Transportation Issues in the News
The following article was prepared by RTC staff. We felt this topic would be of broad interest to our site’s visitors and offer insight into at least one emphasis area of the agency’s current focus. We plan to update these feature articles on a regular basis, so check back for new content!
The Vancouver Area Smart Trek (VAST) program, led by RTC, is a partnership of transportation agencies in the Clark County region that work to improve transportation system performance by collaborating on signal systems, freeway and arterial management, traveler information, and transit signal priority projects through the use of smart technology and the system infrastructure needed to support it.
The VAST program focuses on the non-capital side of regional transportation planning. The VAST agencies (WSDOT, Clark County, City of Vancouver, C-TRAN, and City of Camas) have been cooperating since 2001 to make better use of existing transportation facilities by improving system efficiency and performance without expanding road capacity.
This cooperation has been a valuable pathway for developing and securing funding for ITS/operations projects totaling more than $27 million in federal funding over the last 15 years, resulting in projects that directly improve transportation operations and building the supporting communications technology systems.
Projects funded through the program include central signal system upgrades, new signal controllers, signal optimization, ramp metering, freeway and arterial detection, cameras, variable message signs, and transit signal priority as well as the fiber and network communications infrastructure needed for connecting ITS devices.
VAST collaboration has also led to other successful partnerships. RTC and the VAST agencies have an ongoing partnership with Portland State University in the regional transportation data archive known as Portal. The Portal archive contains, in a single location, historical and real-time transportation data from agencies in the Vancouver-Portland region and can be used by researchers, planners, traffic engineers, and the public to look at transportation performance throughout the region.
Fiber optic networks are vital to communicating with and operating transportation devices in the field for and bringing data back to agency operations centers. VAST agencies have had an agreement in place since 2006 to share unused fiber capacity with each other saving agency costs and resources instead of having to build new fiber routes separately. This agreement has led to 115 miles of shared fiber, saving agencies from $17 to $21 million than if they were to construct their own projects.
In looking to future transportation trends and advances in technology, many experts envision tremendous growth of connected vehicles, which can exchange data with roadside infrastructure, and autonomous, or self driving, vehicles. Forecasts on the impact of these imminent mobility changes vary wildly. RTC, in cooperation with the VAST partners, is starting a conversation with regional stakeholders to make sense of the possible impact on roadways, land use, and transit service and is an area that will be explored in 2018.
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.
- New I-5 Bridge project: Here we go, again … again - October 13, 2019
- Political voices on both sides of the Columbia River are striking a positive tone and avoiding past battles as they launch a second effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. Lurking beneath the veneer of tranquility are the same issues that polarized the region a decade ago: opposition to tolling, hostility toward light rail, support for a third Columbia River bridge, concerns about climate change, and a sneaking suspicion this $3 billion-plus megaproject will cost too much and deliver too little. Nearly $200 million was spent on the Columbia River Crossing. The project achieved important milestones, including the federal government’s December 2011 decision that it had met the National Environmental Policy Act’s stringent provisions. Eighteen months later, the project fell apart.
- Open house: Improving safety and trip reliability on I-5 and SR 501/Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver - October 9, 2019
- Community members are invited to attend an open house to learn about future improvements planned along southbound Interstate 5 and State Route 501/Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver. Growth and development is contributing to increased traffic backups and delays. In response, the Washington State Department of Transportation is teaming with the city of Vancouver, the Oregon Department of Transportation, C-TRAN and the Port of Vancouver to share information about several upcoming projects designed to help keep traffic moving safely, improve freight access and reduce congestion.
- Regional Transportation Council approves $14.2 million in federal grants - October 1, 2019
- Fifteen transportation projects will receive $14.2 million in federal funds, including realigning West Jefferson Street and Kauffman Avenue in downtown Vancouver. The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, with little discussion, approved the grants Tuesday, directing money from different federal programs to local transportation projects. Grant recipients went through a competitive process, and each project was evaluated and ranked using criteria adopted by the Regional Transportation Council’s board of directors.
- Washington, Oregon get another 5 years on I-5 bridge funds - September 24, 2019
- Washington and Oregon have five more years to make substantial progress on replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge to avoid repaying $140 million in federal dollars spent on the failed Columbia River Crossing. The two states faced an initial Sept. 30, 2014, deadline to get the $3 billion-plus project underway. The Federal Highway Administration previously granted a five-year extension, which means Washington and Oregon would be obligated to repay the $140 million if efforts to replace the bridge were not renewed by Sept. 30. The two states last month requested a second extension, this one for 10 years, to revive the bridge, freeway and transit project.
- Comments sought on $343.8 million transportation program - September 3, 2019
- Interested in knowing what major transportation projects are scheduled to be built in Clark County during the next four years? The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council is seeking public comments on a draft $343.8 million transportation improvement program. The Regional Transportation Council develops the four-year program through a coordinated process with local cities, Clark County, the Washington State Department of Transportation and C-Tran. The entire 142-page draft document can be found online.
- Oregon kicks in $9 million for I-5 Bridge replacement - August 16, 2019
- Oregon has provided $9 million toward operating an office to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. The Oregon Transportation Commission, meeting Friday in Ashland, Ore., increased a proposed $5 million contribution to underscore the project’s importance and to come closer to the Washington Legislature’s $35 million contribution earlier this year. “I just want to make sure we are sending a message of interest and moving forward on this,” said Bob Van Brocklin, vice chairman of the five-member commission. “And not just a message to our partner state, but a message to our citizenry that we recognize this a major piece, a major element, of congestion relief.”