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News / Clark County News

C-Tran sets its sights on Mill Plain

Transit agency begins planning for bus rapid transit along corridor

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 26, 2018, 9:07pm
3 Photos
The Vine pulls into Turtle Place in Vancouver in May.
The Vine pulls into Turtle Place in Vancouver in May. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian Photo Gallery

With The Vine firmly rooted into Fourth Plain, C-Tran is laying plans to build its next bus rapid transit branch through the city.

The agency has chosen Mill Plain Boulevard, its second-busiest corridor, to be the next route serviced by the articulated buses. There are still many details that need to be worked out between now and when the buses get rolling, but a few milestones are upcoming.

As it works near the end of phase 1 of the construction project, C-Tran is designing the corridor while also preparing a Request to Enter Project Development letter to the Federal Transportation Administration.

In October, C-Tran’s corridor advisory committee will meet to discuss station locations and the routes’ termini. Then, in November, C-Tran will host a public open house for the public to consider the same issues.

C-Tran knows it wants to run next Vine iteration along Mill Plain Boulevard, but it’s not yet clear where it will run west beyond Fort Vancouver and east beyond Southeast 164th Avenue. Should it go left down Fort Vancouver Way and use Evergreen Boulevard to go downtown? Or should it go in a bigger loop and continue straight on Mill Plain Boulevard and use Washington Street, Seventh Street and Broadway before getting back on Mill Plain Boulevard?

At the eastern end, should it take Mill Plain Boulevard to Southeast 192nd Avenue? Or should it turn right at Southeast 164th Avenue and stop at Fisher’s Landing Transit Center?

“The first phase is really about public involvement and outreach,” said C-Tran spokeswoman Christine Selk. “We want to hear from business groups, riders and citizens.”

The Fourth Plain corridor cost $53 million — $7.4 million of which came from C-Tran itself. How much a Mill Plain corridor might cost remains to be seen. The Mill Plain route is about twice as long as the Fourth Plain route, but Fourth Plain required C-Tran to build a bigger garage to handle the articulated buses, and it had to build a new transit center at Vancouver Mall.

“It’s one contract versus three with Fourth Plain,” Selk said.

In February, C-Tran directors approved a $1.54 million contract with HDR Engineering Inc. of Vancouver for design services in the first phase of the Mill Plain Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit corridor.

The Vine Fourth Plain route runs from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Mall and replaced Routes 4 and 44. Route 60, which goes from downtown Vancouver to Delta Park, replaced the portions of routes 4 and 44 which crossed the Columbia River.

Regionally, BRT was a brand new concept when C-Tran brought The Vine to Vancouver, which meant some growing pains.

Selk said the agency learned a lot from building The Vine. It was the biggest capital project C-Tran had undertaken in its history. Not only did it have to figure out the basics of designing a corridor, but also coordinating with the city of Vancouver and the Washington State Department of Transportation, to install a queue jump at streetlights and as it dug up streets and sidewalks to build BRT stops.

“There were lessons learned across the board,” she said. “The permitting process is intense, and we need that squared away. Partnerships with other agencies are important, and we need to understand that and check in with them.”

Selk also said there was another lesson learned about the design of the shelters and incorporated art. The shelters at current Vine stops have tall sloped roofs with artistic glass panels serving as the back side. While they may look nice, they don’t shelter waiting passengers from the elements on windy, rainy days.

Comparing October and November of 2016 (when the Fourth Plain corridor was served by Route 4) and October and November 2017 (when The Vine was running), C-Tran saw a 45 percent increase in ridership. In raw numbers, Route 4 had just under 142,000 riders compared to The Vine’s more than 205,000.

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Columbian staff writer