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Have you had a voice in county transportation plan?

February 10, 2019

The crystal ball for regional planning for transportation in Olmsted County could get a bit more insight.

Dave Pesch, planning coordinator for the Rochester-Olmsted Council of Governments, said the planned 2020 update of the organization’s Long Range Transportation Plan is expected to be developed with greater public input.

“Our plan will be put together with much more public participation than in the past,” he said.

The long-range plan, which must be updated every five years, seeks to offer projections through 2045. The update will cover various modes of transportation and highlight major projects that are planned between 2020 and 2045.

Planners are also hoping to use social media to post information and gather comments.

Sandi Goslee, principal planner with the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department, said an updated Facebook presence is expected to be launched within weeks to reach the largest number of online users.

“Eventually we may add some other social-media platforms,” she said, noting the goal is to bring younger participants into the process, rather than simply relying on people who always comment on planning efforts.

While social media will be used to gather some comments, Goslee said planners won’t fully engage with online commenters.

“We’re not going to be using it as two-way conversation,” she said. “That’s something we have been very strongly advised to stay away from.”

Instead, the Facebook site will likely offer other options to engage personally with planners, if desired.

Kelly Leibold, a new ROCOG member representing Olmsted County’s small cities, said she appreciates the effort to reach out through the internet.

“This is an awesome step in the right direction for community members who have grievances and don’t know where to voice those,” the Pine Island City Council member said.

In addition to social media, Goslee said planners are preparing to reach out to more community members than in the past, especially when it comes to groups that have been underrepresented and don’t typically attend open-house events or know how to voice their concerns.

“We need to start reaching out to these folks better, because a lot of folks really do rely on transit and bike facilities and pedestrian facilities,” she said. “In order to make those the best they can be, we need to hear from everyone who is using them.”

Such efforts will include setting up booths at gathering spots and events, as well as reaching out to meet with specific groups.

It doesn’t mean that the people who like to go to open houses and study colorful maps and diagrams will be left out.

A kick-off open house is slated to be held this month, with official details in the works. During that event, draft street and highway projects are expected to be available for review and comment.

Work on other modes of transportation will be the subject of future open-house events, and all the information will be routinely updated online to keep area residents updated throughout the process.

Pesch said PowerPoint presentations of some chapters will be posted online before complete chapter drafts are written to allow early review of information.

“We believe if we had to wait to write a draft chapter … some of those things would get out kind of late in the process,” he said, noting the number of people involved can bog down efforts.

With 543 pages in the current plan, which offers insights through 2040, Pesch said the work underway involves quite a bit of updating, which will include changes to each of the document’s 221 graphics.

The work is expected to be complete by August 2020.

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