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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / March 2006

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-023
Date: March 2006

Your Guide to Work Zone Public Outreach Campaigns

With work zones accounting for 10 percent of all roadway congestion and ranking second only to poor traffic flow in causing dissatisfaction among drivers, communicating with road users, the general public, area businesses, and others about road construction projects and accompanying work zones is essential to the smooth operation and completion of a project. A new guidance document available from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Work Zone Public Information and Outreach Strategies, is designed to help transportation agencies plan and implement effective public information and outreach campaigns for work zones. This document also provides support to agencies in their efforts to implement the recently updated Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule.

Published by FHWA in the Federal Register in September 2004, the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule's primary goal is to reduce crashes and congestion in and around work zones (the text of the rule is available online at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/resources/final_rule/language.htm). The rule also addresses the use of public information and outreach as a work zone management tool. For certain types of projects, the rule requires the use of public information and outreach strategies to inform those affected by the project of expected work zone impacts and changing conditions. "Many transportation agencies have found that public information and outreach efforts are an effective work zone management tool. When the public and other road users know what to expect, they can become a partner in helping to manage work zone congestion and safety," says Tracy Scriba of FHWA.

The new guidance document is the second in a series of four FHWA guides supporting implementation of the rule (see November 2005 Focus). In addition to guidance, the document contains numerous examples of work zone public information and outreach campaigns used by transportation agencies.

The guide includes sections on designing and planning a public information and outreach campaign for work zones, as well as possible communication strategies for implementing campaigns. Designing a campaign includes such steps as determining the appropriate size and nature of the outreach effort and identifying resources to use. These include internal resources such as agency public relations personnel, existing agency Web sites, and existing traveler information systems (highway advisory radio and dynamic message signs), and external resources, such as radio, TV, and newspaper advertising. Public information centers and kiosks can also be used.

Also important to the outreach campaign is identifying partners, including State and local agencies; law enforcement; major employers and institutions, such as hospitals, in the affected area; groups such as neighborhood associations and business associations; and traveler information providers, such as radio and TV stations. These partnerships are valuable in clarifying and improving the message to be communicated, particularly to diverse population groups such as non-English speaking residents, truck drivers, or the elderly; distributing information; identifying ways to minimize the negative effects of a project; and perhaps even sharing in the costs of a campaign.

Identifying the target audience and designing communication strategies that are effective for that audience are also key to any public information and outreach campaign. For example, commuters are typically aware of travel conditions but have less flexibility in planning their trip. Information on alternate routes or additional transportation options, such as transit, may be most helpful to this type of traveler. Noncommuters may be less aware of travel conditions but are more likely to respond to messages about changing the timing or destination of a trip. Travelers from outside of the local area are also typically less aware of road conditions and harder to inform about construction projects. To help reach such travelers, the I-95 Corridor Coalition produces a brochure twice a year on work zones and other potential problem areas on I-95. This brochure is distributed to welcome centers, rest areas, transportation agencies, private companies, and individuals up and down the east coast. It is also available online at www.i95coalition.org.

Commercial truck drivers may need specialized work zone information because of tight schedules, oversize or dangerous loads, or overnight travel. When planning an outreach campaign, it is important to consider if the work zone affects a route with heavy truck traffic or one that is near a freight terminal. During the I-65 construction project in Kentucky, which involved full road closure on weekends, outreach specifically targeted to truckers included publicizing project details and alternate routes in a direct mailing to trucking companies, in trucking industry publications, and on the CB radio network.

San Francisco, California, also used a specialized approach when it provided information to area residents on the Octavia Central road project in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Russian. The outreach campaign for the Virginia Department of Transportation's Springfield Interchange project, meanwhile, included working with retirement and nursing homes near the project area to inform them of the impacts of the project and the need for extra caution around the work zone area. And in Santa Cruz, California, visually-impaired pedestrians were specifically targeted in the outreach campaign for a work zone that affected downtown sidewalks.

In developing a campaign message, successful work zone outreach efforts emphasize that safety comes first and remind drivers to take precautions to protect themselves and highway workers, including adhering to posted speed limits, keeping a safe distance from the car ahead, and minimizing distractions, such as the use of cellular phones. Another primary message for outreach campaigns is that motorists should plan ahead to minimize delays. Campaigns should publicize information on alternate routes and, depending on the project, can provide information to travelers and major employers on carpooling/ridesharing, transit, park and ride, and telecommuting options. Transportation agencies should also look to provide travelers with current details on work zone status, including the dates and times of work zone activity; travel times and delays; and the routes, lanes, and ramps affected.

To help agencies determine which communication strategies to use for a particular campaign, the guide contains a section with details on such strategies as branding a project through the use of graphics, logos, and catchphrases; working with the mass media; creating and maintaining Web sites; and designing printed materials, including brochures, flyers, and newsletters. Also covered is the role that technologies such as email alerts, project hotlines, and dynamic highway message signs can play in a successful outreach campaign.

The guidance document also includes a checklist of tasks that are often involved in public information and outreach campaigns. Appendices feature blank templates that can be used to develop a campaign and identify target audiences, messages, products, goals, and resources. Sample templates are also included that contain information for a fictional project.

The new guidance document, as well as additional information about the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule, is available online at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/resources/final_rule.htm. Two additional guidance documents will be released this year by FHWA: Developing and Implementing Transportation Management Plans for Work Zones and Work Zone Impacts Assessment: An Approach to Assess and Manage Work Zone Safety and Mobility Impacts of Road Projects. For more information, contact Tracy Scriba at FHWA, 202-366-0855 (email: tracy.scriba@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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