Regional Transportation Planning, Research, Investment Strategies, and Funding.

RTC Board endorses Resolutions to Advance I-5 Bridge Replacement
The RTC Board of Directors endorses two Resolutions which advance a Regional Transportation Plan (2014) project priority; to complete an I-5 bridge replacement project within the next 20 years. The resolutions are a current statement of support for ongoing Washington state legislative efforts to move forward with policy and project related activities to replacing the I-5 bridges. The first resolution (02-17-03) recommends that the Washington Legislature designate a future I-5 bridge replacement project as a “Project of Statewide Significance.” With that formal designation, a future project may benefit from provisions in state statute which foster additional Washington state agency coordination and expedited project reviews and permitting. The second resolution (02-17-04) supports clearing of impediments in law, be it state or federal law. Such a statement of support may further focus efforts to accelerate planning, funding and construction of a future project.
Vancouver begins NE 18th Street Construction
The City of Vancouver is beginning work to widen NE 18th Street in east Vancouver. The project will add additional capacity to this busy corridor which connects to the recently completed interchange at NE 18th Street and Interstate 205. NE 18th Street from Four Seasons Lane to NE 136th Avenue will be widened to include two travel lanes in each direction, new bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and other urban street upgrades. Construction costs are estimated at $12.5 million, with RTC providing $5.5 million of that cost in federal transportation grants. The project will be completed in 2018.
Board Endorses CCTA Legislative Priorities
The RTC Board endorsed the Clark County Transportation Alliance 2017 Policy Statement at their January meeting. The CCTA is a multi-agency public and private sector coalition that forms each year to set a comprehensive set of regional priorities and documents those in a policy statement which is then used with state and federal representatives to inform and advocate for needed regional transportation investments. This year’s Policy Statement has been endorsed by twenty-eight agencies, and focuses on a few key areas including: supporting efforts to move forward planning towards an I-5 bridge replacement project; repositioning key regional projects with the state Legislature so they can be built sooner; pursuing new funding priority unfunded projects; securing additional funding for transit, the Ports; and, supporting improvements to state law which support economic development and related infrastructure programs.
Federal Review: Transportation Planning Process
Transportation is the key... The roads, rails, paths, and trails we use to travel from one place to another form the framework of our communities. MPOs (such as RTC and Metro in Portland), in coordination with the public, help identify future transportation needs and coordinate highway and transit investments in urbanized areas. These transportation needs are described in planning and programming documents such as RTC’s Regional Transportation Plan, Transportation Improvement Program, and Congestion Management Process. The FHWA and the FTA are responsible for certifying (every 4 years) that the planning processes of the MPOs are consistent with Federal requirements. Representatives from FHWA and FTA will be conducting a planning process review in the Portland/Vancouver region in late-January and early-February, 2017, and are asking for public comment on the region’s transportation planning process.
Agency Paves the Way for Fourth Plain Bus Rapid Transit
RTC completed the High-Capacity Transit Study, along with its partner agencies, in 2008. This study identified BRT improvements along the Fourth Plain, Highway 99, and Mill Plain corridors with significant bus improvements in the I-205 Corridor, tagging Fourth Plain as the priority corridor. RTC then provided seed funding in the form of a $4 million regional competitive CMAQ grant for the design, planning, and engineering of the Fourth Plain BRT route. Leveraging RTC’s seed funding, C-TRAN was able to obtain a $3 million state regional mobility grant and a $38.4 million federal Small Starts grant to fund final construction. The Vine will provide enhanced bus service along primarily the Fourth Plain corridor between Vancouver Mall and Downtown Vancouver.
Three Local Projects Granted Safety Funding
WSDOT has recently awarded over $1.6 million in federal Innovative Safety funds for three local projects. The funds will be used for the design and construction of countermeasures that will reduce fatal and serious injury crashes. The following projects received 2016 Innovative Safety Program Grants:
  • Clark County, Curve Safety Improvement Project — $331,000
  • Clark County, Hazel Dell Avenue Adaptive Traffic Signals — $1,004,000
  • Klickitat County, BZ Glenwood Highway High Friction Surface Treatment — $275,000
2016 Annual Report
In 2016, RTC deployed over $8.8 million in seed capital funds for 10 regional projects in Clark County. These important projects are designed to upgrade the region’s signal, roadway, transit, and trail networks. RTC partnered with C-TRAN and WSDOT to initiate a regional evaluation of operating transit buses on the shoulders of the regional freeways as part of a Bus on Shoulder Feasibility Study. This study, along with other regional transportation system management improvements funded by the VAST program, push the region to implement strategies which optimize the use and efficiency of the regional transportation networks. As the congestion on major commute routes increases, strategies like those will become more important. Continued monitoring of the region’s major transportation networks was a focus for RTC as part of this year’s re-designed Congestion Monitoring Report. Select recommendations for responding to the region’s commute congestion conditions are documented in the CMP Report and are a cornerstone of the region’s Regional Transportation Plan.
C-TRAN to Receive a Grant for additional Hybrid Buses
WSDOT is recommending that C-TRAN receive $5,812,993 in state funds through the 2017-2019 Regional Mobility Grant Program. With this proposal, C-TRAN will purchase eight 40-foot hybrid diesel/electric buses and two 60-foot hybrid diesel/electric buses to accommodate a 24,000 vehicle hour service expansion. The prioritize list of projects has been submitted to the state legislature for final approval.
Two Local Projects Granted Pedestrian and Bicycle Funding
WSDOT is recommending that two local projects receive funding through the 2017-2019 Pedestrian and Bicycle Program. Battle Ground received $906,707 to construct a shared use path along SR-503. Clark County received $410,000 to construct sidewalk and bicycle lane upgrades on Highway 99. The prioritized list of projects has been submitted to the state legislature for final approval.
Eleven Local Projects Granted $13.2 Million by TIB
The Washington State Transportation Improvement Board funds high priority transportation projects in communities throughout the state of Washington to enhance the movement of people, goods and services. State-wide, the TIB awarded transportation grants totaling $121.2 million to local agencies on November 18. The following eleven transportation projects, in southwest Washington (Clark, Skamania, and Klickitat counties), were awarded grants totaling $13.2 million...   [show]
The TSMO Plan: Guiding Investment in Smart Technology
RTC and the Vancouver Area Smart Trek agencies have released the 2016 update to the Transportation System Management and Operations Plan, first developed and adopted by the RTC Board in June 2011. The TSMO Plan guides the implementation of operational strategies and supporting Intelligent Transportation Systems technologies for Clark County in Southwest Washington. It presents a structure for accomplishing transportation system management objectives and making future ITS investments and capital improvements necessary to accomplish those objectives.
Board Selects Transportation Projects for Funding
On October 4, the RTC Board selected 10 projects to receive approximately $8.8 million in regionally allocated federal transportation funds. Projects will be programmed in year 2020, and include funding for arterial improvements along NE 119th Street East, NE 137th Avenue, and NE Blair Road. Funding will also be used for C-TRAN Hybrid Buses and arterial operational improvements throughout urban Clark County.
In addition, the RTC Board approved the 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program, which indicates a funding commitment for approximately $219 million in transportation improvements over the next four years in the Clark County region.
Seed Funding Paves the Way for Fisher’s Park-n-Ride Expansion
Transit access increases for east Clark county residents and businesses. RTC provided seed funding in the form of an $800,000 regionally competitive CMAQ grant for the design, planning, and engineering of the recently opened Fisher’s Landing Park-n-Ride expansion. C-TRAN also garnered a $1.7 million state regional mobility grant to fund final construction. This expansion grows the capacity of the Park-n-Ride to 759 spaces serving seven transit routes in east Clark County.
I-205, 18th Street interchange opens
After more than a decade of work, the new Interstate 205 Mill Plain Interchange to Northeast 18th Street was declared officially open Wednesday afternoon. Staff members of Washington’s federal delegation, legislators from the 17th and 49th Legislative Districts, a staffer from the governor’s office, transportation officials and Vancouver officials gathered on the 18th Street offramp for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. The occasion celebrated the new interchange, and officials congratulated the Washington State Department of Transportation on completing the project. “This has been a long time coming. It’s the end of an era,” said Bart Gernhart, WSDOT assistant regional administrator, referencing the interchange’s status as the final project in Clark County to be completed with the state 2005 Transportation Partnership Program funding packages.
Monitoring Report Indicates Increased Congestion
The 2015 Monitoring Report and its findings were endorsed by the RTC Board at its July meeting. The report indicates congestion has been on the rise for the past five years, and has resulted in an increase in both morning and evening peak hour delay. The major hot spots for regional congestion are at the Columbia River bridges for travel between Clark County and Portland. Morning peak hour delay has significantly increased on the I-5 South corridor, with a backup regularly extending from the I-5 Columbia River Bridge north to Main Street.
Clark County Completes Hazel Dell–Felida Traffic Signal Optimization Project
Clark County recently completed the upgrade of traffic detection and coordination of traffic signals to improve traffic flow in the Hazel Dell-Felida area. The project was implemented using $378,000 in federal CMAQ funds that were awarded by RTC.
Clark County Completes Barberton Traffic Signal Optimization Project
Clark County recently completed the upgrade of traffic detection and coordination of traffic signals to improve traffic flow in the Barberton area. The project was implemented using $707,300 in federal CMAQ funds that were awarded by RTC.
Regional Transportation Issues the Focus of June Meeting
The Washington State Transportation Commission was in Vancouver to meet with local officials and business leaders to learn about the region’s transportation issues, challenges and successes. Read about it here.
WSDOT Completes SR-14 Traveler Information
WSDOT recently add a communications link, traffic detection, and roadway cameras to provide additional traveler information along SR-14, from SE 164th Avenue to NW 6th Avenue. The project was constructed using $679,375 in federal CMAQ Program funds that were awarded by RTC.
WSDOT Completes SR-503 Traveler Information
WSDOT recently add a communications link, traffic detection, and roadway cameras to provide additional traveler information along SR-503, from NE 119th Street to SR-502. The project was constructed using $760,000 in federal CMAQ Program funds that were awarded by RTC.
Fiscal Year 2017 Unified Planning Work Program Adopted
RTC annually prepares a UPWP to document the proposed transportation planning activities RTC and regional partners will carry out in the forthcoming year. After reviewing a draft at its April 5 meeting and after making the document available for public review, the Board adopted the FY 2017 UPWP at its May 3 meeting. Fiscal Year 2017 begins July 1, 2016, and goes through June 30, 2017. The UPWP is a requirement of a coordinated transportation planning process required by federal and state governments.
RTC to Study Bus Use of Freeway Shoulders
RTC is embarking on a study to evaluate the feasibility of transit vehicles using freeway shoulders on parts of SR-14 and I-205. Allowing buses to travel on the shoulder during times of heavy traffic congestion is an approach that has been used successfully for about 50 years in different areas of the United States. Experience has shown that this strategy can improve transit without impairing mainline traffic and provides the opportunity for a low cost option to boost ridership and make transit more efficient.
Clark County Population Climbs Rapidly
Clark County’s estimated population has risen to 459,495 residents, as growth resumes in the area. Between 2014 and 2015, the county grew by 2 percent, netting 9,054 new people, according to data released from the Census Bureau.~ The Columbian
RTC will be reporting annual traffic conditions later this spring as part of its Congestion Management Process. Stay tuned to see how this rapid rise in population has affected regional transportation conditions.
GMA Certification Process Guide and Checklist Adopted
As the state-designated RTPO for the region that includes Clark County, RTC has certain responsibilities under the state’s Growth Management Act. These responsibilities include certification of the transportation element of local Comprehensive Plans. On March 1, the RTC Board adopted a Guide to RTC’s Certification Process that clarifies RTC’s role in certifying local plans as part of Washington State’s growth management planning process. The Guide includes a checklist for local jurisdictions to complete to help them and RTC fulfill certification requirements.
Comprehensive Federal Transportation Bill Funds State and Regional Programs
Congress passed and President Obama signed a new federal transportation funding bill which stabilizes federal funding to state and metropolitan regions for planning and project improvements. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act,” sets new policy direction and funding levels for the federal aid transportation program, and among other key initiatives adds new competitive grants which promote investments in the nation’s strategic freight corridors. In addition, the FAST Act retains the multi-modal emphasis of the federal program by ensuring funding of transit programs as well as the Transportation Alternatives Program. The RTC region’s Congressional delegation, Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representative Herrera Beutler, each provided meaningful leadership in many strategic areas and each supported passage in Congress. More preliminary information about the FAST Act as summarized by the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations can be found here.
Bi-state Travel Times now Available on Vancouver Area Freeways
RTC programmed funds in 2012, through the Vancouver Area Smart Trek Program, for the Washington portion of the Bi-State Travel Time project, a joint collaboration between the Washington and Oregon Departments of Transportation. RTC assisted in the project by planning and facilitating meetings between the transportation departments to define and develop the project, resolve technical issues on data sharing and integration, and on route and destination information.  (See also.)

News Feed

Below are an assortment of recent news items related to or impacting local transportation issues. Most of these stories were authored outside the agency, and will take you to a new page on (or PDF document from) an external site.

I-5 Bridge bill draws favorable reviews at hearing - March 28, 2017
A Senate panel heard favorable reviews Tuesday for a House bill intended to restart the process to replace the chronically congested Interstate 5 Bridge. The panel also briefly discussed efforts to reconcile the bill with a companion measure. Lawmakers earlier this month passed House Bill 2095 with a 60-38 vote, and it had its initial hearing before the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
Effort to expedite 179th/I-5 interchange funding denied - March 27, 2017
Local leaders hoping to get funding sooner rather than later to improve the outdated Interstate 5 interchange at Northeast 179th Street suffered a setback after two budget-writing committees in the state Legislature denied their request. In the lead-up to this year’s legislative session, the Clark County Transportation Alliance, a coalition of 28 local governments and business groups, assembled a list of transportation projects they asked lawmakers to prioritize. Included among those projects is a new interchange at Northeast 179th Street, at Exit 9 near the Clark County Fairgrounds near Ridgefield. In 2015, the Legislature approved a transportation funding package that made $50 million available to improve the interchange. However, the package didn’t make the money available until 2023.
C-Tran, other agencies beta testing efare system using smart card - March 8, 2017
Now that The Vine has taken root, C-Tran is focused on its next project: changing the way riders pay for a bus fare. Later this year, rather than counting coins and paying in cash, public transit riders through the Vancouver-Portland metro area will be able to pay with a quick swipe of a smart card, bank card or smartphone via an electronic-fare payment system being implemented by C-Tran, Trimet and Portland Streetcar. Last week, 250 regional riders started beta testing the efare system with a smart card called Hop Fastpass.
Clark County council backs I-5 bridge bill - March 8, 2017
The Clark County Council on Wednesday joined the list of local governmental bodies that have lent varying degrees of support to legislation that’s intended to jumpstart the planning process for a new Interstate 5 bridge spanning the Columbia River. At its Wednesday afternoon board time meeting, the council voted 3-2 to give its formal support to Senate Bill 5806, which passed the state Senate last month and establishes an Oregon-Washington legislative action committee that will initiate the process to replace the aging, chronically congested bridge. Most of the county’s legislative delegation backs the idea and a House companion bill passed out of the House earlier this month.
‘Northwest Passage’ tollway proposal stirs debate - March 1, 2017
Washington lawmakers aren’t the only ones looking to ease congestion on the region’s roads this legislative session. An Oregon state legislator wants to give local jurisdictions the power to create what he’s dubbed the Northwest Passage — a new tollway west of Interstate 5. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Rich Vial, a Republican who represents Scholls, would allow local jurisdictions to create special districts to build and operate highways. It would be financed through tolls or local taxes and not rely on state or federal money.
New bypass highway in Washington County? Oregon lawmaker wants to pave the way - March 1, 2017
A freshman state representative filed legislation Tuesday that would lay groundwork for constructing a new highway west of Interstate 5 through Washington County and up over the Columbia River. Shying away from the much-maligned Westside Bypass moniker, the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, is giving his dream road a new name: the Northwest Passage. If passed, Vial’s bill would allow cities and counties anywhere in the state to form special districts for entering into public-private partnerships to build and operate limited-access highways.
I-5 Bridge bill is downgraded - February 21, 2017
One Southwest Washington lawmaker called the current effort to revive talks of replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River a “small step forward” toward easing the congestion between Portland and Vancouver. On Tuesday, in a Senate Transportation Committee hearing in Olympia, it became more of a crawl. The bill was downgraded to declare the I-5 Bridge something closer to “a project of great public importance,” according to Sen. Annette Cleveland. An earlier version would have declared it a project of statewide significance, which could have helped expedite the permitting process. The current measure postpones that declaration, but it carves out room for lawmakers to make it in the future.
I-5 Bridge bill gets hearings in Olympia - February 20, 2017
In the state Legislature on Monday, three words rang loudest from supporters of a bill that would make replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge a project of statewide significance: bicameral, bipartisan and priority. But not everyone was convinced, however, during committee hearings on the legislation in the House and Senate. “I’m pleased to bring forth legislation that represents consensus,” state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said while introducing Senate Bill 5608 to the Senate Transportation Committee. “It represents commitment of our Southwest Washington delegation to work together to solve transportation challenges.”
Off Beat: Bridge took its toll on man and beast 100 years ago - February 13, 2017
A century ago, it must have been the equivalent of being first in line to see the newest “Star Wars”film. On Feb. 15, 1917, Gordon Stuart camped out at 4 a.m. so he could be first in line to buy a ticket. A ticket to walk across the bridge. It seems weird on a lot of levels, but that was part of our coverage when the bridge between Vancouver and Portland opened on Feb. 14, 1917. On Sunday, the centennial of that event was our lead story, as Columbian reporter Dameon Pesanti covered 100 years of Interstate Bridge history.
Party celebrates bridge’s birthday - February 11, 2017
When the Interstate Bridge opened 100 years ago, thousands gathered to cross for the first time. The Vancouver Daily Columbian called it the greatest day in the city’s history. The Oregonian called Feb. 14, 1917, “a day when dreams came true, a day of political fervor when governors and mayors talked and shook hands and mingled with crowds; bands played, cannons boomed, school was out, stores and offices closed.” Oregonians rushing to grab a bite in Vancouver reportedly stripped the city’s restaurants clean within hours. One hundred years later, as the bridge celebrates its birthday, revelers sang “Happy Birthday” and cut cake in a somewhat less dynamic celebration.
City of Vancouver backs I-5 Bridge replacement resolution - February 6, 2017
The Vancouver City Council on Monday night supported an effort to declare replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge a project of statewide significance. “What we’re saying is the most important project to us is not a third bridge somewhere, it’s the antiquated (Interstate 5) Bridge now,” Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman said. The council gave their support to the resolution, which the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council is in the midst of considering and expected to vote on today. If approved, the resolution does little except add to the voices calling on legislators to act swiftly to ease congestion along the I-5 corridor.