highly regarded. Recently the planning team submitted three projects for the American Planning Association-Iowa Chapter planning awards. As a testament to their work, they won all three.
Each of the three award-winning projects required extensive collaboration between the planners and employees from other Iowa DOT business units. Joe Drahos, a planning team member, said, “From my experience working with the Office of Public Transit, we have a good working relationship that led to great collaboration. I think we developed a template that can be used on other planning projects, as well.”
Iowa in Motion 2045 – award for Transportation Planning
Pedersen said, “Our most recent multimodal long-range transportation planning effort, Iowa In Motion 2045, represented a transformation for the role of long-range planning within the agency.”
The plan, which was developed in-house, promotes the Iowa Transportation Commission and department’s mission of mobility and stewardship of a safe, efficient, and sustainable multimodal transportation system. Extensive stakeholder and public input through the planning process helped shape the plan. The plan has quickly transitioned into impactful implementation activities. Because of the long-range plan development process, we’re changing the way we prioritize projects and bring them to the construction phase, with the ultimate goal of making the wisest investments to improve safety and mobility on Iowa’s transportation system.
Iowa’s Strategic Safety Plan – award for Public Outreach
Led by the Office of Traffic and Safety and supported by the Office of Systems Planning and a consultant team, Iowa’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) public involvement process was designed to gather input and diverse guidance through consultation with federal, state, local, and private sector safety stakeholders. “The public involvement process consisted of working with eight unique stakeholder groups, and leveraged multiple polling efforts to gather input from more than 600 individual stakeholders.”
Sam Sturtz from the planning team, said, “The ultimate result of this effort was to create a process to gather a broad spectrum of professional input that has helped us prioritize resources as we are developing safety strategies at the state level.”
Transit Stop Americans with Disabilities Act Assessment App – award for Best Practice
“We published the Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan in December 2017 to identify the steps we will take to achieve ADA compliance for various public facilities in DOT right of way,” said Drahos.
The effort that won the award was the data collection effort, which spun out of the implementation plan and the need to evaluate and improve ADA compliance. The data collected included compliance of more than 800 public transit bus stops located on Iowa DOT-owned property in meeting ADA regulations. Efforts within the Office of Public Transit began shortly after the ADA Transition Plan was published, beginning with identifying the criteria needed to evaluate the stops.
LT Leon Associates, Inc. was contracted to research United States DOT, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Transit Administration regulations to help refine the data to be collected that will serve to determine ADA compliance. Next, the Iowa DOT developed a field data collection application, dashboard and reporting process in-house to evaluate, document, and report its findings. The data collection was completed in September.
Each of these very diverse planning efforts shows the versatility of the Mighty Mouse planning team at the Iowa DOT. Pedersen said, “There isn’t a cookie cutter solution to gathering and analyzing data to develop implementable solutions for the future. We enjoy problem-solving– sometimes figuring it out as we go – and I’m very proud that our team brings different skill sets and strengths into the process. The team not only works well together, but they collaborate effectively with other Iowa DOTers and with those stakeholders who are outside of our agency.”