Early and strong public engagement helps transportation agencies accelerate project delivery by identifying and addressing public concerns early in the planning process. Many transportation agencies still rely on traditional forms of public involvement, such as in-person public hearings, paper displays, maps, and brochures. Virtual public involvement strategies enhance face-to-face information sharing by engaging wider, more diverse audiences and addressing barriers such as potential participants’ busy schedules.

The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) relied on traditional methods until it decided to host virtual meetings to inform, educate, and interact with the public. After exploring available off-the-shelf products, IDOT decided to develop their own tool, the IDOT Public Involvement Management Application (PIMA).

The PIMA tool offers an array of options to engage, educate, and receive feedback from the public. It features educational videos, ArcGIS story maps, narrated presentations, and more. The public can create an account in PIMA to provide feedback on proposed transportation investments. IDOT project staff can view public feedback and respond to it through the tool. This creates a documented record of dialogue between the public and IDOT that can be used in multiple phases of the transportation decision-making process, including environmental review.

PIMA has spread to become a success story for other Departments of Transportation (DOTs) as well. The Massachusetts and Georgia DOTs have partnered with IDOT to use and enhance the PIMA tool in their States.

To learn more about virtual public involvement, watch our Innovation Spotlight video for a quick look at some of its benefits. For a more in-depth look, view our virtual public involvement orientation webinar for a program overview and examples of how agencies use virtual public involvement to enhance transportation planning and project development.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Scott Allen or Jody McCullough, of the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty for information and technical assistance.

Iowa DOT US 30 Planning Study Meeting
The cloud-based PIMA tool allows the public to provide feedback from computers, smart phones, or other devices. This image shows a sample feedback form for a public meeting. (Credit: IDOT)

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