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.
- 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.”
- Oregon appoints eight to I-5 Bridge panel - August 14, 2019
- Oregon is revving up efforts on the south side of the Columbia River to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek announced Wednesday they have appointed eight legislators to an I-5 Bridge committee. “That thing needs to be fixed,” Courtney, D-Salem, said in a phone interview. “I just want to get it done. … That bridge is in very bad shape, whether it’s earthquakes you are talking about or the volume of traffic.” Courtney said replacing the bridge “is so overdue” and “we don’t have time to play cutesy political games.” “If you lose that bridge, we don’t know what suffering is,” he said about an earthquake toppling the twin spans, which were built in 1917 and 1958. “We are going to be in a world of hurt.”
- Ridgefield project to make it safer for pedestrians to access wildlife refuge, downtown - August 10, 2019
- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge visitors have walked along winding Main Avenue in a ditch for years to reach the Carty Unit entrance, but that ditch will disappear in the next two months. Worked started this summer on the Ridgefield Main Avenue Access Improvements Project, a joint project between the refuge, city, Clark County and Federal Highway Administration to make it easier to get from downtown Ridgefield to the refuge. The project, expected to cost between $3 million and $5 million, will create dedicated bicycle and pedestrian access to the refuge from existing sidewalks near the Ridgefield city limits. It is being funded primarily by the Federal Highway Administration, which will contribute a bit more than $3.1 million. Other contributions for the project also came from the city, county and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region.
- Highway 500 reconfiguration passes 6-month crash test - August 8, 2019
- Preliminary numbers indicate nearly a 90-percent drop in vehicle crashes after the Washington State Department of Transportation removed two traffic signals on state Highway 500. The data support WSDOT’s decision to remove signals at Falk Road/42nd Avenue and Stapleton Road/54th Avenue and exceed the 70 percent expected reduction in crashes that state officials used prior to the traffic changes. There were 396 reported crashes at or near the two locations during a five-year period that ended Aug. 31. That’s an average of about 40 crashes in six months or slightly more than one crash every five days. During the first six months after the traffic signals were removed, through May, there were only four reported crashes at the same locations.
- $1.7 million awarded for Northeast 68th Street sidewalk - July 21, 2019
- Clark County’s plans to build a sidewalk along Northeast 68th Street in Hazel Dell have received a $1.7 million boost from the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council. The council’s board of directors earlier this month selected the project, plus another proposed sidewalk improvement in Hazel Dell and a third project in Skamania County, to receive funds through the federal transportation alternatives program. Building a sidewalk on Northeast 68th Street has been a longtime priority for area residents and the Northeast Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association.
- County close to decision on development in 179th Street area - July 10, 2019
- Clark County is zeroing in on a $66.5 million plan so developers can build more than 1,500 single-family houses, townhomes and apartments near the Northeast 179th Street corridor without the county raising property taxes. County officials have developed a string of options and corresponding costs for lifting “urban holding,” a planning designation that has blocked development across more than 2,200 acres near the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds until money has been allocated for road improvements. During a work session Wednesday, the Clark County Council heard about two new options that would fund the road improvements.
- C-Tran named Transit System of the Year - July 9, 2019
- The American Public Transportation Association has selected C-Tran as its Transit System of the Year for 2019. C-Tran CEO Shawn Donaghy said the award is “the highest honor a transit agency can receive in North America.” The announcement was made Tuesday in Vancouver. The Vancouver-based transit agency hosted a barbecue lunch and program for employees and community leaders.
- Local View: Crossing Columbia River a vital issue - July 7, 2019
- The ability to get from point A to point B in a reliable, safe, cost-effective way is central to Washington’s quality of life and strong economy. Transportation plans developed by local, regional, and state agencies ensure that our policies and investments work together to keep Washington moving. Washington Transportation Plan 2040 and Beyond, adopted recently by the State Transportation Commission, is a key part of our coordinated planning and investment. When my fellow transportation commissioners and I listened to input from constituents across the state as we were developing 2040 and Beyond, we heard growing concerns about transportation challenges people face and we also heard innovative ideas and strategies to address these challenges. The single topic receiving the most comments during the public review of 2040 and Beyond is the Washington-Oregon connection across the Columbia River.
- Port, Partners and Community Open New Section of Bicycle/Pedestrian Pathway Along NW Lower River Road - July 2, 2019
- A crowd of bicyclists, state and local partners, walkers and Port of Vancouver USA staff converged on a spot along Northwest Lower River Road today to cut the ribbon on a new section of bicycle/pedestrian pathway and celebrate improved connectivity for the community. The almost half-mile section of landscaped, asphalt path connects existing sections of trail along State Route 501/Northwest Lower River Road between the port’s administrative offices and Farwest Steel to the west. It’s one section of an overall path that, when fully complete, will extend 4.5 miles along SR 501.