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.
- Pollution from vehicles down in Clark County, but outdoor burning rises - June 25, 2020
- The cloud of COVID-19 comes with a thin silver lining: air pollution usually caused by commuting vehicles is down in major metropolitan areas, due to more people staying home. But in Clark County, the full picture is a little more complicated. Our region hasn’t seen pollution drop as significantly. In fact, according to various metrics monitored by the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency, there hasn’t been much change at all – although emissions from cars are down, other kinds of pollutants, like those that come from wood burning, are up.
- I-5, I-205 bridge crossings to and from Clark County plummet early on during pandemic - June 14, 2020
- Traffic numbers on the Interstate 5 Bridge and Interstate 205 Bridge plummeted during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, with daily vehicle crossings on I-5 dropping from a weekday average of about 139,000 in the first week of March to about 85,000 at the start of April. The numbers reflect a large-scale shift in commuting patterns as thousands of Clark County residents with Portland jobs made the switch to working from home. Daily crossings have begun to climb again, but local transportation officials have an important message for participants of the Great Telecommuting Experiment of 2020: Be ready to do it again. Clark County is about three months out from the start of the I-5 Bridge trunnion replacement project, which will relegate all of the freeway’s traffic to the southbound span for up to nine days while the northbound span undergoes an extensive renovation of its lift mechanism.
- Work begins on Interstate 5 bus lane - June 13, 2020
- C-Tran and the Washington State Department of Transportation will start construction this weekend on a project that will create a bus-only lane on the left shoulder of a 5-mile stretch of southbound Interstate 5 through Vancouver. The $4.9 million project will narrow the existing traffic lanes of I-5 from 12 feet wide to 11 feet, allowing the shoulder to be widened to 14 feet for bus use. The bus-only lane will run from around 99th Street in Hazel Dell to the Interstate 5 Bridge, allowing buses to bypass morning commute congestion if speeds drop below 35 miles per hour. The lanes will continue to look and operate like normal shoulders for other motorists, and they will still be available for disabled vehicles, incident response and other emergencies.
- ODOT and WSDOT name key leader to head the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program - June 11, 2020
- The Oregon Department of Transportation and Washington State Department of Transportation are excited to announce the appointment of Greg Johnson as the program administrator to lead the bi-state Interstate Bridge Replacement Program office. In this role, Johnson will jointly represent both ODOT and WSDOT to lead program development efforts using a transparent, data-driven process that prioritizes equity and inclusion. Replacing the aging Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River with a seismically resilient, multimodal structure that provides improved mobility for people, goods and services is a high priority for the bi-state region. Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee have directed the state DOTs to open the program office to restart work that identifies a bridge replacement solution for this nationally significant corridor.
- Work begins to convert the southbound shoulder of I-5 in Vancouver into a bus-only lane, June 13 - June 11, 2020
- People who ride C-TRAN buses on southbound Interstate 5 in Vancouver will soon have a more reliable trip during peak travel times. On Saturday, June 13, C-TRAN in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Transportation, will begin work to construct a bus-only lane using the left shoulder of southbound I-5, between the 99th Street Station and the Interstate Bridge. During peak early morning travel times, traffic along southbound I-5 routinely experiences heavy congestion, causing significant backups and delays and an increasing potential for crashes. The bus-only lane allows C-TRAN buses to bypass congestion by traveling on the shoulder, when speeds drop below 35 mph throughout this 5-mile stretch of highway.
- A Proposed Ferry Service Between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland Just Got a $300,000 Grant - June 9, 2020
- Commuters could be one step closer to bypassing the typically clogged freeways over the Columbia River via a new ferry service between downtown Portland and Vancouver, Wash. The Murdock Trust has provided Friends of the Frog Ferry with a $300,000 grant to study the benefits and costs of adding public water transportation in the Portland metro area. The nonprofit estimates a ferry would get passengers from Vancouver to Portland in 38 minutes. The proposed route would include multiple stops, from Cathedral Park in North Portland to Oregon City, in vessels that could move 596 passengers per trip.
- Agencies propose cuts in key programs as Washington looks at budget woes - June 9, 2020
- Washington residents could see dramatic cuts in road projects, care for seniors and college financial aid next year as state agencies try to adjust to a loss of tax dollars from the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. State agencies turned in proposals Monday to cut 15% from their budgets over the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, as well as the two years after that. Among the suggested reductions are the following: $949 million from Transportation Department programs, with some of the biggest cuts coming in highway construction, maintenance and ferry service. The total includes about $500 million the department hasn’t spent on projects since mid March when much of the state’s construction temporarily halted, but doesn’t account for the cost of restarting those projects and making any changes.
- C-Tran’s Mill Plain Vine project secures federal funding - May 29, 2020
- C-Tran’s Mill Plain Vine project reached a significant milestone Friday when the Federal Transit Administration announced that it has allocated $24.9 million for the planned bus rapid transit line. The federal funding will cover approximately half of the project’s $50 million cost. The $24.9 million allocation fully matches what C-Tran had requested for the project. The agency was confident it had a strong application, according to chief external affairs officer Scott Patterson, but the news came much sooner than expected; C-Tran had been hoping to hear back by the end of the year. “We were surprised but also elated that they’ve announced it as soon as they have,” he said. Patterson said the agency’s biggest concern was that the funding would be delayed for some reason, which would have pushed back the whole project timeline. But Friday’s announcement means the FTA has committed to having the funding available when construction begins next year.
- C-Tran says bus service holding steady - May 14, 2020
- Despite unprecedented operational and budgetary challenges from the COVID-19 crisis, C-Tran bus service has persisted at essentially the same level as before the pandemic, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. That was the core message from C-Tran CEO Shawn Donaghy during a Tuesday evening report delivered to the transit agency’s board of directors. The agency is also forging ahead with several key projects, he said, most notably, the planned Mill Plain bus rapid transit line. “Our intention is to run as close as we can to full service – that’s been our goal since Day 1,” he said. Bus ridership plummeted in March as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. Rider numbers have begun to slowly climb in the past couple of weeks, Donaghy said, but they remain far below normal; ridership in the week ending May 2 was down 55.4 percent year-over-year.