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.
- Portland pushes immediate tolls on I-5, I-205 - July 11, 2018
- Southwest Washington officials were dismayed Wednesday to learn that the Portland City Council is pushing for immediate tolls on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 in lieu of a proposal to phase in tolling on a few sections of the interstate. The council’s position was outlined in a letter sent to the Oregon Transportation Commission in advance of a special public hearing Thursday as the commission considers a recommendation from the Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee last month. Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring, who served on the 25-member advisory board, said she’s not surprised to learn about Portland’s renewed tolling platform, given Portland’s previously expressed views on tolling. “I’m saddened to see this, but it’s just frustrating watching,” Quiring said, “because we just don’t have a very loud, effective voice.”
- Bridge Update - June 30, 2018
- The Port of Hood River is working to get the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge replaced as quickly as possible. At its current pace, a new bridge could be in place by 2025, but the port and representatives from both sides of the river hope to finish it sooner. The port commission most recently held a work session with local stakeholders to go over the process of submitting a Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS), which must be completed before the project can move forward. The port is currently in the process of finishing the FEIS and other National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.
- County growing, but not as fast - June 27, 2018
- Clark County’s population is still growing at a fast clip, but the growth rate may have reached its peak. The county gained an estimated 8,500 people and grew 1.8 percent between April 2017 and April 2018, making it only the eighth fastest-growing county in Washington, according to data released Tuesday by the state Office of Financial Management. An estimated 479,500 people live in Clark County. Franklin and Benton counties, which make up the Tri-Cities, along with Snohomish and Skagit counties north of Seattle, were the fastest-growing. Historically, Clark County has been among the state’s fastest-growing places. The other faster-growing counties this year were Kittitas (Ellensburg), Whatcom (Bellingham), and San Juan.
- Committee OKs limited I-5, I-205 tolls - June 25, 2018
- A committee of government officials and other leaders from across the region signed off on Oregon’s plans to toll limited sections of Interstates 5 and 205 in the Portland metro area as part of a strategy to relieve congestion. The decision made Monday by the Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee is another step in a yearslong process that still needs to be approved by the federal government. While the decision could mean a more expensive commute for Clark County residents, the committee was split on a more ambitious tolling scheme. The committee also adopted some conciliatory measures for Clark County after residents and officials complained that the plan treated them as Oregon’s piggy bank.
- C-Tran letter to Oregon on tolls has 7 key points - June 12, 2018
- As Oregon studies using tolls – aka congestion pricing – on Interstates 5 and 205 to manage traffic into Portland, C-Tran is asking officials to consider giving public transit a break, or maybe even cut it in on the revenue. C-Tran’s Board of Directors approved a letter Tuesday night that will be sent to the Oregon Department of Transportation. It raises seven points that C-Tran believes should be considered before the Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee finishes its feasibility study on tolling the freeways around Portland. Among them, C-Tran wants to know if it would be exempted from paying any toll that’s implemented.
- RTC to weigh in on tolling in letter to Oregon officials - June 5, 2018
- Members of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council agreed Tuesday to join the Vancouver City Council in sending a letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission expressing its thoughts on tolling and project development. The RTC’s vote, however, elicited some debate. Some members urged the RTC to take a stronger stance instead of simply requesting future involvement in value-pricing discussions. Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring ultimately voted in favor of the letter but argued that Oregon doesn’t plan to include Washington in its proposal. “I don’t think they care,” Quiring said. “It saddens me to say that, but I honestly don’t think they care.”