Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council

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!

Using Technology to Improve Traffic Operations

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.

December 11, 2017 ⋅ PermaLinkArchive

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.

Oregon official releases Columbia River Crossing review - February 13, 2019
Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has released his office’s review of the history of the ill-fated Columbia River Crossing project, and its recommendations for a more successful next try. The report released Wednesday summarizes the history of the Columbia River Crossing, from the construction of the Interstate 5 Bridge in 1917, to the formation of the two-state Columbia River Crossing project team in 2004 to the dissolution of the project in 2014. The report reviews the various planning, design and political issues that hindered the project’s progress on to its end, when Washington’s Senate turned down a funding package for the project to complement Oregon’s $450 million share, effectively ending the project.
Report: I-5 Bridge is nation’s 29th worst bottleneck - February 12, 2019
The Interstate 5 Bridge ranks as the nation’s 29th worst bottleneck on a top 100 list and the worst in Washington, according to American Transportation Research Institute findings issued Tuesday. The 2019 Top Truck Bottleneck List assesses the level of truck-oriented congestion at 300 locations on the national highway system. The analysis, based on truck GPS data from nearly 1 million heavy-duty trucks, uses customized software and analysis methods, along with terabytes of data from trucking operations to produce a congestion-impact ranking for each location, the institute said in a news release. The institute’s findings show that traveling on the I-5 Bridge between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. traffic flows at 50 mph to 55 mph. Traveling outside that window, as any veteran I-5 Bridge driver knows, and you’re taking your chances.
Washington state to end emissions testing - January 31, 2019
Nearly 40 years after Washington began checking vehicles’ emissions, the program is slated to end on Dec. 31 of this year. As car technology has evolved and cleaner vehicles hit the road, Washington officials have been preparing for the expiration of the law establishing what had been mandatory testing in some of the most populous counties. Starting in 2020, vehicle owners will no longer be required to have their vehicle’s emissions tested before renewing their registration. Vehicles scheduled for testing in 2019 still need an emissions test before they can renew their tabs, according to the state Department of Ecology. “Air quality in Washington is much cleaner than when the program began in 1982, and every community in our state currently meets all federal air quality standards,” the state agency said.
Widening project targets Highway 14 congestion - January 30, 2019
A $25 million project aimed at reducing chronic congestion on state Highway 14 will add lanes to the highway between Interstate 205 and Southeast 164th Avenue, along with a westbound, peak-use shoulder lane for use during heavy traffic. The Washington State Department of Transportation’s plan, which is still in the design phase, would add another lane of travel going both directions, turning the four-lane highway into a six-lane highway between I-205 and 164th. The plan also includes adding a peak-use lane along the outermost shoulder of westbound Highway 14, creating a potential fourth lane between 164th Avenue and Interstate 205.
Lawmakers set to tackle transportation - January 28, 2019
With another legislative session underway in Olympia, lawmakers are poised to consider new transportation spending, traffic-enforcement measures and – once again – car-tab fees. Embattled anti-tax activist Tim Eyman collected enough signatures to qualify an initiative that would cap car-tab fees at $30 a year. Lawmakers must now either approve that measure, allow it to go to the ballot or pass an alternative to appear alongside Eyman’s measure on the ballot. Car tabs are a significant source of revenue for Sound Transit, which uses an inflated formula approved by the Legislature to determine the value of vehicles and how much drivers pay for car tabs. That formula has drawn attention in recent years after voters approved the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package in 2016 and some drivers felt sticker shock at their increased car-tab fees.
Working in Clark County: Marc Gross, Interstate 5 Bridge supervisor - January 28, 2019
One could think about the Interstate 5 Bridge as being sort of alive. An Oregon Department of Transportation crew of 10 works inside of the structure’s bridge house, an area not immediately noticeable to any of the estimated 131,000 average daily passers-by going northbound and southbound in the month of December. They man the fort, so to speak, for 12-hour shifts at a time, required to answer the call of a passing vessel within 30 seconds. If the ship needs extra clearance to get beneath the 102-year-old green giant, the crew member needs to raise the bridge’s lift span.
C-Tran to present option for second bus rapid transit line - January 26, 2019
After months of outreach and deliberation, C-Tran will begin introducing its preferred option for a second bus rapid transit line. The first presentation will take place at Monday’s Vancouver City Council meeting, where the council will get its initial look at a locally preferred option for the line running along Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard. The first Vine route opened in January 2017 and runs along East Fourth Plain Boulevard. Ridership continues to increase, only further encouraging C-Tran to seek a second line. The transit agency reported ridership increased more than 19 percent in 2018 with more than 1.3 million individual trips taken on the Vine. The recommendation from the Corridor Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee is to align the new route with East Evergreen Boulevard in downtown – connecting with the existing Turtle Place stop used by the Fourth Plain Vine – and with a new transit center near S.E. 192nd Ave. on the east side.
Inslee: Light rail is a must - January 10, 2019
Gov. Jay Inslee has a message for Southwest Washington: The replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge spanning the Columbia River will include light rail, or it won’t be built. Speaking at a preview of the 2019 legislative session, which begins Monday, Inslee said that light rail will be a feature of the replacement bridge because Oregon will pay for half of the project and has insisted that it be included. Inslee said the situation might be different if Washington was paying for the entire project. But, he said, it “takes two to tango.” “What I want to make clear, though, is that the Southwest Washington community needs to come together around a consensus,” said Inslee. “At the moment, unless Oregon changes its view, you’re going to have to put light rail on the bridge if you want a bridge.”
FHA says Oregon’s tolling plans ‘likely’ eligible for approval - January 10, 2019
The Federal Highway Administration has given Oregon what it needs to move into the next phase of implementing tolls on Interstates 5 and 205. The FHA sent the Oregon Department of Transportation a letter Jan. 8 that outlined the federal requirements to put tolls on interstate highways. “This is a major step that will help us keep moving forward in what will be a long process,” said Tammy Baney, chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, in a press release. “In this letter, the FHWA acknowledges the work completed in our feasibility analysis and points us toward the next steps we need to take to use tolling in Oregon to help us maintain a transportation system that will meet our growing needs.” The letter includes a response to three issues Oregon needs to address to move forward: eligibility under federal tolling programs; required analysis to receive needed classification under the National Environmental Policy Act; and an anticipated timeline and any opportunities to streamline project review.
Interstate 5 traffic causes freight travel fatigue - January 6, 2019
It’s 2:10 p.m. on a Monday and northbound traffic has slowed to a crawl near the Interstate 5 Bridge. Nearby, Steve Johnson is polishing off breakfast at the Cascade Grill in the Jubitz Travel Center. Johnson’s day started in Pierce County, delivering produce to the Costco Distribution Center in Sumner. After unloading his cargo, he headed south to the Jubitz mini-city at 10210 N. Vancouver Way in Portland. His leased Freightliner Cascadia tractor-trailer sits in the parking lot. Johnson’s been working as an independent, long-haul truck driver for a quarter-century. He agreed to an interview, between bites of breakfast, with the belief the focus would be exclusively on his evolving experience driving across the Interstate 5 Bridge. But Johnson soon steered the conversation to his opinions about truck-stop food, elephant ears, driver safety and blues festivals. The ever-increasing freight travel times over the Interstate 5 Bridge was among the arguments Columbia River Crossing proponents cited when arguing for a replacement span.
10th Avenue Bridge now open to drivers, cyclists, pedestrians - January 5, 2019
After over a year of construction, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians can now use a new bridge spanning Whipple Creek outside of Ridgefield. Clark County Public works has opened the new 10th Avenue Bridge to traffic as of Thursday afternoon, according to a county press release. The 450-foot-long bridge stands about 48 feet above Whipple Creek and was undertaken to improve the flow of traffic by creating another north-south roadway in the area. It includes shoulders, bike lanes, sidewalks and stormwater runoff facilities. The project was also undertaken to accommodate anticipated development nearby and to relieve congestion associated with large events at the nearby Sunlight Supply Amphitheater or at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. Previously, many drivers had to use the 179th Street interchange from Interstate 5.
WSDOT launches study to improve travel near SR 500 and NE Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver - January 3, 2019
It should come as no surprise to travelers who use the intersection of State Route 500 and Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard that it is one of the most congested highway intersections in Clark County. To address the current traffic problems, the Washington State Department of Transportation is studying the intersection with local partners to identify possible solutions to improve safety, mobility and travel reliability in the area. “This intersection has one of the highest rates of crashes, congestion and travel delays in the entire county,” said WSDOT Regional Planning Manager Michael Williams. “Feedback from people who use this corridor will help us identify the best possible solutions to improve travel for all users.” Members of the community are encouraged to participate in an online survey, during the month of January.
Herrera Beutler, state Republicans want ‘alternatives to light rail’ in bridge planning - December 19, 2018
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and seven Southwest Washington state lawmakers have written to Gov. Jay Inslee asking him to “keep mass transit alternatives to light rail on the table” as part of negotiations to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River. The letter was prompted by news last week that Inslee included $17.5 million in his proposed budget for a project office to replace the I-5 Bridge. The budget item included language that light rail would be part of the project. He also made remarks to The Columbian that including the means of transit on the bridge would signal to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who has insisted on light rail on a replacement crossing, that Washington would be a partner on the project. Inslee also said that the budget item would convey to the federal government that an actual project is in the works.
Ribbon cut on Northeast 10th Avenue bridge over Whipple Creek - December 18, 2018
Clark County staff, contractors, elected officials and community members gathered Tuesday south of Ridgefield to commemorate a new bridge over Whipple Creek, which will tie together Northeast 10th Avenue between Northeast 154th and 164th streets once it opens to traffic in the next few weeks. County Public Works Director Ahmad Qayoumi said the stretch has been part of the county’s list of arterial roads in need of support for some time, largely because there aren’t many north-south roadways in the area, especially around the Clark County Fairgrounds and the growing neighborhoods south of Ridgefield. For many drivers, the most convenient access was the 179th Street interchange from Interstate 5, he said. The 450-foot-long bridge stands about 48 feet above Whipple Creek, adding shoulders to Northeast 10th Avenue in places where there weren’t any, bicycle lanes, sidewalks and stormwater runoff facilities, according to the county, along with roadway improvements beyond the span.