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June 24, 2021

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Vancouver driven to improve transportation

Expansion of Southeast First Street takes top spot as city sets priorities for work

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Drivers navigate a narrow section of Southeast First Street. Vancouver's new Transportation and Mobility Commission created a list of the city's transportation priorities over the next five years, with the First Street build-out at the top of the list.
Drivers navigate a narrow section of Southeast First Street. Vancouver's new Transportation and Mobility Commission created a list of the city's transportation priorities over the next five years, with the First Street build-out at the top of the list. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The city of Vancouver is drafting a list of transportation projects ranked by importance, with the top priorities aimed at adding capacity to the system’s overused roads.

A project that would expand Southeast First Street in two phases — from 164th Avenue to 177th Avenue, and then east to 192nd Avenue — has been identified as the most crucial update to the city’s transportation system. Following close behind is a realignment of Jefferson Street from West Evergreen to West Mill Plain Boulevard.

“All of them are eligible for grants in one form or another,” said Chris Malone, the finance and asset manager for Vancouver Public Works.

Malone was speaking at a meeting of Vancouver’s Transportation and Mobility Commission, a relatively new group aimed at revamping the city’s transportation infrastructure for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and bus riders. Formed in March 2020, the commission’s job is to take a bird’s-eye view on transportation.

A major element of that work currently revolves around revamping the city’s Transportation System Plan, which hasn’t seen an update since 2004 and will require an extensive audit of the state of Vancouver’s current infrastructure. The committee is also tasked with green-lighting the city’s 2022-2027 Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP.

The TIP is completed annually, but it lays out transportation goals and funding strategies for the subsequent five years. It also forces the city to set priorities — what work does Vancouver need to accomplish in the near future, and what projects can afford to wait?

This year, the new commission decided to formalize a ranking system. The group established a set of scoring criteria: projects are ranked based on how well they improve safety, equity, climate, congestion management, economic development and multimodal options. The criteria also prioritizes project viability, as well as proposals that take care of infrastructure the city already has.

Each proposal in the latest TIP received a ranking between 1 and 100.

“What we want to build in here is a scoring process that’s not subjective,” Malone said. “Moving forward, we want to continue that.”

The two-phase build-out of Southeast First Street received top TIP scores of 73 and 70. That portion of Southeast First Street was built as a rural two-lane road, but development in the southeast corner of the city, including a planned new campus for printer and PC maker HP Inc., necessitates construction of a new arterial.

The project will add a center turn lane to the roadway, as well as sidewalks, bike lanes, streetlights, sound walls and stormwater infrastructure. Construction is scheduled to start in the summer.

The Jefferson Street realignment is the next on the priority list, with a score of 68. The project will realign the intersection of Jefferson/Kauffman Avenue at West 13th Street, providing a clearer passage for freight haulers trying to navigate between downtown Vancouver and the industrial areas along the Columbia River.

A walking and biking trail that currently runs along Jefferson and cuts off at Evergreen Boulevard will be extended north, to connect with existing bike lanes along Mill Plain Boulevard. The city is still working to acquire rights of way for the project, with no set schedule for construction.

Other priorities

Priorities identified under the draft TIP are separated into three categories: Projects that add capacity, projects that involve traffic signal updates, and projects that improve multimodal access (think sidewalks and curb ramps).

Priority projects to add capacity are:

  • Building a new road connecting Northeast 16th Street and Northeast 18th Street near Four Seasons Lane and the former Joe’s Place Farm (TIP score of 60);
  • Upgrading Northeast 137th Avenue from Northeast 49th Street to Fourth Plain Boulevard, with a center turn lane or roundabout, sidewalks, streetlights, ramps and stormwater infrastructure (TIP score of 59);
  • Expanding Northeast 18th Street between Northeast 142nd Avenue and Northeast 162nd Avenue from a two-lane road to a five-lane arterial (TIP score of 56);
  • Expanding Northeast 18th Street between Northeast 97th Avenue and Northeast 107th Avenue (TIP score of 55).

For signal projects, the city’s top priorities include:

  • Installing equipment along Mill Plain to monitor how well software that prioritizes public transit at traffic signals is working (TIP score of 50);
  • Extending the southbound right turn lane pocket on Northeast Andresen Road to Fourth Plain Boulevard (TIP score of 48);
  • Upgrade the signal at Columbia Street and 13th Street (TIP score of 40);
  • Improve the intersection at Northeast 13th Street and Northeast 192nd Avenue (TIP score of 39);
  • Adding a dedicated right turn lane on the westbound offramp at Columbia House Boulevard and Grove Street and adding a second westbound through lane (TIP score of 37).

For multimodal projects, the prioritized list includes:

  • Completing the Transportation System Plan update (TIP score of 66);
  • Adding dedicated bike lanes along Columbia Street from Columbia Boulevard to 45th Street (TIP score of 65);
  • Enhancing pedestrian safety on North Devine Road with continuous sidewalks, more lighting and a flashing signal at Idaho Street (TIP score of 62);
  • Improving pavement, parking, and a multi-use path that runs along Fifth Street between Fort Vancouver Way and East Reserve Street (TIP score of 61);
  • Adding three enhanced pedestrian crossings with beacons and refuges along Fourth Plain Boulevard between Fort Vancouver Way and Z Street, at Neals Lane and at Todd Road.

Vancouver’s Transportation and Mobility Commission is scheduled to join the board members of the Transportation Benefit District — made up of city councilors — for a joint meeting on May 24, with a public hearing to adopt the TIP tentatively set for June 21. A draft version of the document is available on the city’s website in the meantime, at cityofvancouver.us/publicworks/page/transportation-improvement-program.

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