Vancouver to Portland commute time up 300%

The RTC is going to study buses using the shoulders of the freeway

Early morning traffic crosses the Interstate 5 bridge, which spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington states in Vancouver, Wash. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the people who drive between Vancouver and Portland every day, they don’t need to be told the commute is a nightmare.

“It’s crazy, I try to avoid it as much as possible,” says one commuter.

For many people, the slow commute on I-5 has become the norm, and it’s just getting worse.

A new study says travel time between SR-500 in Washington and Jantzen Beach in Oregon is up nearly 300%. In 2011, it would take drivers 6.5 minutes to go the 3 miles during the morning commute. In 2015, it took them 25.

The report from the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council says 273,000 vehicles crossed the Interstate Bridge each day. Now, that number has increased to 294,000.

Some commuters tell KOIN 6 News they’d like to take mass transit, but buses use I-5, too. It wouldn’t get them to Portland any faster.

One thing drivers are doing, according to Jack Burkman, the Chair of the Regional Transportation Council, is starting their commute earlier.

“People are indeed starting earlier and they pointed out what that is doing is clogging I-5 and then it takes a few hours to clear. So going earlier is not really helping it,” Burkman says.

Burkman says money is the big reason traffic continues to get worse. Lawmakers on both sides of the Columbia River have already spent $200 million on a new bridge that was never built. He says federal funding for interchange improvement is coming, but not until 2020. Until then, the focus is on short term solutions.

“Now we are looking at what we can do for ramp meters, what can we do for helping people flow onto and off the freeway, what can we do for shoulders,” says Burkman. “We are looking at the small changes. They are not going to fix it but will help a little.”

 

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