VDOT Springfield Interchange
Referred to by locals as the “Mixing Bowl,” the Springfield Interchange brings together three major highways serving some 400,000 vehicles per day. In fact, the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. area has the unfortunate distinction of being home to the nation’s second worst traffic congestion. So, to improve the situation, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) came up with a plan that would separate local and interstate traffic.
But before they could even break ground, VDOT needed to build some goodwill among commuters, elected officials and business leaders who naturally suspected traffic would get worse during the construction. That responsibility fell to Siddall.
After surveying 1,500 commuters, an “honesty is the best policy” strategy was developed that entailed keeping drivers aware of the construction and offering alternate routes to avoid delays. Radio, newspaper and Internet advertising was developed promoting commuter solutions. A project newsletter with periodic updates was mailed to some 40,000 homes while springfieldinterchange.com was established to inform and educate area residents. In addition, the agency set up a speaker’s bureau to address groups and large businesses.
Going into the project, VDOT had some definitive goals they wanted the advertising and public relations efforts to achieve. Siddall didn’t let them down. Traffic volume decreased by 10,000 cars a day (four times more than the goal). Usage of new transit services far exceeded projections. The web site got more than 80,000 visits in just the first seven months. Plus an amazing 70 percent of residents saw the construction as needed and beneficial. And getting that many people in the Washington, D.C. area to agree on anything was nothing less than a miracle.