At the Iowa Department of Transportation, we want to hear what you think about roadway and bridge projects that might impact you, whether they are in the planning phase, under construction, or recently been constructed. To more easily gain this input, we’ve been using an online public meeting system for the past few years. Little did we know that tool would become invaluable in the age of COVID. Being able to work through the public input process in a safe, online information portal keeps the work we do for you moving along without a hitch, even in a global pandemic.
Jon Rees of our public involvement section said, “Our online tool has been great during the pandemic, allowing us to reach out to stakeholders virtually to inform them on our projects and request public input. It is easy and convenient for users who have access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone.”
Over the years, our online public involvement tool has increased the amount of input we get into transportation projects and helped us reduce our manual processes and improve the consistency of our data collection. The tool is an interactive, electronic way to manage stakeholder outreach and improve project decision-making.
The tool has four primary components:
Management of in-person meetings (on hold during COVID) and online meetings (all of our meetings have moved to an online format this past year)
The number of people using the portal to make sure their opinions are heard is increasing. In 2020, there were more than 2,700 views. We have received 3,115 comments. You can access the public portal here: https://public.iowadotpi.com/
The versatility of the portal is also a benefit we’ve seen since we introduced it. There have been 112 public events for projects both in-person (pre-pandemic) and virtual. Even though the majority of our public input has been online since the pandemic, Rees said a few tried-and-true methods are also used. He said, “We try to reach as many people as we can electronically, but we do still utilize newspaper ads and mailed letters to stakeholders to make sure we’re being as inclusive as possible.”