Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council

Transportation Issues in the News

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.

Highway 14 congested corridor to gain lanes in east Vancouver - June 22, 2021
The state Highway 14 corridor in Vancouver is notorious for rush hour congestion, with an especially unpleasant chokepoint between Interstate 205 and Southeast 164th Avenue that tends to tie up commuters heading for Oregon. The Washington State Department of Transportation has a project in the works aimed at easing that bottleneck, and construction is scheduled to kick off early next year. “When we did initial modeling, (we found that) you can count on this corridor being congested every single day,” WSDOT traffic operations planning engineer Michael Southwick said. The congestion follows a rush hour pattern, he said, although the morning westbound congestion tends to be worse than its eastbound evening counterpart. That’s based on data from before the COVID-19 pandemic, he added. Traffic volumes dropped last year but have been steadily climbing back.
C-Tran charges ahead with electric buses - June 10, 2021
C-Tran is poised to take its first step toward electrifying its bus fleet. The agency’s board of directors voted Tuesday to authorize the purchase of eight new battery-electric buses to replace eight of the fleet’s oldest diesel models. The purchase contract – priced at a maximum of about $9.74 million – includes eight 40-foot battery-electric buses and associated charging infrastructure from Gillig Corp. C-Tran tested a loaner electric bus in 2014, but the new purchase agreement marks the first time the agency will put fully electric buses into regular operation. The current fleet consists of 117 transit buses, 66 of which are hybrids.
Frog Ferry pilot program to begin in Portland, add Vancouver later - June 9, 2021
Friends of Frog Ferry, the nonprofit spearheading an effort to bring a river taxi service to the Portland area, held a press conference Tuesday to announce plans for a two-year pilot program. Vancouver would not be part of the test route, but could be added to the lineup later. The pilot program would consist of a single vessel traveling between Cathedral Park in North Portland and the Riverplace marina at the south end of downtown Portland. The group hopes to start the program in the summer or fall of 2022, according to founder Susan Bladholm. The pilot route is estimated to take 25 minutes one way. The ferry would run from 5 to 10 a.m. and then again from 2 to 7 p.m., Bladholm said, with one round trip per hour. Tickets would cost $3, with a discounted $2 ”honored citizen“ option.
WSDOT to repair, replace I-5 bridges over Lewis River near Woodland - June 4, 2021
Interstate 5 over the river near the border of Clark County. The aging structure is functionally obsolete and faces a high risk of collapse in an earthquake, and the Washington State Department of Transportation is working to replace it in the near future. Nope, not that one. The Columbia River Interstate 5 Bridge – and the ongoing effort to replace it – tends to grab the biggest headlines, but Clark County’s northern border is also delineated by a river with a vital I-5 crossing, and those northern bridges have similarly reached an age where they demand attention.
Federal letter restricts changes to Interstate 5 Bridge project documents - May 20, 2021
The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program office has received written federal guidance that restricts the project’s ability to substantially alter two guiding documents that were drafted for its predecessor, the Columbia River Crossing. The purpose and need and vision and values statements are early development documents that outline the key problems that the project seeks to remedy – such as safety, congestion and seismic vulnerability – and they become part of the criteria used to evaluate various bridge configurations and settle on a preferred option. Program administrator Greg Johnson broke the news at a Thursday meeting of the project’s Executive Steering Group, displaying excerpts from the federal letter in a slide show. The letter confirms what the project office had been told in recent conversations with federal officials, he said.
Vancouver driven to improve transportation - May 11, 2021
The city of Vancouver is drafting a list of transportation projects ranked by importance, with the top priorities aimed at adding capacity to the system’s overused roads. A project that would expand Southeast First Street in two phases — from 164th Avenue to 177th Avenue, and then east to 192nd Avenue — has been identified as the most crucial update to the city’s transportation system. Following close behind is a realignment of Jefferson Street from West Evergreen to West Mill Plain Boulevard. “All of them are eligible for grants in one form or another,” said Chris Malone, the finance and asset manager for Vancouver Public Works.
Columbia Street bike lane project revived with little fanfare by Vancouver council - May 10, 2021
The Vancouver City Council awarded a contract to repave and restripe Columbia Street in downtown, a seemingly banal move that in fact represents the revival of a long-sought and hotly debated plan to swap the arterial’s street parking for bicycle lanes. Councilors awarded the $1.48 million paving contract to Vancouver-based Granite Construction Company at their regular meeting Monday night. The company will be tasked with repaving and restriping the dilapidated road between Mill Plain Boulevard and Northwest 45th Street, with work scheduled to start in June.
Funding, reuse of CRC work key issues in Interstate 5 Bridge replacement - May 9, 2021
It was funding that killed the Columbia River Crossing. The original Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project was already embroiled in controversy, but the killing blow came when the Washington Senate adjourned without approving the state’s portion of the project funding in 2013. It comes as no surprise then that, two years into a renewed bistate bridge replacement effort, funding is a hot topic. The issue ties into a pair of big transportation policy discussions underway in Washington state and Washington, D.C.
New bridge replacement effort strives to avoid light rail controversy - May 9, 2021
Recent headlines about the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement effort have chronicled the reemergence of one of the biggest sticking points from Columbia River Crossing era: light rail. The CRC design option chosen in 2011 featured an extension of Portland’s MAX Yellow Line through downtown Vancouver, drawing the ire of light rail opponents on the north side of the river. Its inclusion is often cited as one of the factors that ultimately led to the Washington Senate voting to withhold the state’s portion of the funding, scuttling the project in 2013. The present-day Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement Program has done its best to keep the issue simmering on the back burner. Discussions among the project’s bistate legislative committee have stressed broad agreement on the inclusion of high-capacity service such as rail service or bus rapid transit without committing to any specific option.
Columbia River Crossing 2.0: Rerun or reboot? - April 30, 2021
In 2013, when Oregon’s then-Governor John Kitzhaber issued a public statement to announce the Columbia River Crossing highway expansion project was dead, he pointed the finger at one institution: the Washington State Senate. That year, a $10 billion transportation funding package had failed to pass after squeaking through the Washington State House of Representatives. “I am extremely disappointed that our legislative partners in the Washington state Senate failed to address the clear and present safety and economic need for this essential I-5 bridge.” Despite Oregon’s attempts to go-it-alone after the Washington legislature wouldn’t act, the fact that a deal couldn’t be reached that session was crucial to the project’s demise. At the beginning of Washington’s legislative session this January, it looked like things had changed. Of numerous proposals for what a transportation package might look like, all of them included a huge earmark for the project. The 2013 allocation of $450 million had essentially doubled to $1 billion. This past Sunday the sun set on the 105-day session and only one chamber’s transportation package had been passed out of committee, much less received a floor vote.
Washington lawmakers keep new highways on cruise control - April 27, 2021
Washington lawmakers entered the 2021 session exploring proposals to erect new bridges, subsidize electric cars and collect fuel taxes as high as $1 per gallon. Instead, their awkward virtual session ended on cruise control, as members simply renewed construction money for freeway expansions planned years ago. These include one new lane each direction of clogged Interstate 405 between Bellevue and Renton, which hasn’t been widened since 1984. They kept money flowing to replace road culverts that block fish streams, as mandated by federal courts. But thanks to federal aid, the state’s bipartisan two-year transportation budget of $11.8 billion, passed last weekend, does provide cash to tackle other lingering problems.