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.
- Clark County Council calls for replacing I-5 Bridge - September 18, 2018
- With some reluctance, the Clark County Council became the latest local government to approve a resolution calling for the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge. The council now joins the city of Vancouver and local ports in voicing support for the replacing the bridge and calling on state officials to provide funding for the project. Last year, Washington lawmakers attempted to restart talks with their Oregon counterparts about replacing the bridge, which is considered outdated. The resolution passed by the council notes the Interstate 5 corridor’s “national significance” and importance to commerce. Calling the bridge “functionally obsolete,” it states that the segment of I-5 between Vancouver and Portland experiences some of the worst congestion along the entire length of the corridor and sees frequent crashes. The resolution specifically calls for a lane for bus-rapid transit and improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
- Council divided over I-5 Bridge resolution - September 14, 2018
- The demise of the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project undoubtedly set the future of a new Interstate Bridge on I-5 back several years, at least. In the five years since that project stalled out, costing taxpayers more than $170 million, traffic congestion has grown steadily worse, especially for the thousands who call Clark County home but work in Oregon. Now efforts are underway, on the Washington side of the Columbia River anyway, to revive the conversation over what to do with the 100-year-old I-5 Bridge. Recently, Vancouver City Council members approved a resolution stating their support for a new bridge project. In that statement, mass transit would be a key component of any bridge, including the possible extension of Light Rail into Clark County. At their council time meeting last week, the Clark County councilors debated their own version of that resolution, but struggled to find consensus on the language around mass transit, as well as whether tolls should be used to help fund a bridge replacement.
- Port of Vancouver approves resolution calling for I-5 Bridge replacement - September 12, 2018
- The Port of Vancouver approved a resolution supporting the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge on Tuesday. The resolution calls for Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Legislature to ”provide adequate funding to the Washington State Department of Transportation to materially advance project development“ for a replacement bridge. The resolution was approved 2-1. Commissioners Eric LaBrant and Don Orange voted yes. Commissioner Jerry Oliver voted no. Oliver cited the resolution’s statement of support of a “high-capacity transit with a dedicated guideway,” which he worried leaves open the possibility of light rail, as reason for voting against it.
- Summit sounds alarm on I-5 Bridge, traffic congestion - August 28, 2018
- More frequent crashes, more people waiting in longer and longer traffic jams and lost business productivity are just some of the many troubles associated with traveling the Interstate 5 Bridge today, and it won’t get any better unless a new crossing is built. That was the message at the Business Leaders Regional Transportation Summit, a symposium primarily focused on the transportation hindrances associated with the antiquated bridge, and getting across the message to political leaders that change is possible. “We want to shrink the size of the river and erase the state line,” Ron Arp, president of Identity Clark County, said before the beginning of the event, arguing that there was a clear business and government case to be made about why the bridge should be replaced. What that replacement would look like, however, was not the subject of the meeting. “This is about identifying a problem and heading toward a solution,” Arp said.
- State to remove Highway 500 signals - August 14, 2018
- The Washington State Department of Transportation is moving forward with a plan to remove the traffic signals from Highway 500, replacing the intersections on Northeast 42nd Avenue/Falk Road and Northeast 54th Avenue/Stapleton Road with right in/right out interchanges. WSDOT broached the topic earlier this month, but formally announced the plan on Monday, said Regional Planning Director Carley Francis. The project’s aim is to reduce collisions at the two intersections, especially rear-endings — currently a major problem in an area where “folks anticipate a free-flow design corridor,” Francis said. The new traffic layout is expected to reduce crashes in the area by 70 percent.
- Coming soon! Safety improvements to change how you travel SR 500 in Vancouver - August 13, 2018
- In response to input from thousands of people during a safety study conducted earlier this year, the Washington State Department of Transportation has selected a Right In, Right Out design to improve safety on State Route 500 at Northeast Falk Road/Northeast 42nd Avenue and Northeast Stapleton Road/Northeast 54th Avenue in Vancouver. In collaboration with the City of Vancouver, Clark County, C-TRAN and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, the design was chosen because it balances significant safety improvements to SR 500, while maintaining some connectivity to SR 500 from local streets. “With nearly 400 crashes occurring on SR 500 near these intersections over five years, we believe it’s our responsibility to do something to improve safety,” said Carley Francis, WSDOT Southwest Region Planning Director. “These improvements are relatively low cost, can be implemented rather quickly, and will significantly improve safety on SR 500.”
- Vancouver council resolution supports bridge replacement - August 7, 2018
- The Vancouver City Council easily passed a unanimous resolution supporting a replacement for the Interstate 5 Bridge, urging Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature to put funds into a new crossing. “This is a significant night for us all, as we have waited for quite some time to move this bridge project forward, and the stars seem to be lining up,” Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said before making the motion to pass the resolution during Monday”s council meeting. “Our community has asked for help, our businesses have asked for help. … We’ve had a number of different issues with this … but we are a bistate regional system for economics and transportation.” McEnerny-Ogle told the council it was “appropriate” for the city to take the first step and urge neighboring cities and local ports to pass similar resolutions to show the governor and the Legislature that “Southwest Washington is indeed supportive of a replacement bridge.”
- I-5 Bridge ‘tough topic’ in transportation plan - August 5, 2018
- The thorny subject of replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge, Southwest Washington’s most divisive piece of infrastructure, has not escaped the attention of the state’s long-term transportation planners. The bridge is the first issue discussed in the “Tough Topics” section of the draft Washington Transportation Plan — 2040 and Beyond, a long-term transportation plan created by the Washington State Transportation Commission. “Replacing this vital economic link with new infrastructure is daunting in terms of scope, coordination, environmental mitigation and cost, but those challenges pale next to the issues we face if this connection is severed,” the document states. The planning document takes a high-level view of the entire state’s transportation future and, from a policy perspective, six statutorily-mandated transportation goals promoting economic vitality, mobility, safety, preservation, environmental health and stewardship. It is part of a regular update to the Commission’s 2035 plan, which was adopted in 2015.
- WSDOT has a plan for state Highway 500 - August 2, 2018
- The Washington State Department of Transportation has a proposed solution to make two crash-prone intersections on state Highway 500 safer and more efficient for drivers — possibly within a few months — but once the work is over, some pedestrians will likely have to wait for years before they can walk across the highway again. The agency is proposing turning the intersections of Highway 500 and Northeast 42nd Avenue/Falk Road and Northeast 54th Avenue/Stapleton Road into right in/right out interchanges. The traffic lights would be removed and the highway reconfigured. A median barrier would be built through the intersections, and the merge lanes would be reconfigured to give drivers more time to enter the highway and enforce the right-off turn. Taking a “left turn” from either intersection would require turning right on Highway 500 then making a U-turn at either Northeast St. Johns Road or Northeast Andresen Road. WSDOT is looking at beginning the reconfiguration process this fall before the rain begins, but that is still far from certain.
- Port, pols celebrate West Vancouver Freight Access project - July 31, 2018
- Port of Vancouver administrators, along with political and industry leaders, stood atop a small stage in a largely vacant marine terminal Tuesday morning to celebrate the completion of the $251 million West Vancouver Freight Access project. “We are building transportation infrastructure in this part of the state because this part of the state is integral to the economic growth of the entire state,” Gov. Jay Inslee told the crowd. “This project is as important to the economic development of Bellingham and Spokane as it is Vancouver.” Throughout the celebration, workers rushed newly imported Subarus into an awaiting freight train in the background and heavy equipment and engines groaned in the distance. “It really underscores what we do here and why we’re here today,” said port Commissioner Eric LaBrant.
- Construction on Northeast 119th Street ‘one bite at a time’ - July 30, 2018
- Whenever Robin Washington, a project manager with Clark County Public Works, is asked why the improvements on Northeast 119th Street are taking so long to build, she likens it to another large undertaking. “I ask people, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’” she said. “One bite at a time.” Now the county is finishing one bite and is starting on another as it continues its multiyear project to upgrade Northeast 119th Street from a two-lane country road with no sidewalks or bicycle lanes to an arterial intended to accommodate growing suburbanization.
- Commuters consider cost, implications of tolls - July 25, 2018
- At 3:20 a.m. every Monday through Thursday, Mike Coffman departs from his Vancouver home for his 4 a.m. shift at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland. He used to work at 6 a.m., but by then the traffic was prohibitive, he said — Coffman much prefers knowing that he can make it in 40 minutes, even tucked within the convoy of overnight freight haulers. A locksmith and carpenter coordinator at the hospital for more than 30 years, Coffman is one of the estimated 70,000 Clark County residents who commute to work in Oregon, and who count on the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 bridges to make it into work.