Woodland Exit 21 interchange project delayed to 2028


Drivers to and from Woodland should expect traffic delays for the next four years as Woodland’s Exit 21 improvement project has been rescheduled to take place in 2028-29 due to state requirements.

Woodland’s Interstate-5 Exit 21 interchange, the city’s main point of entry, faces significant congestion during peak hours. Following five years of preliminary work, the City of Woodland approved Kittleson and Associates, a consulting and engineering firm, to evaluate potential traffic solutions earlier this year. Through coordination with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which maintains the state road, consultants will submit a preferred design to the City Council for approval. Currently, two early designs reduce potential traffic from enhanced traffic signals or new roundabouts off the exit.

In February, the city secured $2.6 million from Cowlitz County to initiate the preconstruction phase. Consultants projected that the project would secure necessary permits and complete its design phase by November 2026 in a March update to the City Council. However, during last week’s meeting on July 1, project manager Darren Hippenstiel announced that the project timeline has been extended to 2028 due to WSDOT requirements.

Before greenlighting the project, WSDOT mandates a “biological assessment” must be conducted and submitted by the consulting firm. This assessment will analyze native species and habitats near the project and potential negative effects. Hippenstiel noted that road improvements may introduce potential pollutants, necessitating an assessment to be forwarded to WSDOT before the project is approved.

“We weren’t anticipating the need to have to prepare a biological assessment for the project. We were expecting, when we started this effort, that we would be able to utilize WSDOT standards for the bulk of the work that we were doing, and the project would be qualified given the source of the funding,” Hippenstiel explained.

When asked by the council, Hippenstiel said the assessment would highlight necessary mitigation for local wildlife. Accordingly, the firm cannot draft more than 60% of the design, as redrafting the design after the assessment may cost more than the $2.6 million allocated.

Kittleson and Associates are set to finish 60% of the project’s design by August 2025, with plans to submit a biological assessment in December of the same year. According to the consulting firm, the assessment review process is expected to span two to three years. Pending approval, anticipated between early to late 2028, the firm will plan for construction, slated potentially from 2028 through 2029.