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.
- Clark Asks: Why not replace I-5 Bridge trunnion while traffic’s light? - March 22, 2020
- With people hunkered down at home because of COVID-19, wouldn’t now be a good time to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge’s cracked trunnion? The Oregon Department of Transportation confirmed that bridge traffic has declined since large sectors of the community – schools, businesses, stores, theaters, gyms, bars and restaurants not offering takeout, drive-through or delivery service – closed to limit the virus’s spread. That said, ODOT is sticking with the Sept. 12-20 schedule to close the northbound span and replace portions of the drawbridge’s lifting mechanism. The needed custom parts are being fabricated in Alabama and aren’t expected to arrive here until August.
- Construction to begin on easing Mill Plain congestion near I-205 - February 25, 2020
- Construction will start next month to improve traffic flow along one of the most heavily traveled streets in Vancouver. An average of 39,000 vehicles a day use the half-mile-long section of Mill Plain Boulevard near Interstate 205, from Northeast 104th Avenue east to Chkalov Drive. Last month, the Vancouver City Council awarded a $3.65 million contract to Rotschy Inc. of Vancouver to improve traffic flow and safety. The overall project, including design and right-of-way acquisition, is expected to cost $10.1 million.
- Washington’s deadliest occupation? Driving - February 18, 2020
- The most dangerous thing to do at work in the state of Washington in 2018, according to statistics released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was something most adults do just about every day – drive. Transportation incidents accounted for 34 percent of the 86 fatal occupational injuries suffered in the Evergreen State in 2018, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics press release. That number is actually a little bit lower than the national average of 40 percent transportation-related incidents.
- Region braces for trunnion trauma - February 13, 2020
- For anyone obsessed with the upcoming closure of the Interstate 5 Bridge’s northbound span, set your countdown clock for 212 days. That’s how long until the span, which opened 103 years ago, shuts down for up to nine days, starting Sept. 12 and ending Sept. 20. The closure is to replace two trunnions, part of the drawbridge’s lifting mechanism that allows tall vessels to pass under the green structure. The work will replace sheaves, or wheels about 12 feet in diameter, sheave covers, cables and trunnions, which are axles 20 inches in diameter that help lift and lower the bridge.
- Tolling on I-5, I-205 in Oregon ‘years away’ - February 5, 2020
- Oregon is pushing ahead with plans to toll portions of Interstate 205 and Interstate 5 in the Portland area, but it would be years before any tolls are collected. The Oregon Department of Transportation says a two-year environmental study under federal law will begin this spring for tolling a portion of I-205 on or near the Abernethy Bridge over the Willamette River, between Oregon City and West Linn. Plans for tolling a 7-mile stretch of I-5 through Portland would have a much bigger effect on Clark County drivers. That tolling project is lagging 12 to 18 months behind the I-205 work, in part, because of the need to coordinate with proposed tolling on the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project.