Creation and Benefits of Positive Public Relations

Title: Creation and Benefits of Positive Public Relations

Phase(s): Pre-Preliminary Engineering, Preliminary Engineering, Final Design, Construction and Start-Up

Category: Management

Date: February 5, 1996

1. Background

In 1988 Tri-Met, the transit agency in metropolitan Portland, Oregon, embarked on planning for an extension of its existing MAX LRT system. The initial expansion was 11.5 miles to 185th Avenue in suburban Washington County. A second extension later added 6.2 miles to the project. Final design commenced in 1992 with construction beginning the following year.  The light rail extension runs through three cities, three counties, a regional government and land controlled by the State of Oregon. All had to cooperate in choosing the route, raising local funding, and setting land use requirements. The elected leaders of each jurisdiction presented a potential forum for politicizing citizens' concerns. In response, the project established multi-jurisdictional coordination committees and made sure the ethic of community service permeated the project from top management to field inspectors.

Equally important as this political geography was the influence of the actual geography of the route. The Westside project includes two parallel three mile tunnels in faulted basalt rock 80 to 300 feet below the surface. Twenty four hour tunnel construction in residential neighborhoods presented the project's greatest public relations challenges.

2. The Lesson

Several important lessons regarding positive public relations have been learned during the course of this project.  These lessons include:

3. Applicability

Almost any public works project can benefit from a well planned and well organized public relations program. Commitment to the program by all levels of management is essential for its success.

4. References