• Successful Public Involvement on a Limited Budget through Online Media

    The Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Washington State with over 253,000 people. At the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, these communities are linked by three major bridges. With a growing population, congestion on the bridges in 2010 was increasing, prompting the funding of a regional study among the local agencies and the Legislature to look at all reasonable alternatives for a new Columbia River Crossing in the area.


    As a member of a team including H.W. Lochner Engineers and J-U-B Engineers, The Langdon Group was hired to manage the public involvement process. This posed the significant challenge of reaching and effectively engaging four distinct communities (including the City of West Richland) to guide a process of determining 2-3 potential crossing locations for further study, from an initial list of 10. The geographically diverse region coupled with a very limited public involvement budget helped determine that online media would play a key role in the process.

    In April 2010, our team launched a project website, Twitter page, Constant Contact E-Newsletter and online survey to provide the community with up-to-date information and receive valuable public input.

    Our strategy was to utilize the local media and existing stakeholder email databases as a means to drive the public to the website. The plan worked— In response to exceptional media coverage, the website generated over 1,100 survey responses and 300 written comments were received. At the May 20, 2010 Steering Committee meeting, this input helped refine the initial 10 crossing alternatives to four.

    In August 2010, a second survey was launched and due to media coverage responding to the news release, nearly 700 members of the public provided online input. The carefully crafted surveys provided valuable demographical and driving habit information to help determine where people in the region were going, when and why. Survey data ultimately revealed three preferred crossing locations, approved by the Steering Committee for further study.

    Throughout the course of the project, members of the Tri-Cities print, radio and television media followed the project through regular Twitter messages and Constant Contact E-Newsletter updates. The Twitter and E-Newsletter campaigns proved so successful that news outlets in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane provided media coverage of an October Public Meeting.


    Some traditional public involvement techniques were utilized (Public Open House and information booth at the County Fair), but the comments gathered through those processes were minimal compared to the input gathered via the online tools. Some public comments received praised the approach as the most effective way of reaching this diverse community.​

 Lessons Learned using Primary Technique:

  • Social Media/Social Networking


​Ability to reach a large and geographically diverse audience on a limited budget

Although there was an open house and outreach event at the County Fair, the online tools limited the outreach to internet users

​Described above.

 Project Attributes

Project Primary Purpose
Regional Connection Improvement
Target Communities
Commercial/Retail, Established Neighborhood, Government/Subsidized Housing, Industrial, New Neighborhoods, Rural, Suburban, Urban
Target Populations
Long-range Planning
Highway or Interchange

 Primary Technique

  • Social Media/Social Networking

 Other Techniques used

  • 25;#Display Boards;#30;#Email;#63;#Open Houses/Open Forum Hearings ;#71;#Public Opinion Surveys;#111;#Social Media/Social Networking;#84;#Technology Driven Public Meetings;#98;#Websites

 Contact Info

Bryant Kuechle
The Langdon Group
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