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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: WSDOT News Release: WSDOT wins national award for communications on I-5 project in Seattle

11/14/2008  11:30:00 AM
Deb Flavin 703-304-3421
Sue Romero  (206) 684-8548

WSDOT wins national award for communications on I-5 project in Seattle


NOVEMBER 14, 2008

WSDOT wins national award for communications on I-5 project in Seattle

Drivers received tools needed to avoid delays during August 2007 construction

San Antonio, TX/November 14, 2008 - The Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) campaign to warn commuters of massive lane closures on Interstate 5 in Seattle won the National Partnership for Highway Quality's (NPHQ) 2008 Gold Award for Public Communications.

The "Making A Difference" Award celebrates WSDOT's successful efforts to get the word out to drivers and transit riders about the I-5 Spokane Street to I-90 Bridge Repair Project in downtown Seattle. In August 2007 WSDOT reduced northbound I-5 to just two to three lanes around the clock for two weeks while crews replaced failing expansion joints and resurfaced lanes on a one-mile section of the freeway.

Despite the extensive closures, backups rarely extended more than two miles from the I-5/I-90 interchange, a location renowned as one of the worst bottlenecks in the country.

"High-profile projects on busy urban corridors like I-5 in Seattle depend on effective public communications for their success," said NPHQ Executive Director Bob Templeton. "WSDOT showed how public communications can keep traffic moving despite significant weekday closures."

Washington Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond credited an extensive public and media outreach campaign for helping a large number of people make other plans during the project. But it was the public's choices that made all the difference in it's success

"The project's success really came from the public choosing to travel different routes, try public transit, work from home or defer their trips," said Hammond. "Aggressive, proactive communications helped make drivers and transit users aware of the closures far in advance, and that gave them the time and tools necessary to make changes to their commutes."

WSDOT used three communications strategies that were key to minimizing backups:

* Early outreach to employers, community groups, government agencies and the freight industry gave them time to plan, gave them a stake in the project and helped WSDOT reach a wider audience.

* Frequent, themed media events before the closure, daily media events during the closure, daily news releases, frequent Web page updates and a variety of spokespeople and experts kept the media engaged, reinforced WSDOT messaging and created broad public awareness of the project, its effect on traffic and commute options.

* Eye-catching, simple graphics grabbed people's attention and provided succinct project information.

NPHQ is a national coalition of public highway agencies, industry organizations and private firms founded in 1992 as the National Quality Initiative. For more than 15 years, NPHQ continues to be the only National program that brings public highway agencies and private industry together to combine their expertise and to cooperatively lead the advancement in highway quality, safety and service to the highway users. For more information on the NPHQ and its awards: . For more information on the I-5 public outreach campaign:

Greg Phipps WSDOT Communications Urban Corridors Office 206-464-1265

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