The $204 million Interstate 5 Willamette River Bridge project was the occasion for many ODOT firsts, including the agency's first virtual open house, held in April 2011. The project team wanted to solicit as much public feedback on proposed design enhancements as possible, and so it hosted an online version for six days to coincide with the usual physical open house.
The communications team put all of its social media tools to work for the virtual open house. ODOT created video narrations of the artists' design concepts, which allowed stakeholders to digitally tour the proposals. The narrations were posted on YouTube and linked to the project website, where visitors could fill out an online comment form. To encourage participation, the team publicized the event through the project blog, website, Twitter and an email notice to stakeholders.
The virtual open house received nearly twice as many responses as the traditional open house. Even better, online feedback was generally more detailed, indicating that the forum is a more convenient way for the public to provide thoughtful input, potentially attracting people who might not otherwise have participated. ODOT continues to use social media to ensure its stakeholders get the information they need.