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.
- League of Women Voters forum takes look at tolling - April 15, 2018
- Local officials shared their concerns regarding proposed tolling on the Oregon side of Interstate 5, along with thoughts on a host of other topics, as part of a wide-ranging forum on regional transportation issues hosted by the League of Women Voters on Sunday afternoon. Matt Ransom, the forum moderator and executive director of the state Regional Transportation Council, noted that Washington has built about 20 bridges paid for through tolling in recent history, with a handful of projects still going in the Puget Sound area. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle shared multiple lingering concerns surrounding Oregon’s proposed tolling in the Portland area, specifically the worry that a toll that impacts Washington commuters, who already pay an Oregon income tax, will provide them little benefit.
- Tolling panel looks at impacts - April 11, 2018
- A 25-member committee charged with making tolling recommendations to the Oregon Transportation Commission picked up Wednesday where it left off in late February, discussing how best to implement tolls on Interstates 5 and 205. Told by officials to be creative, members of the Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee discussed mitigation techniques to soften the financial blow for some drivers whose pocketbook might take a big hit if and when Oregon implements tolls on highways carrying thousands each day who commute from Clark County to Oregon and back. Working in small groups, members considered ways to lessen the community impact and several other different issues, such as no alternative route options and negating disproportionate impacts on low-income drivers.
- Port of Ridgefield’s railroad overpass work delayed - April 11, 2018
- Ridgefield residents have a herd of once-endangered deer to thank for the latest delay on the Pioneer Street Railroad Overpass Project, as the overpass once scheduled to wrap up by the end of this year still waits to go out to bid. The $14 million project received its last bit of funding in February 2016, with construction expected to start in 2017 and last 12 to 18 months. The Port of Ridgefield’s project will connect Pioneer Street to the port’s property, making it easier to get from downtown to the waterfront area. The question as to when that connection will be made is still up in the air.
- Vancouver, county look at Complete Streets concept - April 9, 2018
- Clark County is hoping to make its streets a little more complete. The county is in the early stages of drafting an ordinance endorsing the concept of Complete Streets, which basically means that roadways should generally include infrastructure for pedestrians, bicyclists, disabled and elderly individuals and transit riders. The idea has steadily caught on with urban planners after decades of car-centric development that’s contributed to sprawl. According to Smart Growth America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works on issues of urban livability, more than 1,000 local and state governments have adopted some sort of Complete Streets policy, including the city of Vancouver.
- Amid concerns, two roundabouts planned for Highway 14 - April 2, 2018
- On any given day, Exterior Wood has dozens of tractor-trailers driving in and out of its yard at the Port of Camas-Washougal Industrial Park. So when the Washington State Department of Transportation proposed building two roundabouts on state Highway 14, company leaders got a little nervous. “I had very mixed feelings – still do,” said Dave Perry, president of Exterior Wood. He was just one of many people who had apprehensions about roundabouts on a state highway. Dave Scott, Washougal city administrator, said members of the city council were initially skeptical. Some members of the public have also spoken out against the project. For about $7.6 million, WSDOT plans to build roundabouts on Highway 14 at 15th and 32nd streets. By doing so, transportation planners believe they will improve driver safety, enhance traffic flow and restore access to both directions of the highway from the north and south. The project is in the design phase, with construction expected to begin sometime next spring.
- New bridge spans an old route - March 16, 2018
- Construction crews reached a milestone last week when they placed long steel girders across Whipple Creek, nearing the goal of connecting Northeast 10th Avenue with 450-foot long bridge. Yet an amateur roadway historian says it's just the latest modifications to a crossing site people have relied on since European settlers began moving to the area. “This has come full circle,” said South Point resident Curt Cunningham, referencing the new bridge's construction. “A hundred years ago, this was the thoroughfare. Now, Vancouver is starting to grow, and this road is needed again. Suburbia has finally met Whipple Creek.”
- WSDOT officials seek input on Highway 500 safety issues - March 1, 2018
- Drive state Highway 500 as part of your commute through Vancouver? Odds are you’ve seen quite a few fender benders. In the last five years, there have been just under 400 crashes on state Highway 500 at the intersections of Northeast 42nd Avenue/Falk Road and Northeast 54th Avenue/Stapleton Road. That translates to about one crash every four days at two traffic lights less than one mile apart. Now the Washington State Department of Transportation is looking for ways to improve driving conditions on the highway, especially at those two intersections. On Wednesday, the agency launched a study to tackle the problem, starting with a public survey.