Previous funding packages transformed Clark County transportation

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter



The boost in highway spending in Washington since 2003 has significantly altered the transportation landscape in Clark County.

Gas tax increases in 2003 and 2005 sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the county for a series of major projects. The largest of them, the $133 million Salmon Creek Interchange Project, was completed last year. That project revamped the northern convergence of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 and built a new interchange and overpass at Northeast 139th Street.

Other projects funded by the two funding packages included new I-5 interchanges at Ridgefield and Battle Ground, an expansion of state Highway 14 in Camas and Washougal, and a new interchange at state Highway 500 and St. Johns Boulevard in Vancouver.

The Washington State Department of Transportation last fall broke ground on a new interchange at I-205 and Northeast 18th Street in Vancouver. The $40.6 million effort is the last project in Clark County funded by either the 2003 or 2005 gas tax packages. The planned widening of state Highway 502 between I-5 and Battle Ground, funded primarily by the 2005 package, remains under construction and slated for completion in 2016, according to WSDOT.

The latest broad transportation proposal, a $15 billion package rolled out by state Senate leaders this month, has drawn criticism from local lawmakers for delivering relatively little to Clark County. The package would set aside about $160 million for several highway projects in the county, plus another $6 million in transit and rail upgrades.

The new package does not, however, include any money for a new interchange at I-5 and Northeast 179th Street — a priority for some local leaders — or the aging Interstate 5 Bridge between Vancouver and Portland.

Meanwhile, other local roadways and bridges remain in need of repairs. Among the state’s 137 “structurally deficient” bridges are three such spans in Clark County, according to WSDOT. The structurally deficient rating means a bridge requires repair or replacement of a certain component, according to the agency. It doesn’t necessarily mean the bridge is in danger of collapse or unsafe for travel, however.

Clark County’s three structurally deficient bridges are the northbound East Fork Lewis River Bridge, which carries I-5 over the river near La Center; a steel suspension span on state Highway 503 in north Clark County; and a steel culvert at a crossing of Highway 502 over Mill Creek near Battle Ground.