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  • Kansas DOT

Life is a Highway: How Kansas DOT Engaged their Community for a Major Road Project


The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) aimed to enhance community engagement before starting an extensive highway improvement project on one of Wichita’s most traveled and congested roadways. Using EngagementHQ by Granicus, the department opened a line of communication with residents to gather feedback on the project before the first shovel hit the ground.

“The website sets a high bar. We’ve done a lot of projects, and this is a shining light. This is how it is supposed to be done and should be our model in the future.”
Tom Hein, Wichita Public Affairs Manager, Kansas Department of Transportation


  • 13k website visits since November 2022
  • 220+ website subscribers
  • 500+ new users per month
  • 70 pins dropped on an interactive map
Must have Granicus Solutions

A Major Thoroughfare Needs Renovation

The K-96 corridor, located between Interstates 35 and 135 in Wichita, is known for its high traffic levels. It serves as a crucial route for motorists traveling northeast of downtown. Here’s the thing, though: It was not always fast.

To provide residents with less congestion, enhanced safety, and increased capacity to keep the roadway moving, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the City of Wichita, and Sedgewick County agreed that improvements to a critical nine-mile stretch of road were needed.

“We wanted to open up the process to our community,” said Tom Hein, public affairs manager for Wichita. “Our goal was to engage citizens early to understand their issues and how our engineers could create solutions to make this project successful for those it impacts the most.”


Signing Up Constituents for the Long Haul

The project’s scope required a thoughtful and strategic approach to digital community engagement. In the early days of the preliminary design phase, project leadership directed the development of a comprehensive Public Involvement Plan to define and map all communications and public involvement strategies and tactics.

The large footprint of the project and its location in the largest city in Kansas necessitated a recognizable project identity, and a feedback mechanism that meant the entire community could give input to the project team.

While transportation projects in this region often have a single page on existing government platforms, the project team decided to create a brand and website from the ground up that would link them to the community throughout the project’s life cycle.

“We achieved a lot of buy-in early from our community,” said Steff Hedenkamp, a communication consultant with WSP, an engineering and professional services firm working with KDOT on the project. “They were with us from early in the project, so they could see the problems and provide input. They had the opportunity through the website to suggest changes and explain how the improved roadway could best serve them.”

Using EngagementHQ by Granicus, KDOT built an engagement site specifically for this project, incorporating numerous project engagement tools, including:

  • Project Identity: Project brand and messaging are used throughout the entire effort to provide a consistent graphic identity on all publicly distributed materials, including the project website, social media channels, newsletters, and other communications collateral.
  • Interactive Website: Provides two-way communication and allows avenues for feedback from the entire community that exceeds what in-person meetings alone could achieve. The site includes updated project information, an “Open House” webpage to share the information and materials shared at public meetings, as well as community quotes, a road show of upcoming and past community tabling events and presentations, and frequently asked questions.
  • Translation Offerings: The K-96 project team included Spanish, Arabic, and Vietnamese translations to make project information available in the most commonly used non-English languages in the region. Resources start with the project website, which allows users to view content in any of these three languages and includes translated project fact sheets that are also posted on the site and available at all in-person meetings.
  • Project Videos: Promote awareness for the project and help the community learn more about what is happening and plan to improve the corridor.

Open Road Ahead

Since launching in November 2022, the engagement site has earned a monthly average of 572 new users, more than 1,000 page views, and 629 user engagement events, including clicks on videos, materials, and other site pages. More than 220 subscribers also signed up for regular updates.

That is a lot, considering the project is still in its infancy. As of December 2023, KDOT is in the midst of conducting its preliminary design, with construction not scheduled for three more years. The impact goes beyond the numbers.

“The website sets a high bar. We’ve done a lot of projects, and this is a shining light. This is how it is supposed to be done and should be our model in the future,” Hein said.