• Moore County Charrette - 2011

    In November of 2011, NCDOT partnered with Moore County, its municipal entities, and the Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization (TARPO) to embark upon a public engagement initiative associated with the development of the county's Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP).  Based on precedence and local feedback, there were five focus areas within the county-wide study area that would benefit from local consensus on roadway improvements needed to accommodate anticipated future traffic. NCDOT and a private consultant, Neighborhood Solutions, tailored the noted Strings and Ribbons planning exercise to engage residents in finding locally accepted solutions to important transportation decisions in these five focus areas.  The core objectives were to enlist early public involvement in the planning process, safeguard local priorities in the county's long-range transportation plan, and provide a forum through which Moore County communities could participate in the planning process.  Additionally, the event would be used to provide public feedback vital to the development of the long-range plan and in determining how the county will accommodate future traffic. 

    Seven public charrettes were held throughout the five focus areas November 1-4, 2011, that concentrated on the transportation issues associated with the following roadway corridors and their adjacent communities:

    1. NC 24/27 near Carthage,
    2. NC 24/27 near Cameron,
    3. US 1 through Moore County
    4. NC 73 and NC 211 near West End, and
    5. A proposed southern route to connect the county’s western communities with the amenities in the east.

    An invitation was extended to all Moore County residents with added emphasis on residents living near the focus areas.  As participants gathered at the events, they received information packages about the long-range plan (or CTP), area transportation issues, and the guidelines to the exercise.  Over 40 staff members representing county, municipal, state, and regional agencies were present to share information about anticipated transportation needs over a four day series of meetings.  Participants were then given the opportunity to trade places with agency planners as they sat down with neighbors to form “Table Communities” and solve their area’s transportation problems, prioritize future improvements, and manage a real transportation budget. 

    For the exercise, participants were provided with area maps and asked to draw out solutions to problems outlined in an accompanying presentation with the added consideration of meeting statewide and county needs within the given budget constraints.  As there were more transportation needs than funding resources, residents found it strategic to team with their Table Community neighbors to prioritize the projects and pool resources.  The original version of the Strings and Ribbons planning tool utilized actual strings and ribbons that were placed on a map to represent ideas under consideration.  However, because of the number of scheduled charrettes and the number of estimated participants, reusable maps and erasable markers were used in the interactive work sessions.

    The exercise was a means to show participants, on an engineering level, the challenges facing Moore County in balancing needed improvements with local priorities.  It was not intended to reflect project alignments or actual construction costs.  Instead, participants were asked to consider solutions in the context of preferences such as improvements “on existing” or “south of existing” roadways.  The intent was to identify alternative solutions to local transportation problems that could be supported by residents and studied in the Moore County travel demand model and system analysis.  However, to make the endeavor a meaningful experience for both planning agencies and Moore County residents, facets of the standard Strings and Ribbons exercise were modified to gain public input about the local vision for the future of their transportation system.   

    NCDOT staff closely simulated Project Development processes that occur once recommendations enter the first stages of funding and the National Environmental Protection Act processes of environmental analysis.  Introducing these components of long-range planning to participants was designed to help residents understand that recommendations developed in a CTP needed to be based upon data and sound engineering practices to provide a locally preferred alternative that would remain viable through the stages of project development and environmental analysis.  Improvement options considered components including environmental, community, and roadway elements associated with project implementation.  Components included scenarios to construct new roadways, to expand existing roadways, to add services, and other accommodations such as transit, signalization, and greenways. 

    NCDOT compiled cost information for an assortment of hypothetical improvements within the five focus areas.  The cost basis for these improvements was provided from actual construction cost averages used by various Branches and design units within NCDOT, as well as private sector engineering firms, to make the exercise as realistic as possible.  Of course, the process was simplified to fit the application of the exercise and provide a uniform, to-scale simulation of an engineering process.  Participants fit desired construction elements together to complete their preferred transportation improvements and offer solutions to the problems presented that would be acceptable within the context of their study area communities.  Examples included, but were not limited to, bridges, culverts, roadway corridor by type and improvement, right-of-way purchases, environmental mitigation of impacts, as well as traditional improvements like lighting, sidewalks, bus routes, and traffic signal installation. 

    To further incorporate the importance of local concerns, the participants were asked to identify on the maps their top five priority resources for protection during their project development.  NCDOT staff recorded responses to help planners understand and document local priorities. Multiple databases resulted compiling priorities and mapping solutions for later use in the development of the areas long-range plan.

    For concepts pertaining to budgets and project funding, a “Moore Money” currency was designed and reproduced in various denominations from $100 to $10 million and divided into packets of $400 million per table.  These amounts were derived from the state’s historical distribution of transportation funding to Moore County and factors that included the regionally identified transportation needs quantified by TARPO to be in excess of $1.5 billion for its four-county region.  The exercise replicated current state transportation budget constraints yielding more needed transportation projects for improvement than available funding.  This aspect of the exercise further emphasized the importance of choosing economically feasible solutions and represented the real-life challenges facing North Carolina counties today as they enter projects into the State’s data-driven and competitive’ project Prioritization Process for the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). 

    As the events began, participants were signed in by staff and given an information packet which included project maps, questionnaires, NCDOT Voluntary Public Information Forms, and Comment Sheets.  Tables were set up to accommodate eight to ten people with one to two staff members per table depending on availability.  No restrictions were made on seating except to ask participants to remain at their chosen table during the exercise in lieu of participating collaboratively with other tables due mainly to time constraints.  Staff members were trained to be facilitators and, for the purpose of the exercise, took on the roles of Bankers and Tellers.   Our Bankers and Tellers assisted participants by providing guidance on game procedures, tracking purchases, and collecting data from the various surveys, questionnaires, and mapping tasks.  The exercise was not a voting process, but rather a data collection and information dissemination tool.  

    Overall, the charrettes successfully accomplished the intended objectives:  A total of 663 participants, of which 479 were unique, received information about the long-range planning process and the transportation issues associated with the focus areas.  Assessment of participant demographics, surveys, questionnaires, and mapping provided staff members with vital information about resident’s vision for their county’s transportation system.  Responses clearly indicated a disconnect between what charrette participants perceived as necessary transportation improvements and what the transportation planning agencies estimated would be needed to accommodate future traffic through 2040.  However, the events did prompt local transportation stakeholders to make unified decisions about specific corridors and provided guidance for planning agencies and partners on how to proceed with the study’s next phase of in-depth analysis.

    Pictures and examples of the data outcomes are provided in the attached document and a detailed report on the events, data, and outcomes is available on line at the Moore County CTP study web page:  http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/moorechoices/



 Lessons Learned using Primary Technique:

  • Charrettes


The charrette series accomplished multiple goals and objectives in a short time frame: attracted a large volume of participants; provided the opportunity for NCDOT to explain planning process and standard engineering practices to be used throughout the study; allowed study team to collect solutions to transportation issues acceptable within the context of the community; disseminated information about the study and importance of the long-range plan; and collected data vital to the development of the long-range plan.


Although responses showed the exercise was well understood and reflective of NCDOT project development and NEPA processes, it was a very detailed excercise that required significant staff resources to manage the activity with a large crowd. It is ideal in a setting of about thirty people and two staff members per table.


The Moore County charrettes represent one the Transportation Branch's most successful public involvement initiatives. Much was learned during the events and the lessons learned have been integrated into new processes such as using sign-in sheet addresses in combination with ArcGIS geocoding tools to assess the effectiveness of public involvement efforts and where additional efforts, if needed, should be concentrated. Likewise, new procedures are being developed that incorporate the development of demographic community profiles and understanding as the initial steps to developing the public involvement plan.

 Project Attributes

Project Primary Purpose
Mobility/System Efficiency
Target Communities
Rural, Suburban, Urban
Target Populations
Low-Income Populations, Racial or Ethnic Minorities, Seniors, Transit-Dependent Populations
Long-range Planning

 Primary Technique

  • Charrettes

 Other Techniques used

  • 12;#Brainstorming ;#32;#Fact Sheets/Newsletters;#35;#Fliers;#37;#Games and Contests;#38;#GIS Mapping;#44;#Information Materials;#67;#Presentations;#71;#Public Opinion Surveys;#95;#Visioning

 Contact Info

Scott W. Walston and Frances D. Bisby
NCDOT/Transportation Planning Branch
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