For the past five years, the Iowa Department of Transportation – with the assistance of a consultant – has been developing a virtual public involvement management application to increase the amount of citizen input into transportation projects, reduce the manual processes, and improve the consistency of data collection for both in-person and online public meetings.
[Above photo by the Iowa DOT.]
The tool is an interactive, electronic way to manage stakeholder outreach and improve project decision-making, noted Jon Rees, a public involvement manager with the agency.
“The tool is designed to capture information digitally [and] we adapted it to be used at in-person public meetings, too,” he explained in a recent blog post. “But currently, all meetings are being held online due to the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
Online meetings now consist of YouTube videos, ArcGIS StoryMaps and/or pre-recorded PowerPoint presentations and users can leave comments via an interactive “portal” as they watch.
“We thought it was important to make the details of all of our projects available to the public, so we developed a public portal that allows anyone to locate any Iowa DOT project that ties into the public input collection tool,” Rees noted.
“The portal gives the user information on the type and description of the project and details from any past public meetings that may have been held related to the project,” he explained.
“It also displays the level of support the project has received which is gauged by comments that have been submitted,” Rees said. “Most importantly, it allows for anyone to reach out and leave an electronic comment, to have their voices heard.”