One of the largest obstacles in a road reconstruction project is communication. During construction, residents need to know about road closures, utility shutdowns, trash and mail service, and reconstruction details. If you’re not effectively communicating with property owners, small issues can escalate and get out of control quickly.
The mode of communication depends on the audience. At the forefront are the property owners impacted; are they home owners or business owners? With residential street projects, there are different groups of people to consider who receive information in different ways. Business owners may or may not live in the community but will generally have more access to technology.
Communicating in a variety of ways will reach as many business owners and residents as possible. Try these three communication strategies on your next project.
- The most direct way to communicate with property owners is simply to talk to them. One approach is to hold monthly public information sessions at city hall. Here you can provide an update of design or construction work completed, as well as the schedule for the upcoming weeks. This gives you, contractors, and designers the opportunity to speak directly with property owners. You can also include items on the city council agenda to update the council and provide a forum for public input.
- Print materials are lasting, support more detailed information, and can reach a wider audience. Many City Administrators send out weekly mailers with brief descriptions of the project status. There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though. Property owners are not always located at the address listed on property records. Also, as apartment buildings only have the one physical address listed on the property records, you will need to coordinate with the property manager to share the information with all the residents. Door hangers are another easy yet effective way to communicate, especially for situations where the residents or businesses will be impacted in the next few days.
- Take advantage of technology. One effective way to share project information is by creating a temporary page on the City’s website to provide status updates, background information, and urgent notifications. Or, if you prefer, WSN can create a page on our website and provide you with a link. Social media offers another avenue for the City to reach its constituents through its social media pages. An email list can also be of use when contacting multiple property owners. While more people are using these technologies to receive information and communicate, it’s important to remember that not everyone has access to the internet.
Engage impacted property owners! They can provide a user’s perspective — by getting them involved early, you may gain more advocates for your project. Input from residents was valuable in the initial stages of a road reconstruction project WSN recently completed in Pine Island. The residents helped determine where to place crosswalks so kids who lived on the street could safely walk to school. One homeowner also made us aware that kids liked to walk on a retaining wall that was scheduled to be replaced as part of the project. They were concerned about the height of the wall in the event a child fell off. We couldn’t eliminate the wall, but we were able to keep it low.
Communicate early and often. Your property owners and residents will be much happier if they know what’s going on throughout the project.
If your city has an upcoming road project, contact civil engineer Vanessa Hines , PE. She’ll not only help your city start and complete a successful road project, but she’ll provide you with the proper techniques for keeping the community informed along the way. Contact civil engineer , PE, to discuss your next construction project.