CITY OF EDEN PRAIRIE,
Communications Team Updates Community on Traffic Congestion Sites
Eden Prairie is a rapidly growing suburb located in the southwest corner of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area. Considered one of the fastest growing communities in the State of Minnesota, its population has increased from 16,000 residents in 1980 to almost 55,000 in 1998. Eden Prairie is also a job destination for over 50,000 workers, making it one of the largest employment hubs in the region. This incredible growth has generated the need for a wide range of road capacity improvements, from local residential collectors to major arterials.
Community Identifies Transportation as the Priority Issue
Because road improvements have not kept up with growth in Eden Prairie, there is a backlog of incomplete projects, principally on county- and state-owned arterials. Consequently, growing traffic congestion has become the most pressing issue for the community, as evidenced by citizen input from surveys, community forums, and focus group meetings.
In fact, in November of 1997, a focus group of over 100 randomly selected Eden Prairie residents gathered to identify issues facing the community over the next decade. Participants in five separate small groups discussed the following topics: Transportation; Preserving and Enhancing the Jobs Base; Protecting Natural Resources; Insuring Public Safety; and Preparing for an Aging Community. The topic that was rated as very important by each small group was Transportation. In fact, it emerged as the defining issue. Participants wanted city officials to coordinate transportation planning at the regional level and to communicate with residents about the various projects.
Traffic Congestion as the Challenge
The good news is that in 1998 several major highway improvement projects were initiated by the State of Minnesota and Hennepin County to help relieve congestion. The bad news is that with each project starting simultaneously, congestion levels are expected to peak, creating even more frustration within the community. These projects include:
Transportation Team Formed
In response to the concern voiced by community residents and to prepare for a summer of major road construction projects, the city developed a cross-functional transportation communication team. The team members - who have experience in transportation planning, engineering, project management, and public relations - developed a plan for assembling and disseminating information to residents and businesses of Eden Prairie. The primary goal of the team is to improve communication to residents and commuters about road closures, reroutings, and the various highway construction projects.
The following communication strategies have been developed by the team:
This data is disseminated through the various local communication outlets, allowing the state highway department to go beyond its usual network for public relations. Another benefit to the state has been the input of the city - through Police Department and Public Works department staff - regarding sign locations, scheduling of lane closures, and reroutings.
The city is continuing to explore as many public information methods as possible to inform motorists about the transportation projects of 1998 and into the next millennium.
Contrary to what the city had originally expected, it has received relatively few calls from frustrated motorists about traffic delays caused by road construction. Also, the improved internal communication has resulted in a more well-informed staff that is better able to communicate current road conditions to the public. The city is now exploring ways to measure the effectiveness of the various communication efforts, including monitoring the number of calls received on the hotline and the number of hits on the Web site.
Contact: Steve Nelson, Communications Coordinator, Management Services, Eden Prairie, telephone: 612-949-8434 or e-mail: (Scnelson@edenprairie.org).
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.