Friday, July 10, 2009

Hood Canal Bridge Blog signing off

Just the other day, I was reading through the Hood Canal Bridge Blog comments posted during 20-cycle tests that eventually led up to the June 3 reopening and – before I knew it – I found my heart racing and an all-too-familiar itch to post an update.

It’s been more than a month since we reopened the bridge and I was quite honestly surprised at my reaction. I was also very encouraged.

The HCB blog was pretty unique because it truly seemed remind people something that many tend to forget – the government is comprised of people just like you. (Gasp!) No, it’s true, really. It allowed us to do away with some of the stodgy overtones and just chat. While this is the nature of blogs, I felt there was a real connection that went beyond cyberspace and the keyboard – for me at least.

More than once, I’d get an update at a meeting or on the phone and say something like, “I’ve got to get this to my people.” “My people” being those who were relying on the blog for the latest project information, and chiming in with questions and comments.

In total, more than 31,000 people – which, according to the 2000 US Census, is roughly the combined populations of Port Angeles and Port Townsend – visited the blog, and posted about 700 comments.

The HCB Blog had a pulse all its own, a true sense of community and real interaction that kept things lively, informative and even entertaining.

When people got upset, others would step in and do something that is pretty much unheard of – defend a state agency. I’d always try to take such negative comments in stride, but admittedly enjoyed seeing the community “police” itself as it were.

Truth be told, I’ve got a pretty thick skin – and a thick skull to match, if you ask my wife – which is the result of more than a decade working at community newspapers. The thick skull is something I was born with, if you ask my mother.

People who have followed the blog likely won’t have to ask either of them.

Our blog has served its purpose and run its course – an obstacle course at times – and is closing up shop on July 17.

And so, as I write my final post here, I’d just like to express my sincerest thanks to all who visited, followed and shared their thoughts on the HCB Blog. I am proud to have been a part of such a grand community, humbled by your praise and honored to have been able to lend a hand.

“Bikini” Joe Irwin
WSDOT Communications

You can still have your questions answered and comments addressed by e-mailing me at irwinj@wsdot.wa.gov or calling 253-305-6412.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reading your post made me sad. You mean it's over? I feel like I am losing a friend.

irwinj@wsdot.wa.gov said...

Me too, man. But fear not, I'm sure my best days of blogging lie ahead and not behind. Thanks for being a part of this. Folks like yourself are what the blog was all about after all.

A reader hesitated, then said...

At the end of the day, after all the smooth talking, the half a billion dollar financial mess was a sad example of bad planning.

Business as usual: some get fat, others take it, with sugar. Anything can be spun.

How much did the whole marketing effort cost us?

And inept archaeological consultants overseen by DOT staff, plus lax planning enabling cost overruns bumped the price up, and up, and up.

I don't blame the tribe one bit for stopping bulldozers from smashing through their ancestors' remains.

But I do wonder if those consultants and the State employees charged with overseeing them are still working after failing so utterly, costing us about a hundred million dollars, and bringing tension and strife to the Port Angeles community, and if anyone has apologized. Who is accountable?

It would be amusing, but all this meant less money for education, health care, and so many other underfunded needs of Washington's citizens.

I'm impressed with the actual work of rebuilding the bridge, but not at all with the planning on this project.

Shunra said...

This has been a very well done blogging experience - and a good model for other government agencies to study and emulate.

Thanks for being there for us during the tense and somewhat scary closure of our lifeline/bridge!

Anonymous said...

A reader...

That's the most rambling, incoherent bunch of nonsense I have seen on this blog through its life. Thanks for saving your best for last. I'm not even sure what your point is after reading the whole thing. At least you weren't in charge of the planning...

irwinj@wsdot.wa.gov said...

Thank you for reading it consistently and I hope it wasn't too incoherent throughout its life. Rambling? I can live with that as long as folks got some use out of the information.

As for planning... If I was in charge of doing so for the bridge closure and construction, I'd still be doing so.

I'm still planning my wedding, and I've been married more than five years.