Winter 2019

ASPIRE is a quarterly magazine published by PCI in cooperation with the associations of the National Concrete Bridge Council. The editorial content focuses on the latest technology and key issues in the Concrete Bridge Industry.

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Page 11 of 51

P E R S P E C T I V E Engaging Communities in Bridge Projects Effective strategies for community engagement are evolving and can determine the success of a project When embarking on a bridge project, owners, designers, and contractors alike should be aware of the role that local communities will play in determining whether the project succeeds. When government agencies and companies e f f e c t i v e l y e n g a g e t h e p u b l i c , community members will understand issues related to structural requirements and have a voice in discussions about a e s t h e t i c c h o i c e s , f u n d i n g , a n d the project's impact on the locality. Encouraging public engagement also demonstrates that those involved in the project will act transparently and will be held accountable for their actions. In the digital age, sharing information i s re l a t i v e l y s i m p l e , b u t g e n u i n e communication requires creative effort and an openness to dialogue. Public Engagement by Government Agencies From the most mundane off- and on-ramps to signature megaprojects, bridges connect localities, regions, and countries. However, many citizens underestimate the roles that bridges play in our society and take transportation infrastructure for granted until there is a problem or a controversy, at which point they want to know what is happening, why it is happening, and who is responsible. Government agencies must also be prepared for questions regarding how taxpayer dollars are spent. Clearly, bridge owners and government agencies therefore need effective communication strategies to help the public understand the many factors involved in building and maintaining safe bridges. B e c a u s e i n f r a s t r u c t u r e p r o j e c t s are largely funded by tax monies, government agencies must ensure that the process is transparent to the public, and costs are monitored and contained. If bridge owners or communities want to build a signature structure that is not only functional but also beautiful, they will need to make a business case for any added costs for aesthetics. The decision-making policies and procedures of any bid process should be made public, and the benefits and risks of investments must be clearly communicated to citizens. On any project, government officials must also share information about the schedule, possible traffic delays, and other issues that need public input, such as where a bridge may be built and its potential impact on local communities. Otherwise, community relationships can become strained and cooperation is lost. W e b s i t e s a n d s o c i a l m e d i a a r e convenient tools that gover nment officials can use for communicating with the public. Many local authorities have YouTube channels and Facebook pages. Unfortunately, many posts about projects are not particularly engaging. It is important to keep in mind that the job of communicating to the public by Richard R. Dion, Bridge Museum The 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge in Chicago, Ill., unites the Bronzeville neighborhood with the Lake Michigan lakefront. The signature bridge is an asset to the community. The bridge is featured in the Fall 2018 issue of ASPIRE ® . Photo: Dave Burk Photography.

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