C-Tran officially planted The Vine on Monday, celebrating the start of a project that will bring big changes to Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.
The $53 million bus rapid transit line is the largest project in C-Tran’s history. It’s also the first such system in the Portland-Vancouver area. C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm called Monday’s gathering a “historic event.”
The groundbreaking ceremony at Turtle Place plaza in downtown Vancouver didn’t actually move any dirt. Instead of wielding golden shovels, dignitaries unfurled a large banner at the planned location of The Vine’s terminus station.
Project partners and other supporters sang the praises of an effort they say will bring much-needed attention to the Fourth Plain corridor.
“Our whole agenda for the Fourth Plain corridor is to create a place that works for the people that live, work and play there,” said Mark Maggiora, executive director of local nonprofit Americans Building Community. Historically, he said, major investments on Fourth Plain have been few and far between.
“We couldn’t let this go by the wayside,” Maggiora said.
The Vine will run between a revamped transit center at the Westfield Vancouver mall and the terminus station at Turtle Place. The system will run primarily along the city’s Fourth Plain corridor — by far C-Tran’s busiest — replacing the No. 4 and No. 44 bus routes that serve it now.
The Vine will use larger vehicles, raised boarding platforms and other features in an effort to move passengers more efficiently and reliably. Sixty-foot articulated buses will serve 34 new stations along the corridor. The system will be less costly to operate than the service it will replace, according to C-Tran.
The Vine is scheduled to open in late 2016.
The first construction will happen at C-Tran’s headquarters, where a “complete remodel” of the agency’s maintenance facility will make room for the new vehicles and other needs, Hamm said.
Most of the project’s $53 million price tag will be covered by a federal grant, according to C-Tran. The agency also committed some $7 million of its own reserves to cover its local share of the cost.
Additional funding came from other grants, including the state’s Regional Mobility Grant program.
“I’m proud of this project, and I’m proud of the program that made it possible,” said Brian Lagerberg, director of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s public transportation division.
Monday’s ceremony culminated a four-year planning process that was complex and, at times, turbulent. The project design evolved significantly from early concepts as residents, business owners and other voices weighed in. Its local financial plan changed after a proposed sales tax measure failed in 2012. The Vine was also targeted by an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit dismissed last month.
Critics argue the project is unnecessary, costly and doesn’t have the backing of the public.
Through it all, the project advanced with steady support from most — but not all — of C-Tran’s board members.
La Center Mayor Jim Irish, the current chair of the C-Tran board, said the system will benefit more than just Vancouver. C-Tran has said savings from the lower operating cost of The Vine could be used elsewhere in the system. And many transit users travel from other parts of the county to Vancouver, Irish said.
“C-Tran is a public transit system,” Irish said. “Its riders go where they go, and that can’t be limited to within a single jurisdiction.”