Public & Community Outreach Contributes to Successful Project Delivery

NorthStar Strategies TrueNorth Insights

“Expected traffic back-ups and mass migrations to other Hudson River crossings didn’t happen. That was due to commuters following the advice DOT officials gave about using options and providing a website and email alerts dedicated to the project and travel options…”

Higgs, L. (2020, August 10). Expected Rebuilt bridge to the Lincoln Tunnel, predicted to snarl traffic, is close to completion. The Star Ledger. 

The Star Ledger last week reported on the progress of the I-495 reconstruction, one of the most complex and challenging projects undertaken by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) in years. The project involves the complete rehabilitation and reconstruction of a series of bridge decks on the congested approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, one of the most heavily traveled roadways in the country. Dire predictions of “carmageddon” preceded the project groundbreaking as commuters prepared for unbearable delays.

Yet two years later, the project is progressing on schedule and the traffic nightmare never materialized. Why?

Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti and the team of dedicated professionals at NJDOT deserve enormous credit. The Department developed and executed a flawless public & community outreach campaign that has been credited with some of the success. NJDOT’s campaign was honest and transparent with commuters about the anticipated impact of the project. It also successfully advised drivers about alternate transportation options and took advantage of multiple communications mediums to stay in constant contact with the public. Ultimately, NJDOT’s public & community outreach plan rendered “carmageddon” a non-issue.

Scott Stephens helped develop and execute that plan as head of Government and Community Relations for NJDOT.

“Easily the biggest challenge was targeting the correct audience,” said Stephens. “It’s easy to obtain a list of residences or businesses in a project area but those most directly affected by the work on 495 were commuters coming from all over the region.”

Stephens continued, “we solved this problem through use of billboards and “geo-fencing” so anyone who entered a certain radius of the viaduct received an alert on their phone with info and a link to the project website. It was innovative and extremely effective.”

Scott left State service last year and is now Director of Public & Community Outreach for NorthStar Strategies. He continues to play a meaningful role in the delivery of public infrastructure projects throughout New Jersey as the head of the firm’s Public & Community Outreach practice, and has delivered a number of successes already in 2020.

Scott is leading public & community outreach efforts on the Federal & Market Streets Operational Improvements project in Camden City. Despite limitations on public involvement due to COVID-19 Scott has spearheaded virtual public meetings and a digital survey to gather input from the public and local businesses. This work has resulted in valuable feedback allowing the project team to consider additional alternatives that increase parking and pedestrian facilities that will ultimately lead to higher satisfaction from the local community.

NorthStar continues to grow this important practice area and will soon be starting work on complex projects for NJ TRANSIT and NJDOT.

Check out additional background on NorthStar’s Public & Community Outreach practice HERE.