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.
- No more stopping for lights: Highway 500 safety project work complete - November 14, 2018
- Three months after announcing the removal of two traffic lights on state Highway 500 and a few weeks after the project was delayed due to rain, the Washington State Department of Transportation wrapped up the work with little fanfare over the weekend. Both directions of the roadway shut down at 11 p.m. Friday and reopened within 48 hours. The work was actually completed ahead of schedule, WSDOT spokeswoman Tamara Greenwell said. “Crews finished about 12 hours early, which for a short weekend closure we were impressed with. The weather worked out,” Greenwell said. “We were able to open around 4 that Sunday afternoon.” Crews removed the traffic lights from the highway, replacing the intersections at Northeast 42nd Avenue/Falk Road and Northeast 54th Avenue/Stapleton Road with right-in/right-out interchanges. They also installed a median barrier and extended striping on the merging and diverging lanes to give drivers more room to exit and enter the highway.
- Highway 500 work set for weekend - November 6, 2018
- There’s a Russian idiom that translates to “the first crepe always comes out wrong,” meaning a person has to try more than once to succeed. After getting rained out on its first try at reconfiguring state Highway 500, the Washington State Department of Transportation hopes a second try this weekend will be successful. To do a traffic reconfiguration project, the agency needs to close part of the highway between St. Johns Boulevard and Northeast Andresen Road. Drivers are likely to see construction crews setting up in the area prior to closure. The plan is to have the highway completely reconfigured and reopened by 4 a.m. Monday.
- C-Tran board calls for new I-5 bridge - October 16, 2018
- The C-Tran Board of Directors is now the most recent Southwest Washington governing body to urge state leaders to take the earliest step of replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. On Tuesday, the transit agency approved a resolution that “supports efforts to analyze all options available to reduce congestion in the region,” starting with the I-5 Bridge. It also urges Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature to “adequately fund” the Washington State Department of Transportation’s analysis “of options for congestion reduction for the region, including the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge.” While the city of Vancouver, Clark County Council, all ports in the county and others have passed similar resolutions, C-Tran’s is different because it is the only public entity that directly uses the bridge on a daily basis — and that’s reflected in the document’s language.
- Transportation council backs replacement for I-5 Bridge - October 2, 2018
- The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council Board of Directors passed a resolution supporting the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge with high-capacity transit with a dedicated guideway. The resolution, which was passed during the RTC’s meeting Tuesday evening, cites the crossing’s significance to the Vancouver-Portland metro area, the I-5 corridor, the West Coast and the nation, as well as the crippling traffic congestion it’s plagued with. It also notes the I-5 Bridge lacks high-capacity transit “with a dedicated guideway” and that “existing bi-state public transit,” i.e., C-Tran, “is inadequate to meet demand … and operates in mixed-traffic, which has significant negative impacts on performance and operational outcomes.” The resolution describes the I-5 Bridge spans as functionally obsolete and not meeting current seismic standards. It voices RTC’s support for a “multimodal approach of highway, high-capacity transit, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements to support the region’s travel needs.” It also urges Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature to give the Washington State Department of Transportation enough money to advance a replacement project.
- Survey: Commuters want to stay behind wheel - October 1, 2018
- The Pacific Northwest may have a reputation for bicycling and recycling. But a new survey that gauges the habits of Washington and Oregon commuters found that when it comes to driving to work, we’re nowhere close to giving up our steering wheels. A poll of 1,218 Pacific Northwest drivers found that an overwhelming majority, 94 percent, prefer to drive themselves to work as opposed to carpooling, biking or taking public transportation. “Northwest drivers, like many Americans, are reluctant to give up the wheel as an aspect of control, the ability to do things on their schedule,” said Derek Wing, a spokesman for PEMCO Insurance. PEMCO commissioned the study in June from FBK Research of Seattle, which surveyed a random sample of Washington and Oregon driver’s license holders through an online questionnaire. Lea Knight, owner of FBK Research, clarified that survey respondents were not drawn from a pool of PEMCO customers.
- Tina Kotek: Oregon and Washington lawmakers should meet to talk Interstate Bridge - September 21, 2018
- House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to sit down with Washington lawmakers before the end of the year with a simple goal: Talk about meeting again sometime in 2019 to discuss replacing the Interstate Bridge. “I know that might seem like a low bar,” Kotek said about talking about talking, “but that will get us started.” The Portland Democrat spoke Wednesday at a transportation forum in North Portland, saying she welcomes a renewed commitment from Washington legislators who appear ready to start talking about replacing the Interstate 5 bridge connecting the two states.
- Oregon House Speaker spurs talks on Interstate Bridge - September 21, 2018
- Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to sit down with Washington lawmakers before the end of the year to further discussions about replacing the Interstate Bridge, a newspaper reported Friday. The Portland Democrat said at a transportation forum this week that she welcomes a renewed commitment from Washington legislators who appear ready to start talking about replacing the Interstate 5 bridge connecting the two states, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. The Interstate Bridge has been a sticking point between the neighboring states for years. In 2013, Washington declined to pay for its share of the controversial Columbia River Crossing Project, but lawmakers there recently supported a study to investigate what pieces of the failed project were still salvageable. Kotek is the latest Oregon lawmaker to say she’s ready to work with Washington again on the proposal.
- Clark County Council calls for replacing I-5 Bridge - September 18, 2018
- With some reluctance, the Clark County Council became the latest local government to approve a resolution calling for the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge. The council now joins the city of Vancouver and local ports in voicing support for the replacing the bridge and calling on state officials to provide funding for the project. Last year, Washington lawmakers attempted to restart talks with their Oregon counterparts about replacing the bridge, which is considered outdated. The resolution passed by the council notes the Interstate 5 corridor’s “national significance” and importance to commerce. Calling the bridge “functionally obsolete,” it states that the segment of I-5 between Vancouver and Portland experiences some of the worst congestion along the entire length of the corridor and sees frequent crashes. The resolution specifically calls for a lane for bus-rapid transit and improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.