Transportation congestion: It’s too important to ignore

Ken Vance Editorial Clarkcountytoday.com

Clark County residents need to do a better job of keeping themselves informed on the issue

One of my closest friends is one of the 70,000-plus Clark County residents who commute into Oregon for employment each week. He often doesn’t get off work until 7 p.m. or later and every once in a while he will call me on his way back to Vancouver to both catch up and also to occupy himself during the monotony of his drive home.

Thursday was one of those evenings that I got a call from my friend. It was after 8 p.m. on this night and he was on Interstate 5 in stop-and-go traffic. My friend is obviously no stranger to the transportation congestion problems we are faced with here in Southwest Washington and over the Columbia River in Oregon.

Clark County commuters, such as these shown here in this file photo of traffic on I-205 in East Vancouver, are facing more and more transportation congestion issues. ClarkCountyToday.com Editor Ken Vance encourages area residents to become more informed on the issue. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clark County commuters, such as these shown here in this file photo of traffic on I-205 in East Vancouver, are facing more and more transportation congestion issues. ClarkCountyToday.com Editor Ken Vance encourages area residents to become more informed on the issue. Photo by Mike Schultz

My friend, who on at least five nights a week makes the drive from downtown Portland to Vancouver via I-5, kept exclaiming, “it’s after 8 p.m., why in the world is traffic still this bad?’’ He’s used to experiencing that level of congestion anytime before 7 p.m. on weekdays but by 8 p.m. his expectation is that he should be able to enjoy a relatively uneventful commute home. But, as many of you know, there is rarely such an experience to be had on I-5 or I-205 for that matter, regardless of the hour of the day.

As my friend and I continued to talk last night, I began sharing with him some of the information I have accumulated about the transportation congestion issues residents of the two states are experiencing. And sadly, the lack of any solutions that will be implemented any time in the near future.

I would consider my friend well above average when it comes to keeping himself informed on issues, political and otherwise. He’s more passionate about federal issues and politics than he is locally, but he takes more time than the average citizen to obtain a grasp of what is going on around him. That said, I was astonished at how little my friend knew about the area’s transportation issues, including Oregon’s effort to place tolls on I-5 and I-205.

Those of you who are regular readers of this space are likely aware there is no single topic I have written about more in the past year or more than transportation congestion. I’m blessed to be employed in Clark County, so I don’t have to commute into Oregon. Despite that, it’s still an issue that I’m very passionate about.

As a result of that passion, I’ve tried to do my part to share my insight and perspective with Clark County residents about what I believe they need to know when it comes to transportation congestion. Sure, I’ve also sprinkled in my personal opinion and commentary, which is appropriate because, after all, this space is designed for just that.

At times, I’ve asked myself if I’ve written too much on this topic. And, to be honest, I usually lean to the belief that I likely have written about as much as you’re willing to read. However, after my conversation with my friend last night, I’m not sure that’s the case.

Transportation congestion is one of the main issues affecting our quality of life and I’m convinced too many Clark County residents aren’t paying enough attention to what is going on and what isn’t.

Oregon transportation officials recently briefed members of the Clark County Council and other area leaders and residents. Here is a link to ClarkCountyToday.com’s coverage of that meeting:

The topic was also addressed at a recent meeting (April 3) of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council. Here is a link to the video courtesy of CVTV:

https://www.cvtv.org/vid_link/25501

Here are a couple of links to my recent editorials on this issue:

There are two upcoming opportunities for area residents to become more informed on transportation congestion issues.

  • The League of Women Voters of Clark County is sponsoring a free, public forum on transportation Sun., April 15, from 1-3 p.m. at the Clark Regional Wastewater District office, 8000 N.E. 52nd Court, Vancouver..

The forum has two purposes:

— Stimulate community discussion about transportation in and around Clark County by raising issues, generating ideas and suggesting possible solutions to problems beyond the need for a new I-5 bridge;

— Provide a glimpse into future county transportation needs and encourage residents to send ideas and comments to the Regional Transportation Council through its website (rtc.wa.gov) as it updates its 20-year transportation plan, scheduled to be completed this fall.

The forum will be a conversation among panelists, and the final 30 minutes will be devoted to audience questions. Matt Ransom, RTC executive director, will be forum moderator.

Panelists will include Shawn Donaghy, C-Tran chief executive officer; Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle; Kris Strickler, Washington Department of Transportation regional administrator;  Temple Lentz, board member, Clark County Commission on Aging; Chris Strizver, commuter and League of Women Voters; Madeleine von Laue, City of Vancouver Bicycle/Pedestrian Stakeholder Group member.

CVTV will videotape the forum.

  • The Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Advisory Committee has just three meetings remaining. The next will be Wed., April 11, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the ODOT Region I Offices, 123 NW Flanders St., Portland.

The committee is considering five options to implement Oregon’s plan to place tolls on I-5 and I-205 and will make a recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission early this summer.

For more information or for links to recent and future meetings, visit:

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Get-Involved/Pages/Value-Pricing-Committee.aspx

There’s just too much at stake for Clark County residents not to inform themselves on this important issue.

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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