Community members selected for I-5 bridge replacement steering group

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A 32-member group representing community interests for the project to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridge system over the Columbia River has been finalized, with its first virtual meeting set for Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Members of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project Community Advisory Group were confirmed by consensus by another group organized to help in the conception of the replacement project, the executive steering group. That 12-member body includes representatives on both sides of the river, such as Oregon and Washington’s transportation departments, transit authorities, city governments for Portland and Vancouver and representatives serving on both the executive and community groups.

During a meeting of the executive steering group Jan. 20, Interstate Bridge Replacement Chief Equity Officer Johnell Bell explained those appointed to the community advisory group were chosen based on their ability to represent more than one stakeholder group, and if they were members from communities of color, members who use the bridge or are impacted by it themselves and members of the regional transportation network. A variety of ages for members was also part of the criteria.

Local representatives included Pacific Northwest Waterways Association Government Relations Director Dena Horton; Clark College President Karin Edwards; ZoomInfo Vice President of Human Resources and Facilities Michelle Brewer, representing the Columbia River Economic Development Council; Cowlitz Indian Tribe Transportation Director Kim Stube; Human Services Council Transportation Director Michael Kelly; Southwest Washington League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Sergeant-at-arms Javier Navarro; neighborhood association and Vancouver Neighborhood Transportation Safety Alliance appointee Michael Martin-Tellis; Vancouver NAACP President Jasmine Tolbert; and Workforce Southwest Washington Chief Executive Officer Kevin Perkey.

Apart from representatives for specific agencies and organizations there were eight at-large positions with appointments to serve on the group. For those positions, Interstate Bridge Replacement Program Strategic Communications Lead Lisa Keohokalole Schauer said there were 498 applicants for the eight seats available — four from Washington and four from Oregon. Washington’s at-large members included Sam Kim, Sarah Hall, Robin Jay Richardson and Mikaela Williams.

Keohokalole Schauer remarked that those selected responded to the news as “if we were giving them a trip to Disneyland,” noting the enthusiasm for serving in their respective capacities. 

According to data presented at the meeting, 30 percent of members of the community advisory group were younger than 44. Keohokalole explained that inclusion of younger members was important given that “some of us are interested in building a bridge that we hope to use for a while, but I suspect that (the younger members) are going to use it for a little longer,” she remarked.

Keohokalole Schauer said that 12 of the group members travel or represent groups that travel across the bridge at least three times a week, with seven of those members being daily users. The majority of group members used personal vehicles, though there were six that used transit and three that biked across the bridge.

The community advisory group was one of three of the groups established to provide insight for the replacement project. At the meeting Bell said project coordinators were still finalizing the appointees for the roughly 30-member equity group, which he explained was designed in order to ensure that the bridge replacement project was equitable for all those impacted by the work.

With advisory group members set, Interstate Bridge Replacement Project Administrator Greg Johnson said that the project was “shifting from first gear into second gear” with what Johnson called a “very public phase” of the replacement project’s program. 

“We were walking fast; we’re going to start running at this point,” Johnson remarked.

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