Friday, April 23, 2021

Coming this summer: A new and improved Mill Plain Boulevard in downtown Vancouver

By Tamara Greenwell 

Travel and safety improvements are coming this summer for people who travel along Mill Plain Boulevard (State Route 501) and East 15th Street between Fort Vancouver Way, just west of Interstate 5, and West 26th Avenue near the Port of Vancouver. With increased growth and development in downtown Vancouver, we're seeing more people than ever using this busy stretch of roadway.

We've worked closely with the City of Vancouver and the Port of Vancouver to develop these improvements and help maximize our existing infrastructure. We thank everyone who provided input during our public engagement efforts for helping to develop these improvements, which will benefit travelers of all abilities for years to come. 
A look at the layout of improvements coming to East Mill Plain Boulevard.

Highlights 
Within downtown Vancouver, improvements will include:
  • Upgraded pedestrian crossing signals, which provide visual and audio cues notifying people when it is safe to cross. These include directional flashing arrows and countdown timers so people know how much time they have to cross the road safely. 
  • New curb ramps that meet current ADA standards. Curb ramps help people of all abilities safely transition from a roadway to a curbed sidewalk and vice versa.
  • Upgraded traffic lights on East Mill Plain Boulevard at Columbia Street, Main Street, and Broadway Street that will allow for better clearance by freight traffic.
  • A new pedestrian-activated rectangular rapid-flashing beacon at the southbound I-5 off ramp to East Mill Plain Boulevard.
The layout of what bicycle improvements are coming to East 15th Street.

Parking-protected bike lanes
To provide improved protection for people riding bikes from people driving cars, bike lanes will move to the curb-side of the parking lanes. Bike lanes will also widen from 4 feet to 5½ feet with a 2-foot buffer. Additionally, to raise drivers' awareness to cyclists along the roadway, bike lanes will be painted green at intersections, as a continuous reminder to drivers of the possibility of the presence of bicyclists as they merge or change lanes.
Tree root damaged the sidewalk along East Mill Plain Boulevard.

A creative solution for removed trees
Other pedestrian improvements include the rebuilding of several sections of sidewalk. Crews working for the City of Vancouver will replace about 30 trees causing damage to the roadway and sidewalks along East Mill Plain Boulevard and East 15th Street with new smaller root system trees. We're working with the city to donate the removed trees to a local non-profit that will recycle the wood and give it new life as locally made goods. 
Mill Plain Boulevard as it currently looks.

Improving freight mobility 
To help improve freight mobility, crews will also reconstruct the intersections of East Mill Plain Boulevard at Washington Street and Main Street. Currently, trucks hauling oversized loads from the Port of Vancouver heading to I-5 often use local city streets to navigate around sections of East Mill Plain Boulevard because of existing high points in the roadway and low-hanging traffic lights, which often result in long loads bottoming out. This work will address these issues, helping to improve travel and safety for all users. 

What to expect during construction 
  • Intersection improvements are scheduled to begin Monday, May 3, and paving work is scheduled to begin on Monday, July 26. 
  • Construction work will require two separate weekend closures; one at East Mill Plain Boulevard and Washington Street and the other at East Mill Plain Boulevard and Main Street, currently scheduled to occur sometime in June. 
  • We are coordinating this construction work in close coordination with the City of Vancouver which also has construction happening downtown. 
To help you know before you go this summer, we encourage you to sign up to receive email updates or text alerts and download our mobile app.