Bottlenecks, congestion, roadblocks—oh my!

By 2050, Canada will be home to almost 18% more Canadians — that’s six million more Canadians who will all need to go to school, work, the doctor and the grocery store. This means a lot of planning on behalf of local, provincial and federal transportation departments to ensure that road infrastructure can handle the traffic load.And while transportation departments are already managing these future issues, taxpayers experience road construction today—frequently. Detours, road closure signs and flashing barrels permeate the concrete landscape and cause increased delays, accidents and frustration.

To help decrease these high-stress outcomes, transportation communication and safety measures are frequently put into place. Here are a few more tips your agency can use to assist in stemming the tide of speeding tickets in construction zones and road rage:

There is never too much communication
Even the biggest public relations budget has limitations. It may be tempting to streamline information via the Internet as it provides the biggest bang for the buck; however, website traffic updates are often not read by senior citizens. Their comfort level with searching that information online is low, requiring you as an agency to utilize multiple channels for your road closure messaging.

Consider direct/thump mail as one option. It will have a high open rate and reinforce the construction project if you use items such as a carabiner key chain or car shaped sticky notes in conjunction with a detailed overview that explains the timelines and traffic changes.

Partner with large employers
Human resources departments should become your new best friends. Offer printed material, signage or imprinted stickers as handouts for employees to educate them on the altered paths to and from work. Consider sending a representative to do a “lunch and learn” session onsite at the largest of employers to explain the project, its phases and its outcomes as a means of positive public outreach.

Help the media help you
While media are not always known to be the most encouraging or optimistic of road construction projects, being proactive with all media outlets should spread the word of road closures or redirections, along with minimizing any negativity that may result from disgruntled drivers. Send badges on logo’d lanyards to media outlets as their “pass” to reporting onsite from the construction zone.

Communicating the “way”
Wayfinding is standard in all construction projects, but even it can be improved upon. Consider asking a focus group of local and out-of-town citizens to drive through the construction zones and evaluate the wayfinding signage. Ask them a series of follow-up questions that provide you with input from where to place additional directions to the effectiveness of the existing signage. Offer thank you gifts to your test group with an automotive theme, such as cargo boxes or safety kits.

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Did we mention collaboration is critical to spreading the word? Use any and all other governmental agencies as a PR/communications outlet to tell your story. Whether providing rack cards with the website address or magnets with an informational number that can be handed to citizens, your sisterhood of agencies is a large and effective network.

Celebrate the completions
It’s not just about the entire project being completed, but the wins that occur after each phase. Celebrate when these milestones have been accomplished and promote your success. It provides citizens a positive perception of the project and builds trust that it will be completed as promised. This, ultimately, will improve patience among drivers.

Road construction time is a necessary “evil,” but one that does have a truly positive outcome. Promote its impact and the eventual lack of potholes—everyone will find a reason to cheer!

Canada 2050.” Canadian Geographic. Web. 3 April 2012.
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