WJCTC and Highland Planning: Shaping Jefferson County’s Transportation Future

Watertown-Jefferson County Transportation Council (WJCTC) When the Watertown-Jefferson County Transportation Council (WJCTC) became a Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2014, they faced an exciting challenge: crafting a long-range transportation plan that would serve the diverse needs of their community. To ensure that the plan reflected the voices and priorities of Jefferson County residents, WJCTC partnered with Highland Planning, a New York State Certified Women-Owned Business (MWBE) firm known for its inclusive and impactful public engagement strategies.

Over the past several years, Highland Planning has worked closely with WJCTC to involve the community in every stage of the transportation planning process. One key project has been the Brownville Bridge replacement and possible relocation study. The existing bridge over the Black River in Brownville requires replacement due to structural concerns, traffic issues, and constraints of adjacent industry.

To gather community input on this critical infrastructure project, Highland Planning conducted pre-engagement interviews with key stakeholders, developed a Public Involvement Plan, facilitated a Steering Committee, and led various public engagement activities. These included door-to-door outreach to affected property owners, a Stakeholder Workshop to gather feedback on evaluation criteria, a Public Workshop to present alternatives, pop-up engagement at community events, and a Final Open House to share the preferred alternative.

By October 2018, the consultant team recommended an alternative for the Brownville Bridge based on robust community input. This collaborative, inclusive approach exemplifies how WJCTC and Highland Planning are partnering to shape the future of Jefferson County’s transportation network in a way that reflects residents’ needs and values.

Beyond project-specific engagement, Highland Planning has supported WJCTC in developing its overarching plans and priorities. In crafting the 25-year Long Range Transportation Plan adopted in 2019, Highland Planning hosted open houses and pop-up booths, launched an online survey, and synthesized insights to inform the plan. Key emerging priorities included enhancing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, expanding transit access, and improving connectivity.

Now, as WJCTC looks ahead to 2050, they are once again teaming up with Highland Planning to update the Long-Range Transportation Plan with ample community input. Highland Planning is facilitating steering committee meetings, conducting stakeholder interviews, and deploying tactics like public meetings, pop-up events, surveys, a website, and social media to foster meaningful involvement guided by a comprehensive Public Participation Plan.

By putting community engagement at the heart of the transportation planning process, WJCTC and Highland Planning are setting the stage for a future transportation system that genuinely reflects the needs and aspirations of Jefferson County residents. Through ongoing collaboration on projects like the Brownville Bridge and long-range plans, they are positioning the region for wise investments that will enhance the quality of life, expand access to opportunity, and support a thriving economy for decades to come. This community-driven approach to transportation planning serves as a valuable model for other regions to follow.

Author: Megan Morsch, Public Engagement Lead

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