Top Ten Annoying Roads in the ‘Couv’

OK, I know I am in some dangerous waters here because I may miss one that is your absolute worst and then it’s off to the comments 😉 I know, traffic can be a real pisser, but overall and in comparison to many other places in the Metro Area we got it good. But that doesn’t mean that state and local leaders should rest on their laurels. No! No they should not; for there are some egregious traffic engineering brain bafflers in and around this town.

10. SE 164th Avenue @ SE 34th Street

This is on the list more because it is a only a minor annoyance but could so easily and inexpensively be fixed that it annoys me more than it should. A smidgen of local history is needed to wrap your head around this. Back in the day Hewlett Packard had a huge design and manufacturing facility on SE 34th in Fishers Landing. They employed some 3000 peeps at the location and the traffic in the morning from 164th onto 34th was a problem. So the city striped the right northbound 164th lane as turn only. OK fine, made sense, might of even worked. But HP exported the manufacturing jobs overseas and eventually nothing remained except some engineers and design teams. So now there is simply no need for that dedicated right turn lane, but there IS a need to alleviate the lane dodging of traffic merge from Westbound SR-14 onto Northbound 164th. A simple re striping on that turn only lane to a through lane solves it. Chump change fix guys, seriously you haven’t done this yet? It’s been like what? 20 years since the bulk of HP employees left that facility?

9. SE 1st Street from 164th to 192nd

This is nuts. There is a huge city right of way easement all along this stretch of road and yet it remains a marginally improved two lane road with open culverts in some spots. It’s more suited to countryside than the city. What is this 1955?

8. C Street from East 8th to Mill Plain Boulevard

This street was one of several one-way streets reverted to two-way traffic some 10-12 years ago. Among the reverted streets were Broadway and Main Street which in my opinion was a good idea. But C Street should have remained a one way just like Washington Street is. You see, Washington Street is a quick southbound connector through the downtown and onto both I-5 and SR-14. C Street was it’s counter part northbound coming right off the freeway ramps into downtown, through to Mill Plain. Those two streets were symbiotic and the city ruined the symbioses. Re stripe C street to one way up to Mill Plain. Too easy.

7. The Salmon Creek Mega-Interchange

OK, this is not really a thing, I just decided to lump that whole monster maze of 134th, 139th, 20th, I-205, and I-5 into one “Mega-Interchange.” Now some kudos are in order for Clark County and WSDOT for alleviating some of that crazy congestion on NE 134th Street. Besides some poor signage that might lead to confusion for out of area drivers it isn’t really that bad anymore. But there is one glaring and frankly insulting omission to this one. Interstate 5 is the MAIN freeway of the entire West Coast running from the Mexican border in San Diego all the way to the Canadian Border at Blaine, WA. This is kind of a big deal. So moving north from Downtown the I-5 freeway varies from 3-5 lanes on each side right up until you reach the “Salmon Creek Mega Interchange.” Then just as I-5 crosses over I-205 you will notice you are on some God-forsaken 1950s bridge with just two lanes on each side until emerging out the north side with 4 a side again. Really? Come on, all that cash for all those huge ramps and overpasses and no coins left for the old bridge?

6. SR-500 @ I-5 

Again on this one, some kudos are in order. WSDOT finally took the last two stop lights on SR-500 between the interstates out. YAY! There has been a glaring omission on this interchange in two parts, one is a fairly easy, but not inexpensive fix, the other a little more challenging. When traveling westbound on SR-500 the transition to southbound I-5 is fine, pretty solid actually. When traveling northbound on I-5 the transition to SR-500 eastbound is also pretty solid, although auxiliary lanes could be improved. But what happens when you are traveling westbound on SR-500 and you want to go northbound on I-5? Well I’ll tell you what happens, you drive through this ridiculous series of streets and turns and stoplights. What the hell? They could easily put an SR-500 off ramp that dumps northbound traffic directly onto the existing northbound I-5 ramp. The other issue is a bit harder to fix. Travelers on southbound I-5 that want to go east on SR-500 are in for a similar ‘treat’ getting off the freeway and onto city streets, but there really isn’t room for a simple fix here.

5. Interstate 205 @ Mill Plain Boulevard

This is one of those unbelievable interchanges that just keeps sucking tax dollars into the void. It is like owning a yacht, no wait, like owning a vintage yacht, no that’s not it, like owning a vintage fixer-upper yacht! They keep dumping lottery sized piles of cash into this ever evolving interchange and it seems like we still have leak! Every time one of these monster mega-millions projects is completed I always look at it and think for just another million bucks it would have actually worked! WSDOT seems to have a problem understanding the concept of auxiliary lanes for merging traffic. Run them all the way to SR-500 and be done with the 24/7 congestion between the two interchanges. Jeez, it’s not that hard. As for Chaklov and Mill Plain, holy cow, I don’t know what the heck to do there!

4. Padden Parkway @ NE 117th (SR-503)

This is what they should have done from day one on Padden. The Parkway should drop underneath 117th. Both approaches to the intersection begin low and rise up to meet 117th anyway. This way the only traffic stoppage needed for travelers on SR-503 / NE 117th Avenue would be for Padden Parkway off ramps. That ugly morning and evening run between Orchards and Battle Ground would be soooo much better.

3. SR-14 @ I-5

Until they build a new bridge this is what it is, and it sucks. That old 1960s ramp for southbound I-5 with the stupid short merge lane causes a backup even when traffic is light. The northbound I-5 to eastbound SR-14 ramp is also a short exit lane and right off the end of the Interstate bridge. That causes right lane slowdowns on the bridge even in light traffic. The rest of that interchange actually works well.

2. SR-500 @ I-205

About 15 years ago WSDOT did a pretty big project with the conversion of the ridiculous monster intersection at 112th and SR-500. Remember that crazy traffic light! Well during that project they made a few tweaks to the I-205 portion of this but never really finished the job. Those old cloverleaf interchanges just don’t work in a high capacity traffic situation like this interchange. All the crossing lane maneuvers leads to traffic slowdowns and inevitably fender benders. This needs a serious overhaul. Westbound SR-500 should have a flyover ramp to southbound I-205 and the northbound I-205 ramp from SR-500 west should be separated from the ramp at NE 112th. An auxiliary merging lane should be added on both sides of I-205 all the way between the ramps for Mill Plain to SR-500 and again up both sides to Padden Parkway. The auxiliary lanes alone would solve a lot of congestion.

1.  SR-500 – NE 117th Avenue @ Fourth Plain Boulevard

This has to be the king of crap in Vancouver right now. I received a notice from WSDOT that a study was underway to try and resolve the nightmare that is Fourth Plain @ NE 117th. I think the first thing they can do right away is change up the light timing. The west side of this interchange has significantly less traffic than the east side. A little less time for that side would help eliminate the two or three light cycles you have to sit though when trying to get on SR-500 through this intersection coming in from the east. Now the amazing thing about this intersection is the shear enormity of space they have reserved as easement right of way. There is gobs of space to work with here. I think, like my idea on Padden perhaps running Fourth Plain traffic underneath 117th would allow for much less cross traffic delay at the lights. I have even imagined a flyover ramp from westbound Fourth Plain to westbound SR-500. Look at the Google satellite map of this area, look at the size of that easement!

So that’s that and traffic sometimes sucks but it is ALWAYS better than Portland in the ‘Couv’.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; it is good.

 

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Good to be Back in the ‘Couv’

That was a long and hectic trip but it was a great deal of fun too. The wife and I spent a few weeks in the UK about a third of our time was spent with relatives in Aberdeen Scotland. We managed to zip all around Scotland and took a side trip to London. London ended up filling our side trip to the brim so we decided not to do Brussels and Amsterdam this time.

I enjoyed very much seeing the older cities with now ancient buildings that still stand. It should be mentioned that if those buildings had been erected here they would have been long wiped out by earthquake or volcanic eruption. But that is the cool thing about Europe. They don’t get the earthquakes like we have here in the Western US nor the hurricanes and tornadoes of the Eastern and Central US. So those amazing edifices of ancient architects remain intact for all to enjoy.

The Kirk of St. Nicholas, Aberdeen Scotland

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are limited to about 200 years of European influence. We have our fair share of historic places for sure but walking into a church with a 150 foot bell tower that was erected BEFORE the protestant reformation (16th Century) is awe inspiring.

What we lack in architectural history we more than make up for with spectacular natural wonders. The mighty Columbia River Gorge was carved out of glacial ice tens of thousands or years ago, how’s that for history 😉 Our spectacular volcanoes rise abruptly on the skyline and glisten white with snow all year round. We have much to enjoy in and around the ‘Couv’.

I noticed that the central core areas of neighborhoods and towns over there were bustling with activity. The older European cities are largely built up tight and dense and this leads to a busyness that is refreshing. London, like New York however was a bit over done on that whole busy thing. But our Downtown and the new waterfront seems to be moving to a more classic walk-able style with a healthy buzz of activity and more densely built up areas. This is something we seem to be returning to. A bit of old school America which was lost to us largely in the post-war boom of suburbia. This is a welcome change or shall I say reversion, and it is underway now in America’s Vancouver.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; it is good.

I’ll Be Back… next week.

I am still in Europe be back for next week’s issue 🙂 In the mean time check out this article from last year about our GORGEuos neighbor.

Originally posted August 20th, 2018 by Rod Sager

The wife and I took a couple of days and headed east into the amazing Columbia River Gorge last week. You have seen me write about proximity as a benefit to living in the ‘Couv’ as much as the actual city itself. Our close proximity to Portland is one benefit, and sometimes a curse methinks 😉 We were able to drive just 45 minutes along SR-14 and found ourselves in the lovely town of Stevenson and the amazing Skamania Lodge.

Stevenson and most of Skamania County for that matter, seems like it is another state altogether, yet there it is hiding just over yonder. The drive along SR-14 is rather scenic more or less all the way from Downtown Vancouver but really gets delicious as you head east out of Washougal and into the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Cape Horn Viewpoint in Winter

The first landmark is Cape Horn. This view never gets old for me. I feel like I have to pull over and gape into the giant hole in the Cascade Range with the mighty Columbia River pushing its way through. That is a breathtaking vista and if you get too close to the railing it can be another type of breathtaking.

Next up is the massive Beacon Rock. One of planet Earth’s largest basalt monoliths. You can stop at the state park and take a one mile trek up a narrow trail to its summit to soak up a 360° view. Then it is the mighty Bonneville Dam churning out electric power for the whole region and more.

Rolling into Stevenson is like rolling into Mayberry. You feel like Don Knotts is gonna pull you over, lights flashing, not to write you a ticket or anything but just to say hello and, “Haven’t seen you around, Welcome to the Gorge.”

Skamania Lodge

The Skamania Lodge is quite the place. They have a spectacular 18 hole golf course, spa, amazing views of the river and mountains. It is really a fantastic spot and did I mention it’s just a 45 minute drive? I think I did actually.

Skamania County is more than twice the physical size of Clark County, yet it has just about 2% of our population. Yes, you read that right TWO percent. That’s why it seems like you would have to travel a whole lot further than 40 miles to get to a place like this. Yet there it is, right over there.

If you lived in San Francisco, CA you would have to travel nearly 200 miles to find a county with only 10,000 people. Ah, but we don’t live in San Francisco, now do we? From our wonderful locale, we can be at PDX boarding an airplane in ten minutes or so; downtown Portland in 15 minutes… OK a bit longer with traffic of course; and in the amazing Gorge in just a matter of minutes.

Looking into the Gorge from Skamania Lodge

Clark County is bordered to the south by the most densely populated urban county in the Pacific Northwest with its population density of 1900 peeps per square mile and to the east by Skamania County the absolute opposite and one of the least dense counties in Northwest with a mere 6.8 persons per square mile. Wow, on average that’s a about 1 person for every 100 acres! In fairness a huge portion of Skamania County is occupied by Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; it is good. And we have just the right population density at about 740 per square mile.