Community Engagement Ensures Long-Term Success of Bridge Projects
September 1, 2023

Categories | Prestress Bridge Girders

Community Engagement Ensures Long-Term Success of Bridge Projects

The construction of a new bridge is often an exciting time for a community. A new bridge can bring a host of new benefits to a community, from new business opportunities, to improved traffic flow, to improved recreational access. Because of the significant investment of taxpayer dollars that goes into a major infrastructure project like a bridge, government agencies who are planning such a project have a duty to involve community members in every stage of the decision-making process to make sure it meets their needs now and far into the future.

Here are some effective strategies for engaging communities in bridge projects, offered by Richard Dion in an article for the Prestressed Concrete Institute’s ASPIRE Concrete Bridge Magazine.

Gather Community Input

There are hundreds of factors to consider when designing a new bridge, and each member of a community may have different priorities. Some community members may prioritize the aesthetics of the bridge, while others will be more interested in making sure it offers adequate pedestrian and bike infrastructure. The choice of building materials and structural design also affects the natural environment underneath the bridge, especially for smaller rivers and streams.

It’s important to provide multiple forums for community members to weigh in on their priorities for things like aesthetics, design, and environmental impact. Effective strategies for engaging the public include conducting market research to learn community priorities, sharing information through websites and social media, holding public meetings, and creating visitor centers with project photos and renderings.

Set Expectations

If project leaders don’t take the time to inform the public, community members may develop unrealistic expectations about the project. It’s important to take the time to thoroughly explain structural requirements, environmental challenges, and the overall cost of building safe infrastructure.

Mitigate Disruptions

Any major infrastructure project can disrupt community life during the construction process. Businesses may see a temporary loss of visibility or foot traffic because of changed traffic patterns, and residents may need to change their daily routines to account for detours.

Adequate community engagement prior to the start of a bridge project can help community members and businesses mitigate any potential disruptions. Clear communication about changes to traffic patterns during the project will also help community members plan ahead for rerouted or delayed traffic.