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News / Business / Clark County Business

C-Tran’s new ‘Red Vine’ service opens early and under budget

Vancouver bus rapid transit route connects downtown Vancouver to the Columbia Tech Center

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 30, 2023, 8:43pm
4 Photos
Shawn Donaghy, C-Tran CEO, sports a red blazer at the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday for the transit agency's new Vine bus rapid transit service.
Shawn Donaghy, C-Tran CEO, sports a red blazer at the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday for the transit agency's new Vine bus rapid transit service. ( James Rexroad for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Against the backdrop of autumn leaves changing from green to red, dozens of people gathered Saturday to eat licorice and celebrate the opening of C-Tran’s second bus rapid transit line, The Vine, and the Mill Plain Transit Center.

The Red Vine, as it’s colloquially called, enters into service on Monday and will connect downtown Vancouver to the Columbia Tech Center via Mill Plain Boulevard. It finished two months ahead of schedule and a couple of million dollars under its $50 million budget.

Nuria Fernandez, the administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, attended both the groundbreaking of the line in September 2021 and the ribbon cutting on Saturday. The project was financed in part by $30 million in federal funds.

“We feel so affirmed when those decisions point to outcomes like this, because we are here to serve the public,” Fernandez said. “We are in the people-moving business, and the more funding that we can bring to projects that help people get to where they want to go and help them do the kinds of things they want to do, we are all better off.”

The Red Vine joins the green Vine on Fourth Plain Boulevard, which opened in 2017.

Wearing a red suit, C-Tran CEO Shawn Donaghy thanked C-Tran’s staff, partners and board of directors who helped bring the project to fruition through the pandemic.

“Our community, our promise,” he said. “We see it on the top of the glass sheet on our buses, you see it on our letterhead. It’s not just our motto, it requires that we act in every single sense for our communities to provide equitable outcomes, protect all of our people, the values and our future. Our employees embody that vision every single day when they come to work.”

The opening marks a high point in one of the biggest years in the transit agency’s history. In addition to its new transit center and bus rapid transit line, C-Tran’s first battery electric buses went into service in June and planning continues for two more bus rapid transit lines: one on Highway 99 and an extension of the Fourth Plain Boulevard line.

Projects like this are “making the lives and the trips of people better; and in so doing, it’s building the corridor up and giving us the opportunity to see that extra development that can happen and that can best serve the community,” C-Tran chief external affairs officer Scott Patterson said.

“We’re excited for this, but we’re also excited to do a couple more of these,” Patterson added.

For those keeping track at home, Fernandez’s visit to Clark County marks the fourth Biden official to the county this year.

The administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Isabel Guzman, toured Vancouver in February, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg touted the $40 million federal investment in the Washougal 32nd Street Underpass Project in July and White House senior adviser Mitch Landrieu visited Tidewater Barge Lines at the Port of Vancouver last week.

Critical transportation corridor

The Red Vine will cover about 10 miles and include 37 new stations, all with raised platforms and ticket vending machines, eight new 60-foot buses and a new transit center at the east end of Mill Plain Boulevard.

C-Tran route changes

Starting on Oct. 1 with the opening of the Mill Plain Transit Center and The Vine on Mill Plain, some service changes will be implemented.
The Vine on Mill Plain: Service begins for The Vine on Mill Plain, operating between downtown Vancouver and Mill Plain Transit Center.
Route 34: A new route providing all-day service between the Mill Plain Transit Center and Fisher’s Landing Transit Center via 192nd Avenue and 34th Street, with buses running every 15 minutes during morning and evening peak periods and every 30 minutes during off-peak periods and weekends.
Route 37: Discontinued, replaced by The Vine on Mill Plain.
Route 41: Extended to provide service to Camas and Washougal, Fisher’s Landing Transit Center and downtown Vancouver.
Route 48: Extended to serve ilani and to adjust morning and evening schedule patterns.
Route 72: Extended to serve segments of Ward Road and 162nd Avenue, maintaining coverage along corridors currently served by Route 74, increasing access to jobs, services, and destinations for existing riders, and permitting transfers to Route 74 at Northeast 162nd Avenue and Fourth Plain Boulevard.
Route 74: Extended to serve Mill Plain Transit Center via Fourth Plain Boulevard, 162nd Avenue, 1st Street.
Route 92: Realigned to serve Mill Plain Transit Center via 192nd Avenue.

Mill Plain is a critical transportation corridor for Vancouver, serving downtown, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, The Vancouver Clinic and the Heights District development in Central Vancouver and the Columbia Tech Center in East Vancouver.

To differentiate the Vine segments operating on Fourth Plain and Mill Plain boulevards, C-Tran will use color designations. The Vine on Fourth Plain Boulevard is known as the green line, and Mill Plain will be served by the red line.

The Vine is set to expand in the coming years with the proposed route on Highway 99, from the Vancouver Waterfront to Washington State University Vancouver and the Fourth Plain extension, from the Vancouver Mall to either the Mill Plain Transit Center or the Fisher’s Landing Transit Center — respectively colored blue and lime green. Service on both lines is projected to start in 2027.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer