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.

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.
Delayed repairs threaten Washington state bridges and highways. Will lawmakers act this year? - April 12, 2021
Day after day, a quarter-million people trust the lofty I-5 Ship Canal Bridge to carry them between North Seattle and downtown. But the 12-lane span is wearing out. It’s the highest-profile example of how Washington state fails to spend enough money maintaining and preserving its 7,000 miles of roads and bridges. The I-5 crossing, one of the most important highway bridges on the West Coast, exhibits “severe deterioration,” says the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Rust has formed around the steel beams, concrete layers are separating and potholes proliferate. “While WSDOT has been deferring this work to try and keep the entire state highway system operational, it can no longer be ignored without dire consequences,” says a state report.
Ridgefield plans second connection to I-5 - March 26, 2021
Ridgefield is in the early planning stages of a project that would create a new connection to Interstate 5 to the south of the city, supplementing the city’s only current direct connection at the Pioneer Street interchange. The proposed project would use the existing interchange with Northeast 219th Street at Exit 11, which currently only extends east toward Battle Ground. The proposed extension has been in the city and Clark County’s long-range plans since 2007, driven by Ridgefield’s high growth rate and corresponding traffic.
State seeks input on Highway 500 bike/foot bridge at 54th Ave.-Stapleton Road interchange - March 16, 2021
The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking public input to help design a new bike and pedestrian overcrossing at the Northeast 54th Avenue and Northeast Stapleton Road interchange with state Highway 500 in Vancouver. The $5 million project is set to break ground late next year. The 54th Avenue and Stapleton Road interchange and the nearby Northeast 42nd Avenue and Northeast Falk Road interchange originally functioned as fully signalized intersections until WSDOT removed the traffic lights, closed the freeway median and converted the crossings to “right-in, right-out” interchanges in late 2018. The two intersections were the only sets of traffic signals in the middle of a six-mile corridor that was otherwise built to freeway standards, and they caused an inordinate number of rear-end collisions because drivers were caught off guard by red lights.