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Washington state officials plan to make the Interstate 5 corridor a focal point in emerging green technology, as the governor's office this week unveiled a plan to install electric vehicle charging stations along the freeway.

The "Electric Highway" project, funded by $1.3 million in federal stimulus money, calls for the construction of charging stations at set intervals over the length of I-5 in Washington — one of which is being proposed for a site south of Centralia and north of Longview/Kelso, according to a press release from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

WSDOT officials say they are negotiating with Longview-based Cowlitz Public Utilities District to provide the power for the station, implying the station could be built anywhere between Winlock and the Longview/Kelso area.

The station will be one of two to be built in the first stage of the project, and the second stage includes building stations at the Gee Creek and Custer rest areas on the south and north ends of Interstate 5, respectively.

"We want to offer charging stations every 40 to 60 miles. That's our eventual goal," said WSDOT's Tonia Buell. "Our first project is to get people who own electric vehicles from Olympia to Portland with no problem."

Buell said WSDOT is researching areas between the Kalama River Road exit at milepost 32, and just north of the Winlock interchange at milepost 64. Officials are trying to factor in public accessibility and the availability of electric transformers in the area.

Dave Andrew, spokesman for the Cowlitz PUD, said officials have been in brief discussions with board members, mentioning a potential site at the Toutle rest area just south of the Lewis County line.

"We've met a couple times and discussed that possibility," Andrew said. "We don't have much information on it yet, but the board is definitely excited to hear what's going on and that we could be a part of it."

WSDOT is looking to hire contractors by autumn to begin work on the project. As it stands, the closest electric car recharging facility to Lewis County is located at the Lacey branch of the Timberland Regional Library.

(c) 2010, The Chronicle, Centralia, Wash. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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