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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Oregon official releases Columbia River Crossing review - February 13, 2019
- Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has released his office’s review of the history of the ill-fated Columbia River Crossing project, and its recommendations for a more successful next try. The report released Wednesday summarizes the history of the Columbia River Crossing, from the construction of the Interstate 5 Bridge in 1917, to the formation of the two-state Columbia River Crossing project team in 2004 to the dissolution of the project in 2014. The report reviews the various planning, design and political issues that hindered the project’s progress on to its end, when Washington’s Senate turned down a funding package for the project to complement Oregon’s $450 million share, effectively ending the project.
- Report: I-5 Bridge is nation’s 29th worst bottleneck - February 12, 2019
- The Interstate 5 Bridge ranks as the nation’s 29th worst bottleneck on a top 100 list and the worst in Washington, according to American Transportation Research Institute findings issued Tuesday. The 2019 Top Truck Bottleneck List assesses the level of truck-oriented congestion at 300 locations on the national highway system. The analysis, based on truck GPS data from nearly 1 million heavy-duty trucks, uses customized software and analysis methods, along with terabytes of data from trucking operations to produce a congestion-impact ranking for each location, the institute said in a news release. The institute’s findings show that traveling on the I-5 Bridge between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. traffic flows at 50 mph to 55 mph. Traveling outside that window, as any veteran I-5 Bridge driver knows, and you’re taking your chances.
- Washington state to end emissions testing - January 31, 2019
- Nearly 40 years after Washington began checking vehicles’ emissions, the program is slated to end on Dec. 31 of this year. As car technology has evolved and cleaner vehicles hit the road, Washington officials have been preparing for the expiration of the law establishing what had been mandatory testing in some of the most populous counties. Starting in 2020, vehicle owners will no longer be required to have their vehicle’s emissions tested before renewing their registration. Vehicles scheduled for testing in 2019 still need an emissions test before they can renew their tabs, according to the state Department of Ecology. “Air quality in Washington is much cleaner than when the program began in 1982, and every community in our state currently meets all federal air quality standards,” the state agency said.
- Widening project targets Highway 14 congestion - January 30, 2019
- A $25 million project aimed at reducing chronic congestion on state Highway 14 will add lanes to the highway between Interstate 205 and Southeast 164th Avenue, along with a westbound, peak-use shoulder lane for use during heavy traffic. The Washington State Department of Transportation’s plan, which is still in the design phase, would add another lane of travel going both directions, turning the four-lane highway into a six-lane highway between I-205 and 164th. The plan also includes adding a peak-use lane along the outermost shoulder of westbound Highway 14, creating a potential fourth lane between 164th Avenue and Interstate 205.
- Working in Clark County: Marc Gross, Interstate 5 Bridge supervisor - January 28, 2019
- One could think about the Interstate 5 Bridge as being sort of alive. An Oregon Department of Transportation crew of 10 works inside of the structure’s bridge house, an area not immediately noticeable to any of the estimated 131,000 average daily passers-by going northbound and southbound in the month of December. They man the fort, so to speak, for 12-hour shifts at a time, required to answer the call of a passing vessel within 30 seconds. If the ship needs extra clearance to get beneath the 102-year-old green giant, the crew member needs to raise the bridge’s lift span.
- Lawmakers set to tackle transportation - January 28, 2019
- With another legislative session underway in Olympia, lawmakers are poised to consider new transportation spending, traffic-enforcement measures and – once again – car-tab fees. Embattled anti-tax activist Tim Eyman collected enough signatures to qualify an initiative that would cap car-tab fees at $30 a year. Lawmakers must now either approve that measure, allow it to go to the ballot or pass an alternative to appear alongside Eyman’s measure on the ballot. Car tabs are a significant source of revenue for Sound Transit, which uses an inflated formula approved by the Legislature to determine the value of vehicles and how much drivers pay for car tabs. That formula has drawn attention in recent years after voters approved the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package in 2016 and some drivers felt sticker shock at their increased car-tab fees.
- C-Tran to present option for second bus rapid transit line - January 26, 2019
- After months of outreach and deliberation, C-Tran will begin introducing its preferred option for a second bus rapid transit line. The first presentation will take place at Monday’s Vancouver City Council meeting, where the council will get its initial look at a locally preferred option for the line running along Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard. The first Vine route opened in January 2017 and runs along East Fourth Plain Boulevard. Ridership continues to increase, only further encouraging C-Tran to seek a second line. The transit agency reported ridership increased more than 19 percent in 2018 with more than 1.3 million individual trips taken on the Vine. The recommendation from the Corridor Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee is to align the new route with East Evergreen Boulevard in downtown – connecting with the existing Turtle Place stop used by the Fourth Plain Vine – and with a new transit center near S.E. 192nd Ave. on the east side.