City of Chula Vista
Southwest Strategies worked with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to implement an outreach program to inform the public about improvements to one of Southern California’s busiest freeways.
Project: I-805 South Express Lanes Project
Expertise: Public Outreach
Location: City of Chula Vista
Interstate 805 (I-805) is one of Southern California’s main backbones of mobility in San Diego County. It traverses the most heavily populated portion of the region and connects the greater highway system to the U.S./Mexico border. Since I-805 opened, vehicle trips on the freeway have increased by more than 300 percent, and are projected to continue increasing steadily for the next several decades. To relieve traffic congestion and offer new transportation choices, Caltrans and SANDAG proposed the I-805 South Express Lanes Project along an 11-mile portion of the freeway. The project included the construction of two High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes, a new Direct Access Ramp (DAR), Transit Station and Park & Ride facility and other features to improve circulation and enhance quality of life for neighboring communities. Given the variety of improvements and potential for impacts to nearby residents, a comprehensive outreach program, including several targeted efforts, was required for the project.
Due to the complex nature of a project this size, we conducted extensive strategic planning and research to develop each aspect of the public outreach program. Based on our research, we tailored each tactic, including the outreach materials, to reflect the insight gained from our research. Our planning efforts also included developing branding, a communications calendar and a message platform.
During the environmental phase, we held public meetings in the community to gather input on the project. To prepare for the meetings, we developed invitations, advertisements, eblasts, fact sheets, presentation boards, media announcements and PowerPoint presentations. More than 100 people attended the meetings, well over the typical number of participants this type of meeting generally receives.
One particularly challenging aspect of the project was the construction of sound barriers and retaining walls near surrounding communities. We designed a noise mitigation outreach program to address construction and sound issues, which provided nearby communities with key information about the project, and was vital to addressing the public’s concerns about these impacts. As part of this program, we contacted homeowners along each individual sound barrier to discuss plans, receive feedback and reach majority consensus on wall preference. We conducted personalized outreach through letters, phone calls, door-to-door walks and public meetings.
A key portion of the project was the construction of the East Palomar Street DAR, Transit Station and Park & Ride, for which we also developed a specific outreach program that included detailed communications materials and a public meetings to address residents’ concerns about the effects of the project. More than 100 community members, elected officials and media representatives attended the meeting.
Through our public outreach program, we helped ensure a streamlined environmental review process with well-organized community engagement. Large turnouts to each public meeting demonstrated the program’s continued effectiveness in building community awareness. As the project moved forward, we continued to work with Caltrans and SANDAG to ensure strong community relations, maintain ongoing communications with key stakeholders and keep the general public engaged.