Cowlitz Tribe holds event to celebrate opening of I-5 interchange

LA CENTER — Leaders and members of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe joined other area residents Tuesday at dedication and blessing of the newInterstate 5, Exit 16 interchange, which opened hours later.

Beginning Tuesday, contractor crews working for the Cowlitz Tribe started shifting traffic to the new La Center Road overpass, which includes new roundabouts and ramp alignments.

A small crowd of area residents and community leaders joined leaders and members of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new Interstate 5, Exit 16 interchange. Photo by Mike Schultz
A small crowd of area residents and community leaders joined leaders and members of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new Interstate 5, Exit 16 interchange. Photo by Mike Schultz

In addition to the traffic switch, two detours will be in place around-the-clock, for the next two weeks while crews complete the permanent remaining connections (work scheduled through Thu., April 13):

  • Drivers who use eastbound Northwest 319th Street/Northwest La Center Road to reach the northbound I-5 on-ramp will temporarily detour to southbound I-5, exit to State Route 501, and reenter the interstate to head north. This work is scheduled through Thu., April 13.
  • Drivers exiting southbound I-5 will be directed to use the roundabout at Northwest 31st Avenue on the west side of I-5 to points east of the highway. This work is scheduled through the morning of Sun., April 16.

Signs on the highway and Northwest La Center Road will help travelers navigate through the interchange, and flaggers will keep traffic moving during the first several days of the switch.

Cowlitz Indian Tribal Chairman Bill Iyall spoke to those who gathered Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the new Interstate 5, Exit 16 interchange near La Center. Photo by Mike Schultz
Cowlitz Indian Tribal Chairman Bill Iyall spoke to those who gathered Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the new Interstate 5, Exit 16 interchange near La Center. Photo by Mike Schultz

Bill Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz Tribe, spoke at Tuesday’s event. Iyall didn’t reveal a date for the opening of the Tribe’s ilani Casino. Other sources told ClarkCountyToday.com the target date for the opening is April 24.

“I’ve never seen a project come together with this proficiency,’’ said Iyall, who also referenced his 50 years of experience as a civil engineer. “Our casino will be opening soon. There will be much more development on our reservation even after we open that door.’’

Members of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe helped bless the opening of the new Interstate 5, Exit 16 interchange near La Center. Photo by Mike Schultz
Members of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe helped bless the opening of the new Interstate 5, Exit 16 interchange near La Center. Photo by Mike Schultz

Iyall also celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of the Department of Interior’s 2015 decision to allow the Cowlitz Tribe to take the 152 acres near the La Center junction into trust. That decision was announced Monday.

“That really successfully and with finality concludes a long chapter in our quest for self sufficiency,’’ Iyall told those who gathered at Tuesday’s event.

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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