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Meet the New NCDOT, Same as the Old NCDOT?

My apologies to The Who.

This month's NCDOT Employee Newsletter features a column by Ted Vaden, Deputy Secretary for Internal and External Affairs, the agency's director of communication. The article (available here:
http://www.ncdot.gov/_templates/download/external.html?pdf=http%3A//www.ncdot.org/download/newsroom/Newsletter.pdf starting on page 2) states that NCDOT is one of the best transportation departments in the country but that past management has not been able to get that news out very well by largely just reacting to reports of NCDOT making mistakes after the fact. The new agency management says it's committed to better, more accurate communications, and being more proactive in pushing NCDOT's positive news. The article indicates that the NCDOT Secretary, as part of this new proactive process, has been traveling around the state to public forums in an attempt to change the public perception about NCDOT that it is better at wasting taxpayer's dollars than building roads.

Well,
funny they should be touting better communication this month. Seems NCDOT, over the next two weekends, is going to be closing what is once again part of Interstate 40, and Business 85, inside the Greensboro Urban Loop to perform a repaving project, one direction closed each weekend. They sent out a news release to the Greensboro paper and included a map of the detours to get around the construction. One problem, both the release and map, (you can access the map by pasting in the link here:
http://mm.news-record.com/drupal//files/documents/traffic_detours_may_2009.pdf
) refer to the old route alignments which NCDOT, in another release a couple weeks ago, stated they were starting the process of changing. As seen in the previous post, almost all the Business 40 signs have been replaced by Interstate 40 along I-40's original alignment. But the release and map refer and show Business 40 through Greensboro and tell how to bypass it using I-40/I-73, I-40/85, etc. which, technically where the signs haven't been changed, do not exist. The map includes I-40 exit numbers both on the old and new alignments as well as Business 40 exit numbers along I-40 west of Business 85, of which only the exit gore sign numbers were ever changed.The Greensboro N&R dutifully put up the text and map on their website. They eventually redid their text when a reader (not me) commented about the paper using the old route designations and pointing out they had an article the week or so before listing all the route and exit number changes. The paper apologized, saying they hadn't checked the news release close enough before publishing it. (I eventually added a comment myself in response to a question in a previous comment).

Commentary:
Hmm, it still appears that NCDOT's right hand still doesn't know what it's left hand is doing. This occurred within the same department, public relations, to boot. Wasn't this going to change under the new administration? Let's hope they have better luck laying a new surface on I-40 in Greensboro than in Durham. You cannot dictate policy changes from above and have them automatically filter down throughout an entire organization. Communication at NCDOT has been a problem for a long time. Saying you're going to be more accurate doesn't suddenly mean that you'll have the same employees double-check
ing press releases for mistakes. (I hope this release was done by a different person at least, not that that's a real excuse.) It would also be helpful for NCDOT if the media would do its job and check facts before publishing something. By apparently assuming, like the Greensboro N&R did, that this release should have no problems with it, it only compounded the original mistake. It should not take a reader to inform a paper that the facts of an article are wrong. Don't any of the paper's employees, or NCDOT's for that matter, drive I-40?

Maybe the first stop for Secretary Conti on his better communications road trip should have been to the NCDOT press office.

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