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.
- FHA says Oregon’s tolling plans ‘likely’ eligible for approval - January 10, 2019
- The Federal Highway Administration has given Oregon what it needs to move into the next phase of implementing tolls on Interstates 5 and 205. The FHA sent the Oregon Department of Transportation a letter Jan. 8 that outlined the federal requirements to put tolls on interstate highways. “This is a major step that will help us keep moving forward in what will be a long process,” said Tammy Baney, chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, in a press release. “In this letter, the FHWA acknowledges the work completed in our feasibility analysis and points us toward the next steps we need to take to use tolling in Oregon to help us maintain a transportation system that will meet our growing needs.” The letter includes a response to three issues Oregon needs to address to move forward: eligibility under federal tolling programs; required analysis to receive needed classification under the National Environmental Policy Act; and an anticipated timeline and any opportunities to streamline project review.
- Inslee: Light rail is a must - January 10, 2019
- Gov. Jay Inslee has a message for Southwest Washington: The replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge spanning the Columbia River will include light rail, or it won’t be built. Speaking at a preview of the 2019 legislative session, which begins Monday, Inslee said that light rail will be a feature of the replacement bridge because Oregon will pay for half of the project and has insisted that it be included. Inslee said the situation might be different if Washington was paying for the entire project. But, he said, it “takes two to tango.” “What I want to make clear, though, is that the Southwest Washington community needs to come together around a consensus,” said Inslee. “At the moment, unless Oregon changes its view, you’re going to have to put light rail on the bridge if you want a bridge.”
- Interstate 5 traffic causes freight travel fatigue - January 6, 2019
- It’s 2:10 p.m. on a Monday and northbound traffic has slowed to a crawl near the Interstate 5 Bridge. Nearby, Steve Johnson is polishing off breakfast at the Cascade Grill in the Jubitz Travel Center. Johnson’s day started in Pierce County, delivering produce to the Costco Distribution Center in Sumner. After unloading his cargo, he headed south to the Jubitz mini-city at 10210 N. Vancouver Way in Portland. His leased Freightliner Cascadia tractor-trailer sits in the parking lot. Johnson’s been working as an independent, long-haul truck driver for a quarter-century. He agreed to an interview, between bites of breakfast, with the belief the focus would be exclusively on his evolving experience driving across the Interstate 5 Bridge. But Johnson soon steered the conversation to his opinions about truck-stop food, elephant ears, driver safety and blues festivals. The ever-increasing freight travel times over the Interstate 5 Bridge was among the arguments Columbia River Crossing proponents cited when arguing for a replacement span.
- 10th Avenue Bridge now open to drivers, cyclists, pedestrians - January 5, 2019
- After over a year of construction, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians can now use a new bridge spanning Whipple Creek outside of Ridgefield. Clark County Public works has opened the new 10th Avenue Bridge to traffic as of Thursday afternoon, according to a county press release. The 450-foot-long bridge stands about 48 feet above Whipple Creek and was undertaken to improve the flow of traffic by creating another north-south roadway in the area. It includes shoulders, bike lanes, sidewalks and stormwater runoff facilities. The project was also undertaken to accommodate anticipated development nearby and to relieve congestion associated with large events at the nearby Sunlight Supply Amphitheater or at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. Previously, many drivers had to use the 179th Street interchange from Interstate 5.
- WSDOT launches study to improve travel near SR 500 and NE Fourth Plain Boulevard in Vancouver - January 3, 2019
- It should come as no surprise to travelers who use the intersection of State Route 500 and Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard that it is one of the most congested highway intersections in Clark County. To address the current traffic problems, the Washington State Department of Transportation is studying the intersection with local partners to identify possible solutions to improve safety, mobility and travel reliability in the area. “This intersection has one of the highest rates of crashes, congestion and travel delays in the entire county,” said WSDOT Regional Planning Manager Michael Williams. “Feedback from people who use this corridor will help us identify the best possible solutions to improve travel for all users.” Members of the community are encouraged to participate in an online survey, during the month of January.
- Herrera Beutler, state Republicans want ‘alternatives to light rail’ in bridge planning - December 19, 2018
- U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and seven Southwest Washington state lawmakers have written to Gov. Jay Inslee asking him to “keep mass transit alternatives to light rail on the table” as part of negotiations to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River. The letter was prompted by news last week that Inslee included $17.5 million in his proposed budget for a project office to replace the I-5 Bridge. The budget item included language that light rail would be part of the project. He also made remarks to The Columbian that including the means of transit on the bridge would signal to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who has insisted on light rail on a replacement crossing, that Washington would be a partner on the project. Inslee also said that the budget item would convey to the federal government that an actual project is in the works.
- Ribbon cut on Northeast 10th Avenue bridge over Whipple Creek - December 18, 2018
- Clark County staff, contractors, elected officials and community members gathered Tuesday south of Ridgefield to commemorate a new bridge over Whipple Creek, which will tie together Northeast 10th Avenue between Northeast 154th and 164th streets once it opens to traffic in the next few weeks. County Public Works Director Ahmad Qayoumi said the stretch has been part of the county’s list of arterial roads in need of support for some time, largely because there aren’t many north-south roadways in the area, especially around the Clark County Fairgrounds and the growing neighborhoods south of Ridgefield. For many drivers, the most convenient access was the 179th Street interchange from Interstate 5, he said. The 450-foot-long bridge stands about 48 feet above Whipple Creek, adding shoulders to Northeast 10th Avenue in places where there weren’t any, bicycle lanes, sidewalks and stormwater runoff facilities, according to the county, along with roadway improvements beyond the span.
- Inslee wants light rail for replacement 1-5 bridge - December 14, 2018
- As the renewed effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge has gained momentum, one of the key sticking points that helped sink the previous replacement effort has reemerged. Five years ago, the Columbia River Crossing, a proposed replacement bridge and freeway improvement project, met its demise in the Washington Senate after lawmakers failed to fund the state’s portion of the project. Among the deal breakers was the project’s cost, design, possibility of tolls and inclusion of light rail. Just days after Oregon lawmakers agreed to resume talks on a new crossing, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released details of his $54.4 billion proposed two-year budget that included $17.5 million to reopen a project office for an I-5 bridge replacement. Proponents of replacing the bridge have stated that details of the project are yet to be determined. But Inslee’s budget included language directing project staff to assume the new bridge will include light rail and may be financed with tolls.
- Washington governor’s budget includes money for Interstate 5 bridge project - December 13, 2018
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signaled his interest in restarting efforts to replace by the Interstate 5 bridge by including an item for a “Columbia River Bridge project” in his upcoming budget. A summary of Inslee’s budget, released earlier today, includes a line to reopen a project office for the Columbia River bridge that directs $17.5 million from 2019 through 2021. The item is included under a section for “congestion relief.” The governor’s move comes days after Oregon and Washington lawmakers met publicly for the first time since the Columbia River Crossing, the previous $3 billion replacement project, was scrapped five years ago.
- Washington, Oregon get talking about I-5 Bridge - December 11, 2018
- Lawmakers from Oregon and Washington met publicly for the first time Tuesday afternoon as part of a renewed effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. While the group didn’t come to any sweeping conclusions after the two-hour meeting at the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs in Portland, it agreed to at least keep talking. The meeting was a milestone for the latest attempt to replace the 101-year-old bridge. A year ago, Oregon legislative leaders snubbed an invitation to participate in a bistate committee created by Washington lawmakers to look into replacing the antiquated crossing. Despite a warm welcome Tuesday by Washington state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, who chaired the meeting, there was still lingering wariness from Oregon lawmakers left over from when Washington pulled out of the last attempt to replace the bridge.
- Vancouver awarded $3 million for S.E. First Street construction - December 7, 2018
- Vancouver has been awarded $3 million from the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board to help fund construction on Southeast First Street between Southeast 164th and Southeast 177th avenues. The full project extends to Southeast 192nd Avenue, but the city is focusing on the west segment to best utilize current resources. Vancouver plans to improve safety, capacity, accessibility and connectivity via the road improvements. The stretch of road on Southeast First Street was originally constructed as a rural two-lane road and now needs upgrades to serve as a more urban street system. Upgrades include sidewalks, bike facilities, stormwater bioretention and street lights. The price of the improvements is $14 million.
- Oregon to join in Interstate 5 Bridge replacement talks - December 7, 2018
- Five years after pulling its support for a controversial replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge, Washington has convinced Oregon to resume talks about the increasingly outmoded crossing. On Friday, Washington Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, announced that Oregon legislative leaders have agreed to appoint members to a bistate committee to discuss replacing the century-old bridge. The committee was created by a bill signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year that’s intended to restart the process for replacing the bridge. Oregon officials have been leery about restarting talks after Republican lawmakers in Washington scuttled the last attempt to replace the bridge in 2013. Last year, the committee met for the first time without representatives from Oregon.
- Oregon transportation board submits I-5, I-205 tolling plan application to feds - December 6, 2018
- The Oregon Transportation Commission voted Thursday to approve the state’s application to the federal government to consider tolling on portions of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 in Portland. The five-member commission voted unanimously to submit the application at its regular meeting in Salem. The proposed stretches of tolled roads would include Interstate 5 between Southwest Multnomah Boulevard and Northeast Going Street, a roughly 7-mile stretch through the heart of Portland, and Interstate 205 in and around the Abernethy Bridge around West Linn and Oregon City. Few details beyond the general location of the toll areas have yet to be worked out, and would likely take years to decide, according to the commission and Oregon Department of Transportation staff. However, the proposal calls for variable toll rates, or value pricing. The toll pricing could vary based on traffic or time of day.
- Vancouver federal legislative agenda: New I-5 bridge top goal - December 5, 2018
- In Vancouver, it all comes down to the Interstate 5 Bridge. The city council was briefed on its 2019 federal legislative agenda Monday night, and unsurprisingly, replacing the I-5 Bridge was the top goal. “We need to lay the groundwork to build the relationships once again in Oregon,” said Joel Rubin, the city’s federal government liaison. Rubin said that having U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in his new position as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman should help Southwest Washington. DeFazio said after the November election that he anticipated working on a $500 billion bipartisan infrastructure package by June and intends to put focus on projects of “regional and national significance.”
- Oregon moving forward with I-5, I-205 tolls - November 29, 2018
- The Oregon Transportation Commission will vote next week whether to create tolls along stretches of freeway through the Portland metro area in Oregon, marking the next step in a multiyear process. The tolled areas along Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 would not extend north to the state line under the current proposal. The proposed toll roads would include Interstate 5 between Southwest Multnomah Boulevard and Northeast Going Street, a roughly 7-mile stretch through the heart of Portland, and Interstate 205 in and around the Abernethy Bridge around West Linn and Oregon City. The proposed tolling would also use variable toll rates, or value pricing, that would vary based on traffic or time of day. Details, including the cost of the tolls, are to be determined. The Oregon Department of Transportation released its proposal and analysis for the toll system Thursday. At a basic level, the state is asking for the federal government’s OK to continue reviewing and planning tolls along those stretches of I-5 and I-205.
- Vancouver-to-Portland passenger river vessel finds support, prompts questions - November 27, 2018
- Commuters hoping that a new Interstate 5 Bridge will save them from traffic congestion are likely to be waiting a long time, but a new Portland-based nonprofit is pitching an alternative commuting idea that it says could be up and running in a much shorter timeframe: a Portland-to-Vancouver ferry service. The nonprofit group, which calls itself Friends of Frog Ferry, unveiled the concept last week and hosted a press conference Tuesday to lay out some of the details. The ferry is envisioned to run between Vancouver’s Terminal 1 and Portland’s Salmon Street Spring dock, serving commuters and tourists. Lead organizer Susan Bladholm made one thing very clear: the proposed ferry is intended to complement a future replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge, which the group says it also supports. The ferry wouldn’t solve congestion on its own, Bladholm said, but it would make a dent — and supporters believe the service could launch as early as 2022.
- Herrera Beutler tackles I-5 Bridge lifts - November 26, 2018
- Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler formally asked the U.S. Coast Guard to review its drawbridge lift protocol for the Interstate 5 Bridge on Monday, specifically concerning lifts during rush hour. Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voiced her concerns in a letter sent to U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral David Throop. As it stands now, bridge lifts are restricted between 6:30 and 9 a.m. and 2:30 and 6 p.m. on weekdays to ease the impacts on congestion. But the number of cars crossing the bridge has increased. In 1995, about 116,500 vehicles crossed the bridge daily. Now that number is closer to 140,000, according to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.