Central York County Connections Study
CHALLENGE: Central York County is a large, rural/suburban area located between the City of Sanford and the major travel corridor of Route 1 / I-95. While there were some perceived traffic congestion problems in the region, the driving force behind this study was not congestion but evaluating the costs and benefits of improving ease of access to stimulate local economic growth and to reduce commute distances within the study area. The study area covered a large region that included ten municipalities. Determining how best to use limited resources to benefit the entire region was a cornerstone of the work. Analysis went beyond pure transportation solutions to include land use and access management components.
STRATEGY: Morris coordinated and facilitated meetings of a Steering Committee made up of representatives of the ten towns, MTA and MDOT, and an Advisory Committee made up of representatives of the various stakeholder groups including residents, business owners, environmental advocates, bike/ped advocates and others. Morris also oversaw a continued and active communications effort with elected officials from the 10 towns to keep them apprised of the project and ensure their concerns were addressed early.
Morris involved the general public through a website that included a public survey component and a series of public meetings. At the start, these meetings were of a more intimate “workshop” format allowing attendees to speak their mind in smaller, less polarizing groups. The website made study information available to the general public and also allowed the public to ask questions directly and get immediate feedback. A robust email list also meant that updates on meetings and study progress were available regularly to interested citizens. Morris was the primary media contact for the project.
RESULTS: At the outset, it was expected that this would be highly controversial study, as one of the options supported by the City of Sanford was a new spur from the Turnpike to their downtown. Since this road would by necessity cut through rural areas, a highly polarized situation was anticipated, and the team was prepared to provide a highly interactive, user-friendly web site system to help the public understand the options. However, initial cost / benefit analysis determined that a new road would not only be very costly, but would not reduce travel times significantly. The final emphasis will be on using access management techniques to maintain current road capacity. A draft final report will be released in fall of 2013.