Anchorage Transportation Fair offers opportunity to inform public, gather feedback

March 17, 2015

Anchorage residents who wanted to know about transportation projects in their community recently had a chance to learn more about specific projects and see the big-picture perspective during the Anchorage Transportation Fair.

Held Feb. 4 in the Alaska Airlines Center, the four-hour fair showcased a diverse array of nearly 60 projects representing planning efforts and existing plans for all transportation modes within Anchorage. The free, family-friendly event was a collaboration of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF), Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility, Alaska Railroad and Port of Anchorage.

Jim Amundsen, Central Region Highway Design Group Chief for Alaska DOT&PF, says this year marked the fair’s return since similar events were held in 2007 and 2008. He notes that both the attendees and the participating agencies benefit from the experience.

“The whole purpose of this is to get all of the transportation projects in Anchorage in one place at one time for the average person who doesn’t have multiple nights to attend meetings about these projects,” Jim says.

“The projects are better because of the range of feedback we were able to get at the fair,” he says, adding citizens’ offered positive comments and voiced some concerns. “It gives us a chance to address those concerns, and the more public involvement the better the project.”

Jim says the department intends to make the Anchorage Transportation Fair an annual event, and is already working on scheduling next year’s fair for the same time period.

Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI) helped sponsor the event, and KAI teaming partner Anne Brooks, P.E., consulted with Alaska DOT&PF to coordinate and stage the fair. She organized a similar fair in Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Borough for seven years and says she has watched the fair’s attendance continue to grow over the years.

“People like to get the big picture about what’s going on. They may not live on a corridor but they may travel it frequently, so they like that big picture,” says Anne, a public involvement specialist with Brooks & Associates. “They also told us it really respects their time because they just don’t have the time to go to individual project meetings.”

In addition, the fair draws a broad range of people, from local residents and regional stakeholders to the consulting and contracting community that designs and builds the projects.

“One of the things that is pretty neat about it is that it helps the consultants hone their skills in the way they display their information. This is a great way to see how other teams are presenting their information to the public, and that can be really helpful,” Anne says.

Jill Reese and Shannon McCarthy, spokespeople with Alaska DOT&PF, say social media and other means of public outreach aided in the event’s success this year and will help promote next year’s fair.

The department encouraged people to sign up for email alerts with project updates and other information regarding citizens’ specific interests. Social media helped promote the fair before it began and during the event. The fair also drew media coverage, including a live broadcast on a local television station.

“We leveraged a lot because people who couldn't attend saw it on TV, and it’s also great publicity for next year,” Shannon says.

“Social media helped with the cost, and it was really a great value for the community that we were able to put this on for such a small budget,” Jill notes.

Anne adds that a blog served as a clearinghouse for the invited projects and got 1,600 hits. “Even though people may not have gone to the fair, the blog provided a venue for them to look at different projects and check them out before they came or after they left,” she says.

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