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.