The AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence initiated a Public Involvement Peer Exchange in 2020 to foster peer learning among selected state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) from across the U.S. The Center’s Technical Working Group selected this topic due to interest from member states. The peer exchange was funded through a cooperative agreement with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and conducted with support from WSP. Originally planned as a domestic scan tour, the format changed to virtual workshops due to the coronavirus pandemic. AASHTO conducted three half-day virtual workshops in the fall of 2020. A final in-person wrap-up session is anticipated in 2022.
AASHTO selected four lead states to provide examples of their public involvement practice and lessons learned for the peer exchange: Minnesota (MnDOT), North Carolina (NCDOT), Pennsylvania (PennDOT), and Utah (UDOT). An additional six states participated in the exchange: Colorado, Georgia, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington State. Topics identified for the exchange included:
- Current status of DOT public involvement programs (including changes brought about by the pandemic);
- Planning and project development frameworks that shape public involvement;
- Project development case studies, including those with a focus on the engagement of underrepresented communities;
- Federal perspectives on public outreach, public hearings and environmental justice;
- The role of data in planning and evaluating public involvement, and
- Emerging methods and approaches in public involvement.
The virtual workshops took place on September 29, October 6, and October 27, 2020 using the GoToWebinar platform. In addition to presentations, the sessions included open discussion, polls, and breakout groups. This summary describes each workshop and the key themes and lessons learned from the peer exchange overall. Additionally, a Resources section provides links to materials shared by participants.