Departments of transportation have all kinds of responsibilities that go far beyond filling potholes and making sure the traffic signals are synchronized. During my time at the Washington State Department of Transportation, I was constantly amazed at the variety of projects and programs that were carried out by the dedicated agency staff and consultants.
For instance, each October WSDOT partners with Cascade Bicycle Club and other groups around the state to manually count walkers and bicyclers through the state. One particularly interesting afternoon, I explored the underside of a bridge to help discourage pelagic cormorants from nesting ahead of a much needed bridge maintenance season. Then there was the Amtrak Cascades Schools on Trains program, which WSDOT managed.
State DOTs partner with local communities on safety projects. In one case, a local high school lost a young driver in a crash and community members wanted to figure out a way to calm traffic and improve safety. Sitting in a vision session with police, fire, teachers and parents – as well as students – will certainly bring home the idea that DOTs are about more than laying down pavement.
As a communications person, knowing your agency inside and out is crucial to building confidence with your co-workers and with the media and community with whom you connect. If at all possible, get out of the office and ride along with maintenance crews, bridge inspectors, or roadside assistance units. Visit with your agency’s archaeologist, biologist or other environmental specialist. There are experts in your agency who are nationally known. I guarantee it. Knowing who they are makes you a better resource and gives you a better person to confidently speak about the transportation issues facing your state.
Think about this interesting, unsung specialists when it is time for your team to update the agency blog, or share a story on Facebook or Twitter. These interesting areas of your agency — the spaces and places that are not always obvious to the average driver, pedestrian or cyclist — are the source for great content.
By the way, did you the U.S. Department of Transportation is responsible for Daylight Saving Time? Yes, the USDOT was given responsibility for overseeing the U.S. time zones and the uniform observance of Daylight Saving Time since “time standards were first instituted by the railroad industry.”
Imagine the gems like that you can find in your own agency, and all you need to do is look.