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.
- Consensus on replacing the I-5 Bridge? - June 17, 2019
- Two members of Clark County’s legislative delegation say there is consensus among its members that the Interstate 5 Bridge needs to be replaced. Rep. Brandon Vick and Rep. Larry Hoff, both Vancouver Republicans, met with The Columbian’s editorial board last week to recap the 2019 legislative session. Vick said there is consensus among county legislators to step back and see where there is agreement on the bridge. If light rail is a sticking point, then take it off the table for now, he said. “There are a variety of different opinions out there,” Hoff added. “The good news is they are starting to center on an I-5 solution, an I-5 Bridge solution.”
- City ready to do something about 18th Street’s inconvenient gap - June 8, 2019
- Early proposed designs of a project that would connect a disjointed road across a swath of Vancouver land was revealed to the public for the first time this week. The project would extend Northeast 18th Street across an awkward gap, located just west of Interstate 205 from Northeast 100th Avenue to Northeast 107th Avenue. Estimated to cost about $13.5 million dollars, the project has a design phase that will extend through the year, with right-of-way acquisition in 2020 and a groundbreaking in 2021. “We’re very early in the process,” said Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Public Works Department.
- State looks to improve 500 and Fourth Plain, Clark County’s busiest intersection - May 26, 2019
- Clark County’s highest-volume intersection is getting some planning attention, but no immediate construction dollars to ease chronic congestion. The Washington State Department of Transportation has identified five packages of potential improvements to ease congestion and improve safety at the intersection of state Highway 500 and Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard in Orchards. On Wednesday, the public will get a chance to review the five packages when WSDOT hosts an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. in the commons area of Covington Middle School, 11200 N.E. Rosewood Ave., Vancouver. The open house will have a drop-in format, with no formal presentation. Attendees can meet with WSDOT staff, view possible improvement packages, ask questions and offer their own thoughts and ideas.
- Highway 14 roundabout work to begin in Washougal - May 26, 2019
- Dignitaries held their groundbreaking ceremony last week. Now it’s time for construction workers to get busy building two roundabouts on state Highway 14 in Washougal. Thompson Bros. Excavating Inc., a Vancouver contractor working for the Washington State Department of Transportation, will start construction Wednesday on roundabouts at Washougal River Road/15th Street and at 32nd Street. Elected officials and WSDOT representatives gathered Thursday morning for a groundbreaking with speeches and obligatory shovels in the dirt. No golden shovels were lined up; WSDOT provided new shovels that will be distributed to road crews.
- Battle Ground congestion project faces gap in funding - May 8, 2019
- It was a relief to many when the Legislature adjourned its 105-day session and passed a budget with minutes to spare, but Battle Ground Mayor Mike Dalesandro feels his city was left behind. The city had requested $1.3 million in inflationary adjustment for the state Highway 502 and state Highway 503 congestion relief project, but did not receive it. The project was expected to cost $7.7 million and be entirely funded by the state’s Connecting Washington transportation funding package. The first of the project’s three phases wrapped up in late 2017. The second phase – the most costly of the three – is scheduled to start this year. Dalesandro said it’s not at the point where the project has to be put on hold, but that’s a definite possibility if the city can’t secure funds within the upcoming year.
- Legislature makes deadline, secures $35M for I-5 Bridge - April 29, 2019
- Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, recalled meeting with federal transportation officials to discuss renewed efforts to replace the century-old Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River. Since the demise of the Columbia River Crossing, the previous replacement project in 2013, both Oregon and Washington have faced the prospect of having to repay nearly $150 million to the federal government in September if they couldn’t demonstrate progress on replacing the antiquated bridge. Cleveland recalled asking in the meeting about the prospect of having to repay federal funds. “The response was: ‘We don’t know; that’s never happened before,’” said Cleveland. After Washington Legislature adjourned its 105-day session Sunday night, Cleveland is more confident the two states won’t be on the hook to repay the feds after she secured $35 million in the state’s $52.4 billion two-year budget toward replacing the bridge.