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Sept. 24, 2021

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Interstate 5 Bridge steering replacement group lays out plan for advisory, equity groups

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program Executive Steering Group — composed of representatives from regional governments and agencies — held its second meeting Monday, laying out a six-week timetable to recruit members for a Community Advisory Group and an Equity Advisory Group.

The three groups will all advise the program office team throughout the process of developing a new potential replacement for the Interstate 5 Bridge, starting with the development of Vision and Values and Purpose and Need statements for the project.

Program administrator Greg Johnson told Washington and Oregon lawmakers last week that he hoped the final versions of those statements could be ready by May. In order to meet that time line, the project office hopes to recruit members for both groups throughout December and hold the first group meetings in mid- to late January.

Applications for the equity and community groups will both go live today, according to project communications manager Lisa Keohokalole Schauer, and will stay open through Dec. 18. More information and links to the applications will be available at https://wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i5/interstate-bridge/home.

A selection committee comprised of Johnson, Chief Equity Officer Johnell Bell and interim community group co-chairs Ed Washington and Lynn Valenter will choose applicants for 15-minute interviews, which will be held from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1, and then bring recommendations back to the steering group. The goal is to notify the selected community group members by Jan. 13.

“We thought it was critically important that we stand up both the Community Advisory Group and the Equity Advisory Group around the same time in January,” Bell said, in order to allow the groups to share ideas and develop a process for coordinating between them.

The community group is intended to include representatives from multiple regional organizations and stakeholder groups, Keohokalole Schauer said, so some of its members will be selected from the pool of applicants and others will be chosen from candidates nominated by those groups.

The office has sent out informational flyers to about 250 organizations so far, she said, with about 50 more planned. The office hopes that some members can represent multiple interests, she said, because the office is hoping to limit the total number of group members to around 30.

Some of the steering group members pushed for a broad geographic focus in determining the groups to be represented in the community group. Metro President Lynn Peterson requested language for representation of daily Interstate 205 drivers, arguing that the two river crossings are part of the same system and can impact each other.

“Whether it’s during construction or operation and maintenance of the new bridge, there will be diversions,” she said.

Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Roger Millar suggested considering other regional freight corridors in general rather than I-205 specifically, and Peterson suggested doing so but listing I-205 as an example.

The group also approved its draft charter document at Monday’s meeting, clearing the way for it to become the final version.

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