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.
- Washington, Oregon get talking about I-5 Bridge - December 11, 2018
- Lawmakers from Oregon and Washington met publicly for the first time Tuesday afternoon as part of a renewed effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. While the group didn’t come to any sweeping conclusions after the two-hour meeting at the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs in Portland, it agreed to at least keep talking. The meeting was a milestone for the latest attempt to replace the 101-year-old bridge. A year ago, Oregon legislative leaders snubbed an invitation to participate in a bistate committee created by Washington lawmakers to look into replacing the antiquated crossing. Despite a warm welcome Tuesday by Washington state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, who chaired the meeting, there was still lingering wariness from Oregon lawmakers left over from when Washington pulled out of the last attempt to replace the bridge.
- Vancouver awarded $3 million for S.E. First Street construction - December 7, 2018
- Vancouver has been awarded $3 million from the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board to help fund construction on Southeast First Street between Southeast 164th and Southeast 177th avenues. The full project extends to Southeast 192nd Avenue, but the city is focusing on the west segment to best utilize current resources. Vancouver plans to improve safety, capacity, accessibility and connectivity via the road improvements. The stretch of road on Southeast First Street was originally constructed as a rural two-lane road and now needs upgrades to serve as a more urban street system. Upgrades include sidewalks, bike facilities, stormwater bioretention and street lights. The price of the improvements is $14 million.
- Oregon to join in Interstate 5 Bridge replacement talks - December 7, 2018
- Five years after pulling its support for a controversial replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge, Washington has convinced Oregon to resume talks about the increasingly outmoded crossing. On Friday, Washington Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, announced that Oregon legislative leaders have agreed to appoint members to a bistate committee to discuss replacing the century-old bridge. The committee was created by a bill signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year that’s intended to restart the process for replacing the bridge. Oregon officials have been leery about restarting talks after Republican lawmakers in Washington scuttled the last attempt to replace the bridge in 2013. Last year, the committee met for the first time without representatives from Oregon.
- Oregon transportation board submits I-5, I-205 tolling plan application to feds - December 6, 2018
- The Oregon Transportation Commission voted Thursday to approve the state’s application to the federal government to consider tolling on portions of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 in Portland. The five-member commission voted unanimously to submit the application at its regular meeting in Salem. The proposed stretches of tolled roads would include Interstate 5 between Southwest Multnomah Boulevard and Northeast Going Street, a roughly 7-mile stretch through the heart of Portland, and Interstate 205 in and around the Abernethy Bridge around West Linn and Oregon City. Few details beyond the general location of the toll areas have yet to be worked out, and would likely take years to decide, according to the commission and Oregon Department of Transportation staff. However, the proposal calls for variable toll rates, or value pricing. The toll pricing could vary based on traffic or time of day.
- Vancouver federal legislative agenda: New I-5 bridge top goal - December 5, 2018
- In Vancouver, it all comes down to the Interstate 5 Bridge. The city council was briefed on its 2019 federal legislative agenda Monday night, and unsurprisingly, replacing the I-5 Bridge was the top goal. “We need to lay the groundwork to build the relationships once again in Oregon,” said Joel Rubin, the city’s federal government liaison. Rubin said that having U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in his new position as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman should help Southwest Washington. DeFazio said after the November election that he anticipated working on a $500 billion bipartisan infrastructure package by June and intends to put focus on projects of “regional and national significance.”
- Oregon moving forward with I-5, I-205 tolls - November 29, 2018
- The Oregon Transportation Commission will vote next week whether to create tolls along stretches of freeway through the Portland metro area in Oregon, marking the next step in a multiyear process. The tolled areas along Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 would not extend north to the state line under the current proposal. The proposed toll roads would include Interstate 5 between Southwest Multnomah Boulevard and Northeast Going Street, a roughly 7-mile stretch through the heart of Portland, and Interstate 205 in and around the Abernethy Bridge around West Linn and Oregon City. The proposed tolling would also use variable toll rates, or value pricing, that would vary based on traffic or time of day. Details, including the cost of the tolls, are to be determined. The Oregon Department of Transportation released its proposal and analysis for the toll system Thursday. At a basic level, the state is asking for the federal government’s OK to continue reviewing and planning tolls along those stretches of I-5 and I-205.
- Vancouver-to-Portland passenger river vessel finds support, prompts questions - November 27, 2018
- Commuters hoping that a new Interstate 5 Bridge will save them from traffic congestion are likely to be waiting a long time, but a new Portland-based nonprofit is pitching an alternative commuting idea that it says could be up and running in a much shorter timeframe: a Portland-to-Vancouver ferry service. The nonprofit group, which calls itself Friends of Frog Ferry, unveiled the concept last week and hosted a press conference Tuesday to lay out some of the details. The ferry is envisioned to run between Vancouver’s Terminal 1 and Portland’s Salmon Street Spring dock, serving commuters and tourists. Lead organizer Susan Bladholm made one thing very clear: the proposed ferry is intended to complement a future replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge, which the group says it also supports. The ferry wouldn’t solve congestion on its own, Bladholm said, but it would make a dent — and supporters believe the service could launch as early as 2022.
- Herrera Beutler tackles I-5 Bridge lifts - November 26, 2018
- Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler formally asked the U.S. Coast Guard to review its drawbridge lift protocol for the Interstate 5 Bridge on Monday, specifically concerning lifts during rush hour. Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voiced her concerns in a letter sent to U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral David Throop. As it stands now, bridge lifts are restricted between 6:30 and 9 a.m. and 2:30 and 6 p.m. on weekdays to ease the impacts on congestion. But the number of cars crossing the bridge has increased. In 1995, about 116,500 vehicles crossed the bridge daily. Now that number is closer to 140,000, according to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.
- Portland-Vancouver ferry will take ‘courage’ - November 19, 2018
- Portland is “woefully lagging behind” dozens of fellow river cities around the globe, backers of an upstart ferry project said Friday, and it’s past time for the metro area and the state to find the political courage — and the cash — to help make a larger system happen here. Susan Bladholm, president of the newly formed Friends of Frog Ferry nonprofit, told the state’s top transportation board that her organization has assembled a coalition of 450 supporters — including key business owners with waterfront property like the Zidell family in Southwest Portland. Now, she said, Oregon must help pay for an in-depth study of what it would take to bring ferry service to the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. “This is a big, bold, audacious, challenging project,” said Bladholm, who was involved with Cycle Oregon from its inception and worked in economic development for the state before working in the private sector. “It’s going to take an enormous amount of courage.”
- No more stopping for lights: Highway 500 safety project work complete - November 14, 2018
- Three months after announcing the removal of two traffic lights on state Highway 500 and a few weeks after the project was delayed due to rain, the Washington State Department of Transportation wrapped up the work with little fanfare over the weekend. Both directions of the roadway shut down at 11 p.m. Friday and reopened within 48 hours. The work was actually completed ahead of schedule, WSDOT spokeswoman Tamara Greenwell said. “Crews finished about 12 hours early, which for a short weekend closure we were impressed with. The weather worked out,” Greenwell said. “We were able to open around 4 that Sunday afternoon.” Crews removed the traffic lights from the highway, replacing the intersections at Northeast 42nd Avenue/Falk Road and Northeast 54th Avenue/Stapleton Road with right-in/right-out interchanges. They also installed a median barrier and extended striping on the merging and diverging lanes to give drivers more room to exit and enter the highway.
- Highway 500 work set for weekend - November 6, 2018
- There’s a Russian idiom that translates to “the first crepe always comes out wrong,” meaning a person has to try more than once to succeed. After getting rained out on its first try at reconfiguring state Highway 500, the Washington State Department of Transportation hopes a second try this weekend will be successful. To do a traffic reconfiguration project, the agency needs to close part of the highway between St. Johns Boulevard and Northeast Andresen Road. Drivers are likely to see construction crews setting up in the area prior to closure. The plan is to have the highway completely reconfigured and reopened by 4 a.m. Monday.
- C-Tran board calls for new I-5 bridge - October 16, 2018
- The C-Tran Board of Directors is now the most recent Southwest Washington governing body to urge state leaders to take the earliest step of replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. On Tuesday, the transit agency approved a resolution that “supports efforts to analyze all options available to reduce congestion in the region,” starting with the I-5 Bridge. It also urges Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature to “adequately fund” the Washington State Department of Transportation’s analysis “of options for congestion reduction for the region, including the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge.” While the city of Vancouver, Clark County Council, all ports in the county and others have passed similar resolutions, C-Tran’s is different because it is the only public entity that directly uses the bridge on a daily basis — and that’s reflected in the document’s language.