A 9.9-mile expansion of the Vine bus service is coming to Mill Plain Boulevard
The Vine is growing, and city, county, and federal transportation officials are celebrating, along with Clark College.
C-TRAN held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday at the Clark College Columbia Tech Center campus in east Vancouver, the future site of a transit center that will be part of the Vine’s expansion to Mill Plain Boulevard.
The Vine, a bus rapid transit system, is in place on Fourth Plain Blvd. The Mill Plain expansion is next, and officials noted that a third Vine system, on Highway 99, is part of the future plan.
Tuesday, though, it was all about the 9.9-mile Vine that is coming to Mill Plain Blvd., and a nod to the partnership between C-TRAN and Clark College.
“We at the FTA are very proud to have been partners with you to support this project,” said Nuria Fernandez, the administrator of the Federal Transportation Administration, noting the BRT will bring a safer, faster, and more reliable transit service.
“Getting to school, getting to health care … and much more from downtown Vancouver to the city’s eastern neighborhoods is what it’s all about,” Fernandez said.
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle described the new project as another milestone for the city.
“When the Vine first started over on Fourth Plain five years ago, it was transformative. It was a project that changed Vancouver and C-TRAN,” said McEnerny-Ogle, who is also the C-TRAN board chair. “We refer to Fourth Plain as kind of the backbone of Vancouver. That BRT piece just strengthened it. It made it stand stronger. Today we have the opportunity to duplicate all of that success on Mill Plain.”
The mayor also had a little fun at Tri-Met’s expense, with Portland’s transportation officials in attendance.
“We were the first. We were the first in the entire region to have a BRT,” she said. “We let Tri-Met borrow one of our buses just to look at how they turn, but we were No. 1.”
Temple Lentz, a Clark County commissioner and the vice chair of the C-TRAN board, said BRT is not just a benefit to the people who live along the Vine route.
“Having a strong public transportation network strengthens the smaller cities in Clark County as well as the unincorporated urban areas,” Lentz said.
She said she is looking forward to more expansion, as well.
“Mill Plain is the second branch of the Vine, but it will not be the last,” she said, noting that she is hoping the Vine will branch out to Highway 99 from downtown Vancouver north to Hazel Dell and Salmon Creek.
Dr. Karin Edwards, the president of Clark College, was also a speaker at Tuesday’s ceremony.
She noted that studies say that college students often point out the lack of affordable, reliable transportation.
That isn’t the case at the main campus now, and it won’t be the case for the Columbia Tech Center campus.
“That’s why this partnership between Clark College and C-TRAN is so important,” Edwards said. “Together we’re eliminating both barriers.”
She added that she is glad that what was done on Fourth Plain is going to be replicated on Mill Plain.
Leigh Tapani, the president of Tapani Inc., said he is grateful for the opportunity to work with C-TRAN again. Tapani Inc. of Battle Ground is the primary contractor.
Tapani said that a few years ago, company executives asked themselves just what they are about in the industry. Their answer: We build what matters.
“When we talk about something that really matters to the community, public transportation probably would rate as one of the most critical things for a community to thrive,” Tapani said.
Shawn M. Donaghy, chief executive officer of C-TRAN, completed the remarks by thanking all who are part of C-TRAN’s vision, including the riders.
He also looked forward to the completion of the Mill Plain Vine.
“In this nearly 10-mile stretch of Mill Plain, you have just about everything. A college campus at each end. Two vibrant medical districts. Multi-family and single-family housing. Industrial. Retail. Support center. Everything. It is nearly the perfect transit corridor.”
The project will include 37 new stations to go with the new transit center. Construction is scheduled to begin later this fall. BRT on Mill Plain is expected to begin in 2023.
The end of the ceremony saw officials and elected leaders put shovels in the ground, symbolizing the start of the project.
C-TRAN officials have previously stated they expect the price tag for the Mill Plain Vine will be about $50 million, the maximum amount they can spend and still qualify for FTA loans. Local costs are currently estimated to be around $22 million, but officials were hopeful that number would come down if they can qualify for other federal or state grants.