Fifteen transportation projects will receive $14.2 million in federal funds, including realigning West Jefferson Street and Kauffman Avenue in downtown Vancouver.
The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, with little discussion, approved the grants Tuesday, directing money from different federal programs to local transportation projects.
Grant recipients went through a competitive process, and each project was evaluated and ranked using criteria adopted by the Regional Transportation Council’s board of directors. Tuesday’s decision was somewhat anti-climatic; the council’s board accepted the ranking of the 15 projects last month.
Federal grants for transportation projects are typically available on a reimbursement basis, meaning the recipient first builds the project and then receives the money. In addition, they usually provide only a portion of the dollars needed to design a project, acquire right of way (if needed) and build the project.
Dale Robbins, a senior transportation planner with the transportation council, said $8.6 million in federal grants was awarded in 2018.
The biggest grant this year will be used for ramp meters on I-205 southbound, from Padden Parkway south to Mill Plain Boulevard. The grants approved Tuesday will provide $372,500 for design, plus $2.13 million for construction.
Ramp meters are mini-signals used during rush hour and other peak travel periods to control the frequency of vehicles entering the freeway. Typically, ramp meters give alternate green lights to two lanes of vehicles queuing to get onto the freeway.
In June, the Washington State Department of Transportation activated ramp meters on I-205 northbound, from state Highway 500 and Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard. Next year, the agency intends to install meters on five onramps to Interstate 5 southbound.
The RTC board also approved two grants totaling $2 million to build additional turn lanes and pedestrian islands at Main Street (state Highway 502) and 10th Avenue (state Highway 503) in Battle Ground.
Another project receiving significant support, $1.84 million for construction, will be used to realign the offset intersection on West 13th Street at Jefferson Street and Kaufmann Avenue.
Ryan Lopossa, Vancouver streets and transportation manager, said the project will improve truck access to warehouses and other businesses along West 11th Street, as well as to the industrial area west of The Waterfront Vancouver.
“We still have a fair amount of truck traffic that comes right through the middle of downtown,” he said.
Realigning the offset intersection will provide a smoother route for trucks heading south off Mill Plain Boulevard, Lopossa said.
The city has already had conversations with Open House Ministries, which operates the Second Hand Solutions Thrift Store on the southeast corner of 13th and Jefferson streets. The store will be razed to make way for the road realignment.
“They are a willing seller of that property,” Lopossa said, adding that Open House Ministries intends to open a replacement thrift store to the west.
Besides realigning Jefferson and Kauffman, the city intends to improve the street, from Evergreen Boulevard to Mill Plain Boulevard, with wider sidewalks as part of downtown and waterfront redevelopment, along with disabled-accessible sidewalk ramps and bicycle facilities.
The total project is expected to cost $11 million, and the city needs to find additional dollars for construction. Lopossa said construction might begin as early as 2021, depending on funding availability.
Several of the grants approved Tuesday will help Clark County build road improvements on and near the 179th Street corridor along I-5.
In late August, the Clark County Council approved a $66.5 million plan that will allow development to proceed on more than 2,000 acres along the 179th Street corridor on both sides of Interstate 5.
An “urban holding” planning designation has blocked those areas from developing until money has been identified to pay for road improvements.
Three of the grants will help the county pay for road improvements on 179th Street, Northeast 10th Avenue and 15th Avenue.