New tools for engaging the public in local road funding decision making

engagementMinnesota’s transportation officials agree that counties in the state face declining resources, rising expenses, and deferred maintenance when it comes to road systems. There is often a discrepancy in the understanding of who road users are and what they want and need from their road system. The public, however, is typically unaware of these challenges—and therefore not engaged in the necessary decision-making process surrounding local road funding and service levels.

To help overcome this communication barrier, the Minnesota Local Road Research Board enlisted U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs assistant professor Kathryn Quick to help officials develop a better understanding of knowledge gaps surrounding local transportation funding.

Quick and her research team developed a presentation to explain the complex nature of the road funding problem to a general audience. The presentation outlined the history of road funding challenges, the nature of the problem, and options for addressing budgetary issues, among others. The research team traveled to three Minnesota counties to present the findings in a series of community meetings.

According to Quick, the process generated interesting and promising results. County transportation officials gained a better understanding of what options stakeholders would and would not be willing to support. In addition, there was overwhelming agreement that doing nothing was highly undesirable.

In the future, the research team hopes to complete similar public meetings in additional Minnesota communities. For now, local road officials are looking for an immediate way to engage the public in their decision-making process by using the presentation developed by the research team.

Read the full article in the November issue of Catalyst.

Posted in Planning, Transportation funding, Transportation research

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