Route 1 Regional Growth Strategy

SITUATION

The 15 municipalities from Trenton to New Brunswick in central New Jersey are linked by geography, economic dynamics, and Route 1, the core transportation corridor of the region. Yet these communities tend to focus on upholding their autonomy and dedication to ‘home rule’ more than on their interdependencies. This project, initiated by the state Department of Transportation, sought to define a shared vision for the region encompassing transportation, land use and economic futures over a 50 year time horizon. Weiss Consulting designed and facilitated large community meetings during the launch phase of the project, and sub-area meetings and a culminating full stakeholder session in the second phase.

RESULTS

The final stakeholder session affirmed a shared vision, the “magnetic north” that sets the direction for decisions and actions by all the jurisdictions within the region. In the run up to the final meeting, participants had been saying the vision was not controversial but that implementation would be the real challenge. The action priorities produced in the final meeting reflected this view: the primary action is to create a body that speaks with one voice for the region, and other top actions are to secure the resources to take action together. The intention to ally on shared regional priorities is a significant shift with the potential to improve the quality of life in the Route 1 region of central New Jersey.

WEISS CONSULTING APPROACH

The first phase of this project used community meetings to create shared context and understanding of the region’s unique opportunities and the importance of taking action. The Weiss Consulting team designed interactive components of these large meetings; we engaged the mayors, planners and other leaders in conversations that went deeper and wider than their usual public discourse. The second phase of the project, following a state-required hiatus, used smaller working sessions in four geographic sub-areas of the region. Here we designed and facilitated solution-creating sessions and found participants opening to the possibility of effective collaboration among their towns and with state agencies.

The final stakeholder meeting was tested with a planning team and then redesigned using their feedback. The agenda and engagement methods we took to the full group of stakeholders was fast-paced, built upon the creative work of the previous working meetings, and generated optimism and shared intention to implement the recommendations for action together.