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17 to greater uncertainty; processes are not as strictly managed not previously considered visioning as a source of input but or defined, and often do not address specific project or design acknowledged that the process improved project outcomes. considerations. Because of this uncertainty, quantifiable ben- A state DOT, MPO, or local transportation agency may sup- efits to visioning are less likely to be clear to a transportation port a comprehensive visioning process in which transpor- agency from the outset of a visioning process. tation considerations are not an explicit focus of the process As a result, initial decision-making guidance for involvement but are addressed in relation to other issues. For example, is important. The decision factors presented in this chapter the Florida DOT and five regional MPOs were funding include those with clear advantages or potentially positive partners and participants in Central Florida's regional outcomes and others with obvious disadvantages or possible visioning process. The vision outcomes have informed local unintended consequences. However, in each case the actual project selections, have been used in LRTP updates, and likelihood of an outcome, positive or negative, must be provided input to the statewide transportation plan. evaluated by the agency before involvement, considering the unique circumstances of the community, vision scope, and In these examples and others, agency roles ranged from the stakeholders. Within this assessment, the agency may identify vision convener to partner to stakeholder to observer to imple- specific strategies concerning its role and involvement in a menter. The expected outcomes, advantages, and disadvantages visioning process so that the outcome is most likely to be of visioning vary directly with the level of involvement and positive, both for the agency and the public. the role of an agency. In general, the greater the responsibility for the process, the greater the rewards and risks involved. Examples of Transportation Agency Support of Visions Decision Factors for Agency Involvement In transportation planning, visioning may be undertaken to support a variety of processes, from local area development Participation in visioning may yield benefits to an agency, plans, corridor improvements, and long-range regional trans- including reducing project lead time, managing risk better, portation plans, to statewide coordination efforts. An agency enhancing planning outcomes, and improving public per- could choose to become involved in visioning for a variety ception. The benefits of visioning accrue to the agency but also of reasons and assume a range of leadership roles within a to stakeholders by furthering environmental or economic process. Listed here are several examples of an agency's direct goals, enhancing leadership or organizational capacity, and involvement with a visioning process at different levels-- creating lasting value for communities with appropriate trans- a project-oriented vision, a community vision, and a com- portation solutions. Visioning processes may also result in prehensive regional visioning process. less than desirable outcomes, including the diffusion of decision-making authority, extended project timetables, risks A state department of transportation may propose a com- to public standing, or potential conflicts with standing agency munity vision to support a specific project, plan, or pro- priorities or plans. These unintended consequences tend to cess, particularly one that addresses sensitive community affect an agency directly and are not borne by stakeholders or or environmental issues. For example, the Arizona DOT a community as a whole. initiated the State Route 179 Corridor Project to address These advantages and disadvantages are often not clear necessary safety and mobility improvements to the desig- from project outset and depend on the primary role and level nated state scenic byway. Agency managers believed public of involvement of an agency, and on the scope and actual trust in the agency was at risk because previous proposals outcomes of the visioning process. Decision support for were not accepted by affected communities and were deemed managers may come down to simply knowing the right insensitive to community values. The visioning and planning questions to ask: exercise culminated in a preferred solution for the scenic corridor, developed in close collaboration with stakeholders. How might an agency benefit? An MPO may sponsor a visioning exercise to inject new ideas Is the project outcome likely to be better? and long-term thinking into a long-range transportation What utility might stakeholders derive? plan (LRTP), corridor, or local area planning processes. What does the agency risk? For example, the Missoula, Montana, MPO embedded a visioning exercise within an LRTP update that resulted in These questions may be illuminated by decision factors that a change of policy direction and the selection of a different help agencies understand and assess the possible outcomes of modal mix of projects than previous plans. The MPO had involvement in any visioning process. The decision factors

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18 discussed here are intended to provide agency managers Or a visioning process may just bring stakeholders and resource with the arguments for and cautions against participation in agencies together early enough to identify possible roadblocks visioning in support of transportation planning. However, that would otherwise be addressed much later in permitting the likely outcome of a process depends on many factors, or approval stages. including the scope and scale of a vision; the transportation Visioning processes are not guaranteed to improve project agency's role and level of involvement; the sensitivity of delivery. Any open process risks providing a forum for orga- transportation, environmental, and community issues; the nized opposition, enlivening stakeholder interest or opposition expectations surrounding the process; and the engagement of to planned projects, or extending project timetables, depending stakeholders and elected officials. As such, these decision on the conclusion of the vision. That risk must be balanced factors do not represent a predetermined business case for against the likelihood that project completion time frames involvement in visioning but instead focus on considerations may be significantly reduced through earlier participation for transportation agency managers. of the public and resource agencies in planning and design phases. With the costs of contracting, construction, and right- of-way acquisition constantly increasing, projects completed Summary of Decision Factors on schedule provide long-term benefits by reducing delivery costs and providing mobility benefits sooner. Improving Project Delivery Visioning processes may enable agencies to advance planning Resolving Conflict and development processes on predictable schedules, with greater public acceptance or committed financial support. Visioning processes that enhance public involvement through An agency manager may consider whether to participate in a cooperative processes may reduce community opposition, visioning process if the scope and structure appear to support mitigate risk of litigation, or help resolve conflicts, therefore early consensus-building opportunities that, in turn, may enabling the efficient completion of projects. An agency man- streamline the planning and delivery processes. ager must consider whether a visioning process is an effective The time and resources involved in advancing transporta- strategy for managing potential conflict among stakeholders, tion projects from planning stages to construction phases are and what the appropriate role of the agency may be within significant. According to the U.S. Government Accountability that process. Office (2002), a transportation project may take up to 20 years Transportation planning processes are regulated to provide to complete, though the time required varies with the scale, the public with opportunities to contribute to decisions and complexity, public interest, and range of issues involved. to ensure an agency considers the broad impacts of those Under most state and federal regulations, agency projects and decisions. Avenues for recourse exist if an agency fails to pro- plans must advance through established stakeholder review vide either of those steps in the process. Public participation and approval phases. Delays to planned projects often emerge and open planning processes often result in improved project owing to public controversy, environmental assessments, or delivery and project outcomes over the long run but may interagency review challenges. increase the likelihood of initial short-term conflict or negative The ability of a transportation agency to program and deliver consequences beyond the project or plan. projects reliably within set time limits may be influenced Documentation of project decisions improves protection by stakeholder concerns over potential environmental and against this risk. Records of decisions made throughout the community impacts. Unaddressed, these concerns may result project can be used to support choices and prevent mis in organized opposition, political pressure, or litigation that understandings. Tracking of commitments, discussed further may lead to short delays that extend project design and devel- in Chapter 8, also may reduce the risk of conflict, because all opment, or extended delays that may impact agency project commitments made and associated solutions will be docu- programming. Visioning and other stakeholder involvement mented and recorded. processes have the potential to reduce opposition by addressing Visioning processes also may be an effective technique to concerns and better enabling project development to proceed engage stakeholders early, actively, and continually in problem within a predictable time frame. solving and conflict resolution during transportation planning For example, a corridor visioning process resulting in agree- and project review phases. ment on project specifications or possible alignments can be used as direct input into later project planning stages. Broader Enhancing Process and Project Outcomes processes, such as regional visions, may develop maps of desired conservation areas that can be used by an agency to Visioning processes are often comprehensive and examine anticipate environmental concerns when proposing projects. transportation within broader environmental, economic, or

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19 societal contexts. Early consideration of issues, partnerships on scope or need of projects may foster a sense of ownership with diverse interests, and improved communication among in the process and a desire to see the project through to com- stakeholders, as well as other aspects of visioning may enhance pletion, because input was considered and the project purpose planning and project outcomes for transportation agencies, as is likely to reflect community values. The transparency of well as provide long-term benefits to communities. An agency a visioning process, including considering alternatives and manager must consider whether participation in a visioning decisions in an open forum, and documenting commitments, process may result in improvements to intended outcomes, also can significantly increase trust in an agency and reduce or if participation risks unintended consequences. miscommunication about future actions. Visioning may result in improved outcomes for regions Additional advantages of visioning may not benefit the through long-term environmental, economic, or social ben- transportation agency directly but also could be considered efits; for communities through context-sensitive design of by agency managers. Visioning may provide a framework improvements; or, for individual projects through innovative for future regional or local action by stakeholders or provide and creative solutions to challenges. For example, achieving the political messaging needed for elected officials to enact consensus on long-term goals for a community or establishing policy changes. In these cases, in which collective action is principles for decision making will enable an agency to better enabled, the transportation agency may benefit later from identify or communicate purpose and need when sponsoring participating in the visioning process. Implementation of a project. A project that emerges from a consensus vision visioning outcomes may also enhance community character may be more likely to create lasting value for a community by and amenities, further establish conservation or environmen- helping move toward long-term environmental, economic, tal goals, and provide sustainable economic and community or social goals. Additionally, information-sharing partnerships development, all of which are increasingly considered by with resource agencies can result in environmentally sensitive transportation agencies when making long-term policy or project design that, in turn, reduces mitigation costs while project decisions. improving the local or regional environment. A review of national visioning examples completed for this Ensuring Open Processes project found a commonly cited benefit was the sense that projects sponsored by local governments after participating in A visioning process is often open to participation from any a regional visioning process were better suited to communities member of the public or stakeholder group, and undue or more consistent with established goals. As a result, they are influence from any one interest may slant the process in one more likely to be selected or prioritized within an MPO cost- direction, with variable effects. feasible plan or work program. If a process is viewed as biased, very little can be accom- plished to alter the perception of stakeholders, the media, and the general public, and any subsequent outcomes of the vision Increasing Public Ownership essentially cannot be used. Civic, environmental, business, or Visioning may provide an opportunity to enhance public other interest groups may organize and affect the outcome of understanding and ownership in transportation decisions a vision, either by opposing the process or gaming it. An open through inclusive and interactive involvement processes. process increases the risk of the vision evolving into a forum Visioning processes are noted for employing a full range of for organized opposition that effectively ends the process, public and partner involvement strategies to communicate or for enlivening stakeholder interest in, or opposition to, with key stakeholders and with the general public. Agency man- previously planned and programmed projects. A vision may agers must consider whether participating in a vision may be completed successfully, with significant public participation improve the outreach and involvement activities of an agency. and consensus agreement, but be so completely biased as to Innovative technology, such as scenario-planning software be meaningless for input into later transportation plans and and visualization tools, may help the public better understand priorities. the impacts of decisions, the range of issues involved, or the Visions are often supported by both public and private specific elements of a proposed project. Simply improving resources, and project sponsors should be aware of the appear- communication with stakeholders can provide meaningful ance of financial contributions from agencies, landowners, or benefits in public trust and perception, the ability to provide interest groups. Improper influence also may stem from agency appropriate feedback, and a sense of ownership or involvement involvement, if it is perceived that direct agency funding or in decisions. Visioning processes that result in public approval support for a process is intended to affect the range of possible of decision-making principles or long-term transportation solutions, alternatives, or project selections being considered. goals may improve public opinion and trust in the intentions However, if an open process results in dialogue that may and future actions of an agency. Similarly, achieving consensus not otherwise occur, outcomes and solutions may be developed

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20 that are positive and beneficial to the community, process, ideal solution is to arrive at consensus solutions. Active agency and agency involved. For example, a citizen group may become participation in vision development may result in solutions involved in a vision as a means to raise opposition to a project acceptable to both stakeholders and agencies, solutions that but through participation produce an alternative solution reflect the desired outcomes of both parties. An agency man- that is acceptable and beneficial to all parties. This outcome ager should consider not just the risk of possible outcomes but arguably has positive effects for the community, and positive potential strategies for arriving at solutions that benefit and outcomes for public perception of the agency involved. Open advance the agency's mission and goals. processes also may bring solutions to the table that the agency thought unacceptable, were not previously considered, or Addressing Corollary Issues were not feasible without financial or political support from partnerships established within the visioning process. Visioning processes often link transportation with related The hallmark openness and intensive public participation land use, development, community, or environmental issues. in visioning processes may increase the risk of improper This recognizes the increasingly interrelated aspects of trans- influence, but transparency and broad outreach and engage- portation planning and is not a far stretch from many existing ment efforts may mitigate negative consequences and produce processes. positive results. An agency manager must consider the public However, transportation agencies must carefully consider environment and stakeholders involved in an effort before their readiness to become involved in a vision that addresses becoming involved. topics not directly within the agency's sphere of influence or authority, such as land use and zoning decisions that are often the domain of local governments or regional planning organi- Arriving at Conflicting Solutions zations. If cooperative interagency relationships are well estab- lished, a transportation agency may readily become involved A visioning process may arrive at a potential solution or set in a comprehensive vision that addresses many aspects of of preferred alternatives that are optimal from stakeholders' community livability. However, if working relationships are perspectives but are considered suboptimal from a design, fragmented or nonexistent, an agency should carefully consider engineering, cost, or systems planning perspective. its readiness to assume a lead role in a broad visioning process. Visioning processes often look 20 to 50 years in the future Stakeholder involvement and interagency cooperation are and may result in proposed solutions to current transportation keystones of successful vision efforts, and an agency may con- challenges that are not fiscally or technically feasible. More sider whether involvement could assist in efforts to establish likely, visioning processes may propose corridor alignments, relationships with key public, private, and civic partners that design elements, multimodal connections, or street config- do not currently exist. urations that an agency may not consider the best fit from In addition, comprehensive visions addressing multifaceted engineering or cost perspectives. An agency manager must issues may provide valuable insights and policy direction for consider how to address these challenges within the visioning an agency. For example, a vision may produce an outcome framework, including informing participants of critical tech- that helps agencies anticipate which environmentally sensitive nical considerations during the visioning process, and working areas should be avoided, and which conservation areas need with participants so that trade-offs are fully understood. recreational access. These are invaluable outcomes of a vision- Agencies can work with vision facilitators to ensure that the ing process that, although not directly related, are corollary solutions arrived at are posed to provide meaningful input or issues with clear implications for transportation planning. policy direction for the agency. For example, a broad regional Increasingly, federal policies favor increased cooperation vision is unlikely to produce an outcome resulting in recom- between public transportation, environmental, and housing mendations for a specific project but may result in recommen- agencies to address issues of community livability. Visioning dations for future project choices. This type of input can be processes represent opportunities for agency engagement with used by an agency without risking negative public perception. partners on these issues. Agency managers also may find that public priorities arrived When considering the benefits and risks of addressing a at within a vision may not reflect an agency's established wide range of issues within a vision, many factors must be priorities. This could result in conflicts between statutory taken into account, not least the agency's readiness to become requirements of an agency and the vision's public mandate. involved in other issues of importance. The unique charac- If an agency cannot respond to the outcomes of a vision, or if teristics of a community or the scope and scale of a vision will resource allocation to priorities differs, the public may call help determine the case for transportation agency involvement the agency's decisions and commitments into question. in broad visioning efforts. Table 3.1 presents examples of Arriving at conflicting or compromised solutions is an how these decision factors have come into play in completed inherent risk to an agency within a visioning process, but the visioning efforts.

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21 Table 3.1. Decision Factors in Practice Decision Factor Example Visioning Process Improving project delivery In 2000, Florida DOT evaluated its entire transportation planning process and concluded that projects were often delayed, experienced cost overruns, or became mired in permitting processes. The most significant problem identified was the lack of early partner engagement, particularly with state resource agencies. As a result, the department reengineered its project planning process and instituted a program of effi- cient transportation decision making (ETDM), which, in part, emphasized early engagement with stake- holders through a variety of alternative involvement techniques. "The ETDM Process has allowed us to be more resourceful by focusing our efforts on the most important issues in project development. By identifying and resolving issues prior to the production phase, we are improving project delivery and realizing cost and time savings" (Florida Department of Transportation 2012). Resolving conflict The Collaborative Effort, a committee of interested parties along the I-70 Mountain Corridor in Colorado, was convened to reach consensus on a recommended transportation solution for the I-70 Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The Colorado DOT and FHWA were active participants in this working group, which was established after decades of distrust, misunderstanding, and contention about transportation options, environmental protections, and economic impacts of the highway corridor. The group was convened by the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, which in a summary report noted, "Discussions were inhibited by a lack of a corridor-wide vision for population growth, economic development environmental protection, and the transportation systems which will accommodate this vision" (The Keystone Center n.d.). Enhancing an open process and The Denver, Colorado, area's MPO, The Denver Regional Council of Governments, established explicit project outcomes project prioritization criteria for work program selection, which reflect the outcomes of the region's ongoing Metro Vision process. Agency staff suggest that this commitment has improved the variety and scope of projects submitted by local governments, in favor of regional vision values and principles. As a result, projects are more likely to support MPO or state goals to reduce congestion, minimize environmental impacts, discourage unsustainable land development, and support a multimodal transportation system. Arriving at conflicting solutions In Missoula, Montana, agency officials suggested that the Envision Missoula process was influenced by significant participation from organized bicycle, pedestrian, and smart growth interests. Intense participation from these active and educated stakeholders in scenario development workshops may have influenced vision outcomes in favor of pedestrian and transit alternatives. Significant statistical differences in support of transit alternatives were noted between the results of a random telephone survey of all residents and the preferences of attendees of vision workshops. Addressing corollary issues The Montana DOT was a funder and project supporter of the Missoula MPO's Envision Missoula visioning exercise. This process looked at transportation and land use as interrelated and inseparable issues, and resulted in preferred scenarios and policies that addressed future land use and transportation decisions. The DOT was hesitant to fund the visioning component of Missoula's LRTP update because of the attention paid to future land use decisions when developing alternative scenarios, believing land use the domain of local governments. The DOT is not likely to participate in future visioning processes that emphasize local issues. Summary of Decision Factors the sensitivity of transportation, environmental, and commu- nity issues, and the engagement of stakeholders and elected The benefits of agency involvement in visioning processes officials. A manager may take into account these decision are subject to uncertainty, whereas the resource and oppor- factors, which are often unique to the situation, when assess- tunity costs are often known. Agency managers must bal- ing the potentially positive outcomes or possible unintended ance those immediate costs with the potential for long-term consequences of participation. To a certain extent, the involve- gains. The information presented here does not attempt ment of an agency and the characteristics of visioning present to balance these resource costs with possible cost savings opportunities or strategies that may help avoid negative and or to present a quantifiable record of successful visioning ensure positive outcomes. processes. To assist managers in assessing decision factors, Table 3.2 Instead, the likelihood of productive vision outcomes presents decision factors with key questions and potential depends on many factors, including the scope and scale of a strategies to help avoid negative outcomes and ensure positive vision, the transportation agency's role, its level of involvement, outcomes.

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22 Table 3.2. Decision Factors for Transportation Agency Involvement in Visioning Decision Factor Key Questions Strategies to Avoid Negatives Strategies to Ensure Positives Improving project Is a current project stalled or considered likely Develop linkages between vision outcomes Maximize opportunities for early partner and delivery to stall? and concurrent processes. stakeholder involvement. Is there a need to advance a project quickly? Make transportation solutions and alternatives Identify priorities early. explicit priorities. Resolving conflict Is there a lack of consensus? Use vision process as consensus-building Promote early involvement of partners. Is opposition anticipated? technique. Communicate expected outcomes. Are current conditions adverse? Develop goals, principles, and policies early in process. Enhancing process Will a vision in place help advance projects? Enable discussion of alternative approaches. Develop links between vision and related and project Will the vision result in a better mix of projects? Encourage participation from diverse stake- processes and plans. outcomes holders. Increasing public What is the current perception of the agency? Use process as a part of a broad agency outreach Manage expectations of participants. ownership Does the vision address contentious topics or strategy. Clearly communicate outcomes and processes. stakeholders? Maximize opportunities for interaction and communication. Ensuring open How active and organized are interest groups? Develop relationships with stakeholders and Maintain transparency and clearly communicate processes Will an open process result in new ideas? partners. methods. Encourage alternative perspectives. Develop broad outreach and input techniques. Arriving at conflicting What is the agency's ideal solution? Encourage strategic, policy-level outcomes. Inform public about agency's role and priorities. solutions How receptive to change is the agency? Develop out-of-the-box approaches. Focus on developing guidance, not directives. Addressing corollary What is the status of interagency working Develop connections between transportation Communicate roles and responsibilities early issues relationships? and related issues. in process. Would project benefit from addressing multi Establish interagency partner groups. Demonstrate willingness to explore linkages faceted topics? between topics.