Other Agency Public Involvement Efforts
In addition to the formal public involvement program, KDOT offers many opportunities and makes many efforts to provide the public with "access to the process." During the course of a year, there are literally thousands of contacts made by the public with KDOT employees at all levels, particularly at the Area Engineer and District Engineer level. At headquarters in Topeka, the public's concerns are addressed daily in the form of individual and group meetings with KDOT management, e-mail contacts, telephone calls and letters. For those people who truly want to have input and are willing to make even a very minimal effort, the opportunities are there in abundance. Public involvement must be a two-way effort. Those who want to have input and involvement must be willing to make at least some minimal effort, and many do.
KDOT's existing Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) was adopted in 1995. Adoption of that plan involved an extensive public outreach effort including surveys, public forums, stakeholder meetings and a special effort to reach out to leaders of some of the major businesses in the state to get their input on how transportation can better serve their industry. As a result of that outreach effort, the plan was developed and contained nearly 50 policy recommendations. Some were recommendations to continue initiatives that had recently been undertaken and others were recommendations to begin new initiatives, many of which have been undertaken. Some initiatives that have been undertaken as a result of recommendations in the LRTP are listed below:
- Developing a specific public involvement program with dedicated staff in headquarters and each district. This effort has been described earlier in this document.
- Develop an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) plan for Kansas and dedicate full-time staff to ITS initiatives. An ITS statewide Long-Range Plan has been developed with the help of a large outreach effort to stakeholders and the general public. The first two projects undertaken were Early Deployment studies in Kansas' two largest metro areas, Kansas City and Wichita. Both of these studies involved massive outreach efforts with stakeholders and citizens in those areas.
- Develop a corridor preservation and access management program with dedicated staff. This initiative is ongoing and is by its very definition an outreach effort with local governments, stakeholders, developers and citizens to make KDOT plans and efforts mesh with city and developer goals so that we are working in concert and not at odds with each other.
- Advanced Preliminary Engineering (APE) studies. The LRTP recommended that KDOT undertake such studies in advance of committed construction funding on major and complex corridors, bridges or interchanges to allow more time and effort to be spent on identifying environmental, social and economic issues related to the location. A significant number of these type projects have been undertaken, some of which are still ongoing. These studies involve massive public involvement efforts in terms of dollars and time. Many new and innovative methods have been used on these projects to try to reach the public more successfully.
In addition to the LRTP, other initiatives have been undertaken in recent years to involve the public and solicit their opinions. A very extensive survey was done in 1997-1998 of the general public to determine what was important to them and how well they think KDOT is doing its job. This survey is going to be redone in late 2000 and early 2001 to allow KDOT to determine whether the public's attitudes have changed and whether KDOT is doing better or worse in meeting the public's expectations. The results of the initial survey and the coming update will serve as input in an ongoing effort to update and/or change KDOT's priority formulas that are used to select major modification and priority bridge projects.
In recent years, KDOT's Bureau of Local Projects has required local governments to have a rolling five-year construction program for spending their local federal-aid funds. This plan must be adopted locally and the local government must certify each year that the plan update was exposed to public involvement before adoption.
During 1998, Kansas Governor Graves appointed a 28 member Transportation 2000 Study Group to hold statewide public meetings to study the state's transportation needs. The group was charged with "seeking the input, advice, and dreams of Kansas citizens, communities, regions, and advocacy groups." The effort lasted a full six months and included 12 town hall meetings across the state; each attended by nearly all-28 members. More than 2,500 people attended these meetings and more than 500 people presented testimony. This is the most massive public involvement effort ever undertaken in Kansas. Information gleaned from this effort served as direct input to KDOT and the Kansas Legislature in developing our current ten-year Comprehensive Transportation Program (CTP). The information gathered during the Transportation 2000 effort will also serve as a springboard for the upcoming Long Range Transportation Plan update effort.
KDOT's Substantial Maintenance and Major Modification program projects are selected by the Pavement Management System and priority formulas respectively. These are objective data driven systems. Over the years, literally thousands of meetings and/or presentations have been held with governments, stakeholders, and citizens explaining these systems and processes and receiving input about them. Each system is constantly subject to minor tweaking in response to changing needs, and on a less frequent basis, each is looked at for major update needs as a result of changing technology, data availability, and public perceptions and desires.
Many other KDOT programs such as the local partnership programs, some set-aside programs such as ITS, non-state railroad grade separation, and Corridor Management, and most importantly System Enhancement projects, are solicited directly from local governments. All of these type projects are generally high visibility, well-documented and discussed local needs that have had a long history of public discussion.
Anyone who would indicate that there is not significant opportunity for input into KDOT's processes, policies and programs, is not only misinformed, they are mistaken.