This weekend is Memorial Day: Rain or Shine?

The harbinger of summer across the fruited plain, Memorial Day weekend, is coming up. It is this weekend that has been set aside to honor those fallen on the field of battle in defense of our nation. But the weekend has also become the defacto start of summer for most areas in the country. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s always a bit premature for celebrations of summer in month that doesn’t start with a “J”. In fact we generally need an extra month that starts with a “J” to really know it’s summer.

The Memorial Day weekend query of, “Rain or Shine” is always on the minds of many who seek an outdoor experience such as camping, boating, or hiking. According to professional climate sources, America’s Vancouver has about a 50/50 chance on average, Memorial Day will be clear or mostly clear. Hmm that’s not so bad. There is on average about a 30% chance of showers or rain. Again, the odds favor us.

So dust off that grill, and get ready for the Harbinger of Summ…. erh, uh, the Harbinger of the last month of spring 😉 The end of May has arrived and with it, average high temperatures approaching 70.°  I dusted my BBQ off yesterday under a beautiful sunshiny blue sky and a temp just shy of 70° and grilled up a steak.

This year, Memorial Day is the 28th of May, precisely one week from today. Over the years I have kept records, now in year 17 at this location, my average temps for May 28th are 49 L and 69 H. Not bad, right? Last year was a toasty 83° with the whole three-day weekend in the eighties. I don’t expect a repeat of that performance this year. The coldest May 28th I have on record was back in 2010, when the high temperature was a cool 52° and some showers rolled through. It’s been above sixty every May 28th since! The last three May 28th days were in the eighties. Will this one be the fourth? I’m thinking we will land about average this go round, with a nice 70° day to relax and get ready for the Rose Festival Low to settle in.

The National Weather Service in Portland is figuring some ‘chance’ of showers is in play on each of the three days of the weekend. That is a bit of ‘Captain Obvious’ moment, if it isn’t July or August, is there not always that chance of a random shower?

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; rain or shine, it is good.

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Hey WSDOT! Auxillary Lanes Please!

It never ceases to amaze me how piece-meal the government construction system is. They spend $60-$80 million building a fantastic interchange and then cut a million or two out of the budget say for an appropriate auxiliary lane to serve said interchange, and the whole thing still kind of sucks because the problem they solved just got pushed further down the road.

Why can’t government build a $82 million dollar improvement that works, rather than a $80 million dollar improvement that doesn’t? Now I give them a pass on I-5 at the Interstate Bridge, that old bridge is over a century old, and building a new one is a major expense that runs in the billions rather than millions, so I get it. But what of I-205 say at Mill Plain Blvd?

Over the last 15 years I have watched DOT put in some impressive improvements including the 112th/Gher interchange with SR-500 and this maze of new ramps and improvements to I-205 at Mill Plain. But one thing that seems to get cut out is auxiliary lanes to service these interchanges. Case in point, I-205 from Mill Plain to SR-500.

picture of highway
Aux lane proposal

The right side of I-205 northbound is almost always congested approaching SR-500 because motorists are merging in and out through that new maze at Mill Plain and a large percentage of motorist on 205 are moving to the right to exit at SR-500. There is a bridge over Burton Road, but it is wide enough to re-stripe an auxiliary lane across and short enough to not need an emergency parking lane. (That saves money not needing a bridge widening) So why not connect the on ramp auxiliary lane to the exit auxiliary lane all the way between the new Mill Plain interchange and SR-500? That would clean up the mess and we are talking about maybe $2 million tops to do it.

The same thing can be said about southbound. There is almost always a mess with cars crisscrossing between in the right lane between SR-500 and the new Mill Plain ramp. auxiliary lane please! That one would have added a percent or two to the budget, yet it was omitted. It’s only a half mile!

They have 2/3 of the needed auxiliary lane on the northbound side already done, just about eight-tenths of a mile remains. Come on, do it right already!

picture of highway
Aux lane off the new Mill Plain-18th interchange on I-205
highway picture
I-205 bridge over Burton Road, No aux lane.
highway picture
Aux lane on I-205 for exit 30 at SR-500

Don’t even get me started on the SR-500 / I-205 clover leaf mess. Some of those clever new ramps like Mill Plain has, should be used on the westbound SR-500 as you approach the I-205 interchange. That crazy crisscrossing mess of multiple merges over a 1/2 mile is nuts!

highway interchange picture
SR-500 at I-205 interchange

Yes, Clark County and Vancouver have much better highway improvements and traffic flow than our neighbor to the south, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be better. It is frustrating to have a project with an enormous budget of say $60-$80 million and for just a couple of million more it works perfectly but some bean counting bastard in Olympia or Washington DC decides to spend 97% of the budget to achieve 75% efficiency, when 100% of budget would give us 99% efficiency.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life it is good, but government is still government 🙂

 

Coming Home is Sweet

Sometimes we who call the ‘Couv’ home must leave. Perhaps a vacation, family reunion, or even a business trip, the likes of which I had this past weekend.

Off I went up in the air over the Original Vancouver. Again on one of my weekend business trips to the Bay Area.

Trips to California always manage to reinforce my beliefs that we are truly blessed here in Vancouver USA. Blessed with spectacular scenery, mild weather if not just a tad drippy, and a smaller metro footprint than places like Seattle and San Francisco.

Flying in and out of the area gives you a sense of perspective. Portland, that famously weird neighbor on our southern border, is a major American city. Once you get up a few thousand feet, you realize that it and the whole Portland-Vancouver Metro Area is really not that big. One only need to zip up to Seattle to see that comparison. But trips to the Bay Area or Los Angeles really shine the light on just how much smaller metro areas like ours are from America’s largest.

I like our compact metro. I like being able to get to the airport is 15 minutes. I like being able to take a country drive without taking half a day just to find the “country”. Yes my friends, we have it quite good here in Vancouver, Washington. We are lush and green nearly all but 6 weeks of the year and we can see majestic snow-capped mountains regardless of season. Think about it, most of California has two seasons, wet and dry. We really do have four and none of them are severe. I see it every few months when I fly south. In the spring I see all the landscape covered in flowers and fresh buds. In the summer it is warm and sunny, in the fall the trees light up in brilliant color all over the city and the mountains. The winter rarely gets real cold, but it is chilly and the mountains are thick with snow.

We get just enough hot days to remind us it’s summer, just a little snow to remind us it’s winter and a spring and fall that are as gorgeous as anywhere on Earth.

Here in the our city we are big enough to have all the city stuff you need, but not so big to have all the city stuff you hate. But when we need something only a “major” city has, we got one of those literally right across the river.

One thing never fails, when I’m leaving town, I am a little sad, when I get back I’m always happy to be back.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; it is good.