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Field Trips

What We've Found

Often the best way to understand a project is to visit the site. Many people have difficulty understanding technical plans and mapping. Meeting on-site is an excellent way to identify project needs, understand issues and visualize solutions. Many people appreciate being shown on the ground the potential benefits and impacts of roadway improvements. Field trips to the site foster an understanding and cooperative spirit between stakeholders and the project team.

Just the Facts
Field trips provide an opportunity for immediate feedback when developing a roadway project. Stakeholders, such as local property owners and residents, local officials, businesses, school officials, public safety officials, agency representatives and historic preservation and environmental groups can see and understand how a project might affect their interest. It is often easier to explain physical project limitations and challenges in the field. It also allows the project team to better understand important resources and the relative value of each. It provides an ideal setting for brainstorming and capturing ideas that may lead to a better solution.

A field trip can be used early in a project to gather general information, or later in a project to address specific issues or concerns. Field trips can also be used during or after construction to share project challenges and successes with outside groups, such as other state transportation agencies, students or professional associations.

How To Do It
1. Understand the target audience for whom the trip is designed.
Determine the goals of the trip. This could be done by the project team, or could be done in conjunction with a project advisory committee. How many participants do you anticipate?

2. Determine the transportation needs.
Will everyone meet on-site, or will you need to provide a van?

3. Set a Date
Consider any scheduling conflicts including holidays, school calendars and peak seasons. Also factor in weather and time of year. Get the word out early - even before formal invitations are sent.

4. Planning the Event
  • Determine where to go and for how long. Identify an easily accessible meeting point. On larger projects, decide on start and end points.
  • Obtain necessary permissions if field trip is on land that does not belong to your agency.
  • Scope out and test the itinerary to make cure it can easily accommodate the scheduled time period.
  • Consider whether snacks, drinks or water will be provided.
  • Prepare hand-out materials: mapping, renderings/drawings, fact sheet, etc.
  • Decide course of action for inclement weather: Will the trip be held rain or shine? Is there an alternate date? Is there a phone number that can be called if the weather is questionable?
  • If the meeting is on or near highway right-of-way, do you need to provide safety gear (reflective vests and hats)? Do you need to use liability waivers?
  • Publicize the event: Will you be inviting only a few people and sending letters? Will the meeting be open and be advertised in the local paper? Will it be posted in a newsletter or on a project web-site?
  • Prepare maps and directions to start and end points.
5. The Trip
  • Gather attendees at the beginning of the trip to go over the schedule.
  • Provide useful handouts (e.g., maps with itinerary marked and important features)
  • Encourage people to take photographs.
  • Use a pace that is comfortable for everyone.
  • Intersperse knowledgeable people among the group to answer questions.
  • Arrange periodic stops to regroup and discuss observations.
  • have fun!

A Field Trip is an on-site meeting to introduce community residents and other stakeholders to the proposed roadway project.

Use It If...
  • You want to gather general information from those most affected by your project.
  • You want immediate feedback on a specific element of a project.
  • You are having trouble explaining project actions to an audience using technical plans and traditional meeting techniques.
  • You need to reach underrepresented groups. Plan a field trip for a group that has not been involved in other activities and target the information specifically for that group.
  • You have project features that outside groups would find educational. Projects with challenging problems and creative solutions are good candidates to share with outside interest groups.
  • Your project involves unique resources that generate interest and put the agency in a good light. Archaeology, historic mitigation and habitat restoration are examples of project activities that can be shared with school groups and members of the public. Often, these activities are highly visible from well traveled roadways and providing opportunities for structured participation and may be safer than random, unplanned visits.
Forget It If...
  • You are looking for a quick solution. Running a successful field trip often requires extensive logistical planning and long lead times. Budget considerations may also limit larger and more complex field trips.
  • You are unclear about liability issues. Always expect that nothing will happen, but prepare for worst-case scenarios.
  • People seem to have a good understanding and acceptance of the project and its impacts.
Timing is Everything

  • Field trips can be used throughout the lifespan of a project.
  • Run trips early in the project development process to gather information, gain consensus on the project needs and understand project constraints.
  • Use field trips to discuss specific issues that arise as a project solution is fine-tuned.
  • Run trips during construction to provide progress reports.
  • Run trips as a follow-up to a project to promote the effort and accomplishments and to publicly thank key community leaders and stakeholders.

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