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Innovation of the Month: Virtual Public Involvement

Posted: 1/23/2024

FHWA's latest Innovation of the Month features the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization's (Missoula MPO) approach to engage more citizens by using Virtual Public Involvement (VPI) tools.

When planning for the reconstruction of a central corridor through the city’s downtown, it wanted to give residents the ability to be as engaged as possible. To do so, Missoula MPO developed the Engage Missoula website where participants could sign up for notices, learn about the project through a virtual open house, and submit questions.

Missoula MPO also developed a virtual map that allowed participants to mark certain places within the project area with concerns or questions, including providing apps to allow citizens to collect data on sidewalk and bicycle network condition and concerns. More than 1,000 participants have viewed the Engage Missoula website, far more than have participated at any Missoula MPO in-person engagement events.

Key Takeaways

  • Keep designs simple and well-suited to the tool you're using. This ensures the message is clear and easy for the public to understand and respond to.

  • Include VPI in pre-project planning phases to blend in-person and virtual involvement techniques, plan which aspects of involvement will be done virtually or in-person and which tools to use to maximize the engagement process.

Key VPI Contacts

FHWAs Virtual Public Involvement Initiative is jointly led by the Office of Planning and the Office of Project Development & Environmental Review

Lean more about Missoula MPO's VPI experience & key takeaways

Virtual Public Involvement

Innovative VPI techniques provide state DOTs, transit agencies, MPOs, and RTPOs with a virtual platform to inform the public and receive feedback.

These strategies increase the number and variety of channels available to agencies for remotely disseminating information to the public and create efficiencies in how input is collected and considered, accelerating planning and project development processes.

Every Day Counts

Now in its 7th round, FHWA's EDC state-based initiative identifies and deploys proven innovations that will make our transportation systems more adaptable, sustainable, and safer for all.

FHWA works with state DOTs, local governments, tribes, private industry, and other stakeholders to identify new innovations to champion every two years that merit accelerated deployment.

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Phone: (562) 985-2872