Veterans Parkway Feasibility Study
Firm: Wight & Company
Owner: Illinois Department of Transportation
Description: 1. ORIGINAL OR INNOVATIVE APPLICATION OF NEW OR EXISTING TECHNIQUES: Wight built a “microsite,” a simple project website used to increase opportunities for engaging with the public. Prior to the virtual meeting, the site was used for registration purposes; following the meeting, the presentation was available for viewing and commenting. A robust public outreach campaign was undertaken prior to the virtual meeting. In addition to meeting the minimum BDE requirements of advertising in the newspaper and mailing invitation letters to key stakeholders, we emailed invitations to those same stakeholders. We also announced the meeting on two local radio stations that target different population demographics, and both IDOT and Wight repeatedly advertised the meeting on their social media. The presentation at the virtual meeting was pre-recorded, followed by a live Q&A. Rendered 3D models of the proposed build alternatives were featured and included traffic animations depicting how motorists would navigate through each proposed intersection/interchange. Unlike 2D drawings, these animated renderings provided a more complete and easily understandable representation of each conceptual alternative. 2. FUTURE VALUE TO THE ENGINEERING PROFESSION AND PERCEPTION BY THE PUBLIC: Considering the ease of building a microsite and the benefits of being able to refine presentations by pre-recording them, we believe that both should be standard practice for any future virtual public engagement. To prepare for this meeting, we viewed several other virtual public meetings across the country. In doing so, we discovered that a variety of issues were commonplace with live presentations, including difficulties sharing exhibit materials, trouble advancing slides, challenges with passing the presenter role between users; and so forth. Pre-recording eliminates these mishaps to provide the Department and the public with a more professional presentation. By creating renderings with traffic animations of the proposed build alternatives, the public was truly able to comprehend the geometric configurations that were being proposed. Several of the intersection types that were being investigated, such as SPUI, DDI, Center Turn Overpass, and Echelon, are innovative solutions that the public are generally not familiar with and would be unlikely to comprehend with a 2D plan drawing. Viewing the conceptual design depicting moving traffic from both a birds-eye view and a motorist drive-through view ensured that the public could better understand what was proposed. 3. SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND SUSTAINABLE DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS: The study evaluated the social, economic, environmental, and sustainable design impacts of each potential build alternative, as well as the no-build alternative. Consideration was also given to multi-modal impacts of the proposed designs. In general, any reconfiguration of the intersection either improved or had a neutral impact on social and economic considerations. All of the proposed build alternatives would improve air quality, environmental justice, and multi-modal accommodations. 4. COMPLEXITY: 3D modeling is rarely used in conceptual design due to the time required to build the models. Renderings and traffic animations are typically not utilized for intersection reconfiguration projects. However, Wight implemented both techniques to help ensure the successful public outreach of this project. 5. EXCEEDING OWNER NEEDS: Attendance and response to the virtual public meeting and project microsite far exceeded typical participation in public outreach for a project of this size. Both the City of Bloomington and the public supported two of the alternatives for additional study—the same alternatives recommended by the analysis of the study. This consensus provides the Department with a clear path forward should they choose to advance the project for further study and implementation. The project was delivered behind the Department’s original schedule. Per the original design schedule, an in-person public meeting would have been hosted in late spring of 2020. However, with COVID-19 and the corresponding stay-at-home guidelines, as well as uncertainty surrounding protocols for in-person meetings, the meeting was put on hold. We then decided to change to a virtual public information meeting to avoid the uncertainties of hosting an in-person event.
Illinois Department of Transportation