Twitter takes it to the people

Twitter has quickly become many people's main source for news. ODOT capitalized on the platform for the bridge program to keep the public aware of immediate construction updates. The forum allows the agency to target the most-impacted audience by using hashtags to create location-specific channels, which the public can search for updates on routes and projects that affect them.

The fast-paced, short-form updates kept locals in the know about traffic impacts and became an effective way to promote more detailed information hosted on other channels, particularly on high-profile projects. On the highly visible Interstate 84 Sandy River Bridge project, for example, ODOT used Twitter to remind motorists about reduced speeds in the construction zone and to share photos as work progressed.

Blogging makes inroads

The new Whilamut Passage Bridge is located between the highly engaged communities of Eugene and Springfield. Citizens cared deeply about this replacement of the old Willamette River Bridge, which involved two parks and the paths within them, the historic millrace, a busy local thoroughfare, nearby neighborhoods and the railroad. Some of the most interested community members were active bicyclists, runners and university students, who tend to use social media and engage in community issues online more often than traditional ODOT audiences.

On this landmark project, the agency launched the Willamette River Bridge blog as a pilot to explore how to engage stakeholders through social media. It provided a new digital pipeline for information not available elsewhere, such as behind-the-scenes construction photos, and proved to be a valuable tool that kept followers informed.

Over the life of the blog, ODOT posted hundreds of stories and had more than 83,000 visitors.

YouTube gives a glimpse behind the orange cones

Videos allowed the bridge program to convey important safety and project information to motorists whom it might not reach through traditional media, such as print newspapers. For example, to kick off of one of the busiest construction seasons in Oregon's history, Director Matt Garrett hosted the agency's first webcast, which highlighted work-zone safety and how travelers should prepare before hitting the road.

Videos also gave the agency a way to provide details about innovative construction. For the Elk Creek Tunnel bridge project on Oregon 38, ODOT created a video about rapid replacement, a technique in which crews build a new bridge beside the old one and then, during a short closure, slide the old bridge out of the way and the new one into place. In the time-lapsed video, viewers could see in seconds how the construction method helped local residents, coast-to-valley freight haulers and tourists avoid long detours or prolonged delays and lane closures.

On the Interstate 5 Willamette River Bridge project, team members created a series of YouTube videos to highlight the work behind the orange cones. Construction action shots and interviews with project managers provided viewers with unprecedented access, all from the comfort of home, or wherever they accessed the Internet.