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.
- Legislature OKs bill to boost project to replace I-5 Bridge - April 11, 2019
- While many of the details of a replacement Interstate 5 Bridge have yet to be worked out, Washington lawmakers have overwhelmingly passed a bill that’s intended to hasten the project’s development once an agreement is struck. On Wednesday, the Senate passed HB 1994, which would create a process to designate transportation projects as being of statewide significance and is squarely aimed at expediting the replacement of the bridge. The bill passed on a 41-5 vote with the support of Sens. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, and Ann Rivers, R-La Center. Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, was excused. According to a staff summary of the bill, an eligible project must “contain a bridge that connects two states, that has a reasonable construction cost estimate of at least $500 million.” Projects with this designation would need to meet criteria to relieve congestion, improve freight mobility, provide safety improvements and enhance regional economic development opportunities. Under the bill, the Washington State Department of Transportation would expedite the ’project’s completion and assemble a team of state, local and private officials to meet the project’s planning and permitting needs.
- Oregon governor: Time to plan new Interstate 5 bridge is now - April 2, 2019
- Gov. Kate Brown wants Oregon to accelerate plans to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. Assuming Washington’s Legislature approves a $17.5 million request from Gov. Jay Inslee to open a new bistate office to lead design, engineering and public outreach for a new bridge, Brown said Oregon must be ready to act. If the money comes through, that joint office should be opened by the end of the year, Brown said. In a March 20 letter to the chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, Brown said the aging bridge spanning the Columbia River is “a seismic risk, a freight bottleneck, a barrier to effective public transportation and a source of some of the worst gridlock in the nation.” “Its current condition poses a threat to Oregon’s economic vitality,” Brown wrote to Tammy Baney, who leads the state’s top transportation decision-making body, “and is negatively impacting the livability of our state.”
- Senate Democrats release two-year transportation budget - March 26, 2019
- Democrats in the state Senate have released their two-year transportation budget, proposing $9.9 billion in spending on areas that broadly mirror a counterpart proposal in the state House. The budget, unveiled by the head of the Senate transportation committee Tuesday, includes money to begin electrifying the state’s ferry system, jump-start planning on a replacement for the Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River, and make a start on a multibillion-dollar court order over salmon spawning barriers. Advancing the process to replace the century-old I-5 Bridge has been a priority of Clark County lawmakers and other community leaders for the current legislative session.
- $500 million ODOT plan addresses Rose Quarter bottleneck issue - March 25, 2019
- For years, Clark County critics of the failed Columbia River Crossing project complained that Oregon should work first to fix the bottleneck on Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter. Now Oregon Department of Transportation officials have a $500 million plan to do just that. But the project has drawn a lot of hostility from a variety of groups south of the river, ranging from bicyclists to the Portland Public Schools. That leaves Clark County with at least two things to think about: Will Oregon ever find the consensus to fix a stretch of freeway that vexes Clark County motorists? And what might that conflict mean for nascent attempts at a new Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project?
- Officials: take senior transportation into account when developing - March 18, 2019
- Changing the way local governments look at development and how they apply transit to their designs can help assure that Clark County residents will be able to age in place. That was the takeaway of a summit on transportation hosted at Clark College February 21. Spurred in part by a report from the Clark County Commission on Aging released early this year, the summit featured local agency leaders who spoke on what steps needed to be taken to facilitate aging in place. The event brought in about 80 individuals who participated during survey questions that interspersed the summit. The last question dealt with where local governments and agencies should focus their services to help individuals age in place. Most respondents selected community design and proximity to destinations, followed closely by universal mobility as a service.
- C-Tran approves basic outline for new bus rapid transit line - March 15, 2019
- C-Tran’s board earlier this week approved the basic outline for a bus rapid transit line along Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard from downtown Vancouver to just west of Southeast 192nd Avenue – an early step in the process that will allow the agency to start more detailed design work on the bus line, which could open by 2023. The line would travel along the Mill Plain corridor from a new transit center near 192nd Avenue to downtown Vancouver via East Evergreen Boulevard. It would be the city’s second bus rapid transit line, following The Vine, which travels along the East Fourth Plain Boulevard corridor. The “rapid” in bus rapid transit comes from added efficiency. For C-Tran, that means The Vine uses 60-foot buses as opposed to 40-foot buses. Passengers pay before boarding as opposed to when they step on, and the buses can jump in line at some intersections thanks to special traffic lights.
- Interstate 5 tunnel: To be or not to be? - March 10, 2019
- As predictable as traffic jams heading onto the Interstate 5 Bridge, state legislators are back in Olympia talking about Columbia River crossing options. And like other unchanging, interminable cycles, so returns talk of a tunnel solution to the river crossing problem. Why do we not burrow beneath the Columbia River to solve our metropolitan-area traffic woes, rather than build a bridge above? The tunnel option was explored, most recently, in the early days of the ill-fated Columbia River Crossing project. All indications are it was not a long conversation.
- Senate panel OKs $450M for a new Interstate 5 Bridge - March 6, 2019
- The state Senate Transportation Committee passed a $15 billion transportation package on Wednesday that includes $450 million for a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River. The project has been a priority for Clark County lawmakers, who have been seeking to restart the process with Oregon to replace the century-old bridge since 2017. The funding would come on top of the $17.5 million Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed for an office dedicated to the bridge-replacement project. “This is another concrete step toward getting this project moving while we work with Oregon to design a planning process and determine the details of a new bridge,” Sen. Annette Cleveland, a Vancouver Democrat who serves on the committee, said in a statement. “This is only a down payment on what a new bridge will cost, of course, but we anticipate funding from other avenues, including our federal and Oregon state partners once we agree on a mutual vision for the new bridge.”
- Vancouver seeks more feedback on bike-lane project - March 5, 2019
- The Vancouver City Council wants more feedback from residents, community groups and stakeholders before making a call postponing to next year a plan to add protected bike lanes, at the sake of parking spots, along Columbia Street. At its Monday night meeting, the council also asked for more specific information on what the city might be able to do to address the concerns of residents, many of whom were packed into the council chambers. The plan, the Westside Bike Mobility Project, would create three north-south, more bike-friendly corridors – one along Jefferson Street and Kauffman Avenue; Esther, Franklin and Daniels streets; and along Columbia Street – as part of a broader strategy to offer more transportation options for an urbanizing west Vancouver.
- Clark Asks: How do highway reader boards calculate travel times? - March 5, 2019
- Battle Ground’s Jen Kootstra, now retired, doesn’t make the commute south on the interstate highways in the county as much as she did when she was still working as an engineer for HP. Now, she makes trips south roughly weekly, heading to the 78th Street Heritage Farm, where she’s involved in the Master Gardener program, but she still wonders: How do traffic officials figure out travel time estimates on highway reader boards, such as the one north of Salmon Creek? Kootstra submitted her question through The Columbian’s Clark Asks website feature, where readers can suggest and vote on questions for further reporting.
- Vancouver to rethink bike lanes-parking plan - February 25, 2019
- After reviewing the city’s plans to build three north-south bicycling corridors in west Vancouver, adding protected bike lanes but removing some parking spots, the Vancouver City Council chose to re-examine options for balancing parking following an outcry from residents. The council chambers were, unusually, packed for the workshop, with residents concerned about the lack of parking options and what they called poor communication on the city’s part. Following the discussion, City Manager Eric Holmes said city staff would provide the council with other options for how it might pursue the first phase of the project, which would involve repaving and adding the protected lanes to Columbia Street between, roughly, Mill Plain to Fourth Plain boulevards.
- Proposal for bike lanes raises concerns on Columbia Street - February 20, 2019
- A proposal to remove parking from Columbia Street and install protected bike lanes is raising concerns at the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center, where staff worry that the plan will deter disabled veterans who count on convenient parking. The CCVAC isn’t the only group sounding the alarm. Some residents and business owners along the proposed bike lane routes have also expressed worry about how the proposal might squeeze an already-tight neighborhood parking situation. The cycling proposal, called the Westside Bike Mobility Project, would form protected bike lanes along three routes snaking from downtown to uptown Vancouver.
- Westside Mobility Strategy has many moving parts - February 20, 2019
- Planned bike lanes up and down Columbia Street are part of the city’s larger Westside Mobility Strategy, a larger-scale city initiative meant to accommodate more means of transportation while balancing business interests and livability. The broader strategy seeks to address traffic planning in much of town west of Interstate 5, and work to reconcile how the walker and horse rider planning of the older city gave way to the car-centric ethos of many American suburban areas, the city says. Planning priorities included improving freight mobility on Lower River Road to Mill Plain Boulevard and Interstate 5; extending 32nd Avenue to Fruit Valley Road; doing more to balance freight and passenger traffic through the heart of the city; and replacing multiple Interstate 5 interchanges.
- Report: Rose Quarter project would reduce travel times - February 18, 2019
- A proposed construction project along a problematic 1.7-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in the heart of Portland would dramatically reduce travel times, improve safety for bicycles and pedestrians through the area, and “slightly reduce” greenhouse gas emissions. That’s according to an assessment released Friday by the Portland and state transportation departments. The two governments released their Environmental Assessment, kickstarting a 45-day public comment period. The report is the most detailed analysis yet of the more than $500 million project to add wider shoulders, merging lanes and cover a section of I-5 through the Rose Quarter broadly between the I-405 and I-84 interchanges. The project includes a new pedestrian and bike bridge over the freeway and other street-level improvement the report says will make it safer for everyone to get around.