Burnsville Intersection Studies

Development Type: None
Services Provided: Intersection Evaluation
Client: Dakota County and City of Burnsville

We’ve written before about our project evaluating three intersections for Dakota County in partnership with the City of Burnsville. As originally conceived, this type of project was a simple traffic signal replacement, with the potential for an evaluation of the approach lane needs. With more options available than ever to control intersection traffic both safely and efficiently, the goal of this project shifted to determining the most appropriate type of control for today and into the future.

Another component of this project involved having two meetings with the public. Billed at the beginning at Public Information Meetings, the Request for Proposal scope of services left many of the details of the meeting to us. We worked with the County and City to determine:

+ The purpose of the meetings
+ The format of meetings
+ Information to be provide at the meetings

Let’s take a quick review of each of these items.

Purpose

The purpose will typically drive many other factors of the meeting and should be determined first. We wanted to provide residents and others the opportunity to shape our analysis and results. In fact, public input was listed as one factor for our evaluation matrix, along with the various analyses items.

To hold true to that goal, we decided to hold one meeting early in the process. It was timed to be after our review of existing conditions and determination of potential options, but before any detailed analysis on the options had occurred. Therefore, the purpose of the first meeting was essentially to listen. People could meet our project, learn about existing operations, and review potential options. But the biggest part was to be us listening to their concerns:

+ Did the way we categorized the existing operations seem correct?
+ What issues did we miss, or which issue was a primary concern to them?
+ What were their initial thoughts on the options?

These were the questions we had in mind to fulfill the purpose of the first meeting – convey the basic information, but listen to what residents, commuters, and visitors were saying about the area.

The second meeting was then timed toward the end of the project after the detailed information had been completed. The purpose of this meeting was different in that we wanted to convey information. We needed the public to see our analysis, results, and preliminary recommendations, noting the public reaction. We didn’t need questions answered in this case, but needed to answer questions that would come to us.

Format

Public meetings come in many different types and styles. As mentioned, the format should be influenced by the purpose of the meeting. With a purpose of listening, an informal open house style was best suited for our first meeting. This allowed attendees to review the information in their own time and have an open discussion with us one-on-one or in small groups. Many people aren’t comfortable talking in front of a big group and this format avoided that. This maximized the number of people willing to provide us written or vocal comments.

For the second meeting, we discussed whether to have a more formal meeting with a presentation. With the purpose to convey information, specifically preliminary recommendations, a presentation would ensure all attendees hear the same message. Combined with an open house, a presentation is a great way to show the basic information and allow for more detailed review before or after a presentation. However, based on the first meeting, we decided to stick with the informal open house style.

People attending the first meeting were scattered throughout the open house time frame, without a good concentration for a presentation. In addition, with three different intersections, not all attendees would be interested in hearing about each one. Thus, the open forum allowed someone to concentrate on one or all intersections for this project.

Information

Lastly, we determined the information to display. Based on the project purpose and meeting format, we determined the following for the first meeting:

+ Purpose of Study and Meeting
+ Existing operations for each of the three intersections
+ General information on the options being considered, in this case traffic signal, roundabout, and a limited access option for one intersection (3/4-access)

The second meeting, geared more toward results, had the following information:

+ Purpose of Study and Meeting
+ Intersection Study Results
+ Intersection Evaluation Matrices

The actual presentation of this information took some back-and-forth with the agencies. Our desire was to make things as visual as possible. For the existing information, that included graphs of the Levels of Service and Crash Rates as opposed to text (see the adjacent examples). For the results meeting, it meant using our concept designs of the intersection options and a colorful matrix that easily conveys acceptable versus unacceptable results (see the other adjacent example).

Our first meeting had about 50 attendees with over 50 written comments. The discussions were also invaluable leading us to consider the simple addition of right turn lanes at one intersection and explore alternative non-traditional options at another. Also heard about interesting encounters with turkeys in the area. . .

The second meeting had about 35 attendees and allowed us to discuss the in-depth details of the analyses. We ended up receiving several supportive comments, which is always nice, as well as addition concerns to be considered for during the ultimate construction design and implementation.

The meetings took a lot of thought about the items above and discussion regarding how to reach the stated purpose. The effort was worth it as in the end, all of the project personnel involved viewed the public meetings as great successes. Equally important, the residents and others felt their voices had been heard in the process and appreciated our efforts to involve them.