The Contractor will provide communications, strategic marketing, business and community engagement work for an upcoming two-year construction project located on Interstate (I)-94 between Western Avenue and Mounds Boulevard; and on I-35E between I-94 and University Avenue in St. Paul. The construction will largely consists of pavement repair and resurfacing, bridge and ramp work and pedestrian sidewalk improvements. This work is badly needed and somewhat overdue since no major work has been done on this stretch of interstate since it was constructed in the 1980’s. This section of interstate runs near the Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul’s Downtown Business District and several diverse neighborhoods. The highways serve as a major corridor for freight traffic moving goods through Minnesota. More than 200,000 motorists travel daily on this stretch of road. While the construction project takes place specifically in the city of St. Paul, the construction will impact statewide travel for area attractions and seasonal visitors, Minneapolis commuters as well as motorists traveling to and from St. Paul’s eastern suburbs including but not limited to Oakdale, Maplewood and Woodbury. Research shows that motorists using this section of roadway already spend an average of 20-30 minutes commuting without construction. This work is likely to push traffic to city streets as commuters seek alternative routes not designed to carry excessive levels of traffic. The work will certainly impact businesses along the I-94/I-35E project area. There are more than 3,500 businesses within a ½ mile radius of the project and thousands more businesses a few miles around the project zone. There are 8,100 people who work at the State Capitol and more than 12,000 people live and work in downtown St. Paul. In addition, downtown St. Paul is home to many large businesses, corporations, hospitals, restaurants and entertainment venues. Two of Minnesota’s sports teams; Minnesota Wild and the St. Paul Saints have stadiums downtown. Additionally, there are many businesses of all sizes adjacent to the interstate ranging from small businesses to retail shopping malls. Several minority businesses already hit hard economically by COVID-19 and recent social unrest also are adjacent to the impending construction.
Nearly half (152,639) of the city of St. Paul’s population is located in the seven neighborhood districts closest to the project area. Nearly sixty percent or a majority of the residents in these neighborhoods are culturally diverse. The fastest growing populations in this area are from the Hmong and Karen communities. The next largest minority groups are African-American and Latinx (Hispanic). More than a quarter of the residents in six of the seven nearby neighborhoods are foreign-born and are not native English speakers. The proximity to these communities alone will inequitably impact the most diverse neighborhood residents with certain construction dust and possible overnight noise. The overnight construction noise is an issue for obvious reasons. The construction dust is important because it is a health issue for numerous school-age children suffering from asthma. A larger proportion of minority youth suffer from asthma. In addition, while forty percent of the household incomes in these communities are under $35,000, more than a third of residents own at least one car, nearly ninety percent of those residents drive to work and a third of those residents already have a commute of 30 minutes or longer to work without construction.
Scope of Work:
1. Project Management Contractor will:
1.1 Demonstrate outstanding writing skills including spelling, grammar, and Associated Press (AP) style with a strong ability to write clear, engaging, informative marketing copy for a variety of mediums including but not limited to: print, radio and social media, all while maintaining a consistent brand voice.
1.2 Adhere to the MnDOT Metro District Style Guide and Minnesota State branding style guide https://mn.gov/portal/brand/style-guide/.
1.3 Produce all written materials/collateral in a way that is easy to understand; create maps, graphics and web content in accordance with all state and federal laws regarding Plain Language https://www.plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/ and American Disabilities Act Compliance https://mn.gov/mnit/programs/policies/accessibility/.
1.4 Direct and manage the contractor team, manage tasks/deliverables, budget and schedule; efficiently coordinate planning and decision-making with the State.
1.5 Meet once per month, or as needed, to plan for and coordinate deliverables.
1.6 Schedule and coordinate project public engagement for all engagement activities for each year of the project.
1.7 Provide administrative services (billing, postage, invoices etc.). Provide monthly invoices and progress reports (electronic).
1.8 Schedule, coordinate and lead an in-person or, if not possible, an online meeting project kick-off meeting at MnDOT’s Waters Edge Building, 1500 West County Road B2, Roseville, MN 55311.
1.9 Schedule, coordinate and participate in monthly one-hour in-person status update meetings (travel time and mileage included) starting at full execution of this contract.
1.10 Identify and secure venues and meeting logistics (chairs, tents, tables, etc.) for all community meetings, open houses and engagement activities.
1.11 Change to online options with appropriate meeting software, if in-person meetings are not allowed due to COVID-19 or other reason.
1.12 Execute and build on I-94@35E communications plan that the state will provide for outreach to motorists, residents and businesses
2.1 Work with State’s Project Manager to plan and organize four open houses, if not possible, provide online open house meeting option with appropriate software and visual materials.
2.2 Produce construction materials including news releases, email updates, web updates, tweets, maps, factsheets, website updates and emails. Communications must also include non-paper options.
2.3 Work with Project Manager to coordinate traffic impacts messaging with stakeholders.
2.4 Reach out and provide construction information to government partners and elected officials.
2.5 Engage freight publications for interview opportunities to inform truckers about construction.
2.6 Provide outreach and work with event organizers especially those events in Environmental Justice (EJ) communities and construction contractors in advance of traffic impacts to lessen disruptions from construction.
2.7 Assist State and recommend strategies to help local businesses indicate they are open during construction. Work with businesses closely to ensure vitality of operations.
2.8 Work with Project Manager to develop messages about closures for pedestrians and bicyclists.
2.9 Work with State’s Project Manager in developing alternative travel messages.
2.10 Attend and lead any meetings with key neighborhood organizations, as needed.
2.11 Track outreach efforts and contacts in excel spreadsheet. Spreadsheet will be sent to Project Manager every two weeks by email.
2.12 Research possible outreach opportunities through outside billboards in EJ communities, geotargeting and geo-fencing, if feasible.
2.13 As part of open house engagement, include information about employment with construction contractors and/or with the state.
3. Communications Contractor will:
3.1 Set up and manage a 24 hours a day, seven days a week construction hotline and project email box.
3.2 Respond promptly to questions, suggestions and concerns from the construction project email box and project telephone hotline. 3.3 Inform Project Manager of any negative trends developing from the project emails and hotline in regards to construction traffic impacts and other activities.
3.4 Identify each comment, complaint and suggestion then categorize the comments based on similar concerns. Review and adjust messaging/outreach and engagement as soon as feasible.
3.5 Document all calls, emails, texts, and social media posts regarding project communications. Evaluate and modify communications to minimize confusion and frustration, as needed.
3.6 Coordinate with advocates and other agencies, such as Metro Transit, to message other options to lessen travel or to use other modes of transportation.
3.7 Provide accurate, timely information to commuters, weekend travelers and freight.
3.8 Schedule, lead and participate in weekly communication update calls throughout the duration of the project. Provide notes for calls.
3.9 Provide reports to State as needed and coordinate to adjust required communications and outreach.
3.10 Develop and maintain effective communications with the business organizations/associations and district councils impacted by this project.
3.11 Include the staff, district councils and multicultural business associations in St. Paul in engagement activities.
3.12 Communicate with a high-level of understanding of inclusivity best practices, EJ and demonstrated application of cultural competencies.
3.13 Identify and engage freight and commercial businesses that travel in the project area as a means of delivering good and services.
3.14 Cultivate partnerships with the business community to engage stakeholders and to use stakeholders as a conduit for sharing information about the project.
3.15 Develop a trusted community partner relationship for information sharing and other opportunities to answer questions and engage the community.
3.16 Create a telecommuting/alternative travel options outreach strategy to promote carpooling, flexible schedules and transit during construction.
3.17 Send all media inquiries to the project manager.
3.18 Produce project articles with community newspapers, television and radio.
3.19 Submit project articles to city and county online and printed newsletter.
3.20 Assist in setting up interviews as directed by project manager, with community newspapers, television and radio.
4. STEM Engagement
12:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time on August 14, 2020.
Josh Hebert Joshua.Hebert@state.mn.us