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.
- Interstate 5 Bridge lane closures about to begin - August 14, 2020
- Nighttime lane closures will begin next week on the Interstate 5 Bridge, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Transportation, in preparation for the planned trunnion replacement project in September. Drivers should expect to encounter delays due to one- or two-lane closures Monday through Thursday nights in both directions of Interstate 5. Single-lane closures will begin at 8 p.m. and crews could close a second lane starting at 10 p.m. All lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. the following morning. The trunnion replacement project is scheduled to close the bridge’s northbound span to all traffic Sept. 12-20. Northbound and southbound traffic will both use the three-lane southbound span during the closure, with the central lane serving as a reversible rush hour lane.
- Crews raise Highway 14 in Washougal as part of work to restore Steigerwald floodplain - August 12, 2020
- Work is well underway on the Steigerwald Reconnection Project, and motorists on state Highway 14 in Washougal can expect to encounter occasional delays as they pass through the project’s highway construction area. The project aims to restore 965 acres of floodplain habitat in the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge by removing a 2.2-mile section of the existing levee that cuts the area off from the Columbia River, and restoring the natural flow path of Gibbons Creek. The existing Gibbons Creek diversion path and fish ladder will be removed.
- Lane closures on Highway 99 and Northeast 99th Street - August 10, 2020
- Drivers along the intersection of Northeast 99th Street and Highway 99 can expect intermittent lane closures. Construction began on Monday, Aug. 3, and is expected to be completed in November. Due to high traffic volumes and the complexity of the contracted work, drivers and pedestrians can expect impacts during construction.
- Committee hears processes for outreach, financial planning in I-5 bridge replacement - August 9, 2020
- Legislators on both sides of the Columbia River continued talks on how to replace the Interstate 5 bridge during the latest replacement committee meeting. On Aug. 6, members of the Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee had their second remote meeting of the year, laying the groundwork for processes to eventually lead to a project concept. Among discussion topics, legislators were tasked with seeing if transportation problems previously identified had already been addressed, and if there were new problems that needed to be considered. Issues identified in the past included seismic vulnerability, limited public transportation, impaired freight movement, inadequate bicycle and pedestrian facilities, safety concerns based on existing roadway, and growing travel demand and congestion.
- Trunnion, sheaves for September repair of Interstate 5 Bridge span arrive - August 5, 2020
- The Interstate 5 Bridge trunnion replacement project won’t begin in earnest until September, but preliminary work is already underway at the site, including the Tuesday morning arrival of a barge carrying the new sheaves, trunnion and other replacement components for the bridge’s lift system. The northbound span of the bridge will close to all traffic Sept. 12-20 while contractors swap out the old parts for the new ones and perform other repairs. The primary impetus for the $13 million project is a crack in the existing trunnion at the top of the bridge’s south tower. The trunnion is like an axle between the two sheave wheels that move the bridge cables. The crack was discovered in 1999 and has been continuously monitored since then, according to Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson Don Hamilton. It began to spread more quickly in the past two years, which means the trunnion needs to be replaced to ensure the long-term health of the bridge, he said.
- Stretch of Interstate 5 in Clark County to temporarily close as summer road projects begin - July 22, 2020
- A roughly five-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Clark County is scheduled to close in both directions beginning 11 p.m. Friday while crews install an overhead sign bridge. The freeway is scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. Saturday. The sign bridge is part of a new active traffic management system WSDOT is installing along southbound I-5 through the Vancouver area in an effort to ease congestion during the morning rush hour and increase traffic safety.
- Pollution from vehicles down in Clark County, but outdoor burning rises - June 25, 2020
- The cloud of COVID-19 comes with a thin silver lining: air pollution usually caused by commuting vehicles is down in major metropolitan areas, due to more people staying home. But in Clark County, the full picture is a little more complicated. Our region hasn’t seen pollution drop as significantly. In fact, according to various metrics monitored by the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency, there hasn’t been much change at all – although emissions from cars are down, other kinds of pollutants, like those that come from wood burning, are up.