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Press Releases - Department of Transportation

MCDOT Successfully Holds its First-Ever Virtual Public Hearing to Move Projects Forward During the COVID-19 Health Crisis

For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 30, 2020

Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is finding creative ways to move important infrastructure projects forward while still meeting requirements for public input and social distancing. In response to COVID 19 restrictions, the public hearing for Silver Spring’s Kemp Mill Estates sidewalk proposal was held virtually via Adobe Connect webcasting software on April 22. Prior to the hearing, some residents wrote in to express serious reservations about the virtual hearing, but over 30 members of the public participated on April 22, and the experience was highly successful and will serve as a model for additional virtual engagement in the future.

To make the experience as seamless as possible for participants, MCDOT performed multiple trial runs of the hearing that led to iterative improvements leading up to the April 22 hearing. Residents were able to log in on their computers, enter a phone number when prompted, and receive a call from the Adobe Connect platform to their telephone, conferencing them into the hearing.  While Tim Cupples, Chief of the Division of Transportation Engineering, and Richard Dorsey, Chief of Highway Services and the Public Hearing Officer, were speaking, residents were able to sign-in, virtually "raise their hand" to express a desire to testify, obtain technical assistance and answers to questions about the project proposal.  In addition, displays, exhibits, and the Public Hearing Record were available for residents to download.  The displays were also presented for viewing in a PowerPoint presentation.

The recorded public hearing may be viewed at ow.ly/RT5d50zthoW, and the deadline for comments and written testimony is Wednesday, May 13th at 6:00 pm. Testimony can be submitted by email to DTE.Sidewalk@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Prior to the COVID-19 health crisis, public hearings were held in an elementary school local to the community in which sidewalks were proposed.  At the hearings, residents stood before an audience of their peers to testify.  Although the hearings were broadcast virtually, MCDOT had never before received testimony virtually; the exchange of information between people in multiple settings had not been configured.  Transitioning to the virtual hearing, therefore, presented new challenges, particularly with regard to the sound output, displays, and sign-in sheet for the public record.

The success of the virtual hearing is evidenced by the many emails received by MCDOT’s Annual Sidewalk Program following the hearing.  Residents noted the clear sound quality and abundance of information presented on the webcast platform.  Residents, likewise, were impressed with the ease of logging in and getting set-up prior to the start of the hearing as well as the convenience of staying at home while still able to testify before their peers.  At the in-person hearings, residents could not ask questions until the end of the hearing.  With the virtual hearing, residents were able to type questions in a chat pod and receive answers without disrupting the hearing process or those who were speaking.  Many residents were also impressed with the ability to review the recording of the hearing which affords them the ability to rewind and re-listen in case they missed something. 

Based on lessons learned from April 22, going forward MCDOT will work to provide more information prior to the hearing, including login instructions and high-level project information. The department welcomes additional feedback from the public on virtual engagement processes as the MCDOT team works to keep projects moving forward and include public participation that is critical to the success of the department’s work.


Release ID: 20-092
Media Contact: Hannah Henn 240-777-8389

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