Commentary: Dover/Kent MPO wants to have your voice heard

The Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization is gearing up for the 2021 Metropolitan Transportation Plan. The MTP is a long-range plan that will outline a vision on how to invest and improve transportation in Kent County over the next 20 years.

Updated every four years, this plan is also the catalyst for the state’s Capital Transportation Plan and the MPO’s Transportation Improvement Plan. That seems like a lot of plans, but there is one more being addressed now in anticipation of the others.

The Public Participation Plan is the “playbook” for getting public input before, during and after plans, projects and studies done by the MPO. Updated every two years, this update is falling right before the MTP process. That is going to make it a good test to make sure the MPO is prepared to get everyone’s voice heard.

That plan, which right now is published as a draft for comments, denotes everything from the MPO mission statement, to the federal guidelines regarding public participation, to methodology. By getting the public’s input on how and where information is gathered, the MPO hopes to reach even more citizens when it is time to get input on transportation issues for the next two decades.

I am the public outreach manager for the MPO and have only been in the position for a year, so this is my first cycle with these plans.

Executive Director Reed Macmillan is also new to the MTP process. Mr. Macmillan says “Over the last 18 months, the MPO has redefined itself. Specifically, we have new, qualified staff members who help us leverage technology when it comes to reaching the public. Our new web page and social media efforts led by Helen Wiles have reached many members of the public and we have seen an increased interest in our planning efforts.”

It’s a very exciting thing to ask people what they think the world, or at least Kent County, is going to look like in 20 years. What will be important when it comes to transportation? More roads? More bike paths? Better technology as far as autonomous cars? Better bus service?

Everything gets considered before writing the final plan (MTP). If it is involved in getting you from point A to point B then we want your opinion on it.

The PPP, or public participation plan, is the outline for how the MPO is going to not only get that information but also all the other initiatives that they are involved with. These initiatives include performance measures, safety, air quality and environmental justice. The new PPP has outlined the mission to “get every voice heard” and to create awareness of the MPO itself.

It’s more difficult to go out and get surveys from people who don’t know why you want it or who you are. So, making sure folks know about us is a big priority.

To do that, the MPO has redesigned its website, started a video vault featuring two- to three-minute educational videos and the staff is available for speaking engagements or presentations. Mike Ward, GIS planner for the MPO, has also designed a new crowdsourcing map called MAPITT where people can go leave transportation issues quickly and get a response.

Mike Gumrot, chairman of the Public Advisory Committee (PAC) for the Dover/Kent County MPO is feeling very confident about the direction the MPO is moving.

“The MPO has always been very good at ensuring the public is involved in decisions made regarding transportation in Kent County. They have always tried to make public meetings and workshops timely and convenient. With this new technology, they will now be able to offer digital public meetings, webinars, and other new ways to get to people where they are, instead of asking them to come to us,” he said.

The PAC is comprised of community volunteers who are appointed to the committee. The committee is also committed to the MPO receiving input from the public regarding all transportation plans, programs and policies that the MPO Council adopts. PAC members come from diverse backgrounds, but each of them is interested in planning and transportation.

The PPP is currently in draft form on the MPO’s website (www.doverkentmpo.org). It will be there, open for comments from the public until Sept. 11 when the MPO Council will vote for adoption.

Any questions or comments about the MPO, the MTP or the PPP can be directed to Helen Wiles at helen.wiles@doverkentmpo.org or 302-387-6026.

Helen Wiles is the public outreach manager for the Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

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