Traffic and congestion have increased as the Longview community grows, contributing to safety and emergency response issues at the IWOW intersection. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 75 collisions at the intersection; nearly half of them were rear-end collisions, likely caused by congestion.
Without IWOW, the intersection is expected to become more congested. Traffic incidents are anticipated to increase with more vehicles on the roads, less space to maneuver, and more risk-taking by drivers as they grow frustrated with the congestion.
Completion of IWOW would improve safety and emergency response times by eliminating wait times for trains, adding roadway capacity, and separating rail, vehicular, and bicycle/pedestrian traffic.
Completion of IWOW would close three active, at-grade crossings, eliminating the risk of collisions between trains and vehicles, including those trains and trucks carrying hazardous materials. Some pedestrians and bicyclists also use the at-grade crossings; the completion of IWOW would also mean that traffic is moved to the overcrossing with proper signage and roadway channelization.
By increasing safety and reliability for multiple modes of transportation, IWOW will help support supply chain reliability, reduce costs, and increase local and national business competitiveness. This in turn helps reduce the costs of goods and services for American families.
Eliminating three at-grade rail crossings in this economically crucial corridor will support the long-term economic vitality of Longview, Washington, Cowlitz County, and rural southwest Washington by unlocking longstanding economic potential in a federally designated Opportunity Zone.
The project will enhance freight mobility in a heavily congested freight route and provide better access to a regional employment center located on the banks of the Columbia River, an international trade corridor, that includes the Port of Longview and Weyerhaeuser, and many other employers in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.
IWOW will improve safety and reliability for all who use the intersection – local commuters, emergency services, regional travelers, freight trucks, freight rail, and others.
IWOW will accommodate current and future freight and passenger vehicle traffic throughout Longview and Kelso, and between Oregon and Washington.
By supporting all modes of transportation, IWOW will improve connections for lower income communities and vulnerable populations to job centers in Washington and Oregon.
IWOW will support future economic growth by improving access to existing job centers as well as nearby properties with development potential. This includes privately owned properties as well as those owned by the City of Longview and the Port of Longview.
The construction and completion of IWOW will support more than 1,000 construction jobs and facilitate more than 3,000 new jobs in nearby underutilized industrial areas.
Environment justice and climate
Without IWOW, congestion increases and results in longer travel times, higher commuting costs, and more delays for transit and school buses. These impacts would affect all nearby residents to travel by vehicle as well as people who live outside the project area and travel through the IWOW intersection.
People living near the IWOW intersection are ranked by the EPA in the 88th percentile, where household income is less than or equal to twice the federal poverty level, and 93rd percentile such that household income is at or below 100% of the federal poverty level.
Properties near the IWOW intersection qualify as Historically Disadvantaged Communities in the categories of health, economy, equity, resilience. According to the EPA, this area historically ranks in the 80th to 90th percentile of diesel particulate matter, largely driven by idling trucks.
The IWOW intersection is bordered on three sides by industrial and commercial properties. The northwest quadrant is a distinct and cohesive residential area that includes the Highlands and St. Helens neighborhoods. These neighborhoods largely consist of older, single-family homes on tree-lined streets with extensive pedestrian and bicycle use. The residential area also includes several multifamily units, mobile home parks, and separate, smaller clusters of homes.
The residential area near the IWOW intersection includes concentrations of traditionally underserved populations, including individuals who are low-income, minority, disabled, elderly, youth, transit-dependent and those for whom English is not their primary language.
Completion of IWOW reduces congestion for all nearby residents, decreases emissions due to vehicles idling at the intersection, increases reliability for all moves of transportation, and helps support employment due to reliability of travel and economic opportunity unlocked by improving the intersection. Over the long-term, the IWOW project would substantially benefit the entire community, including environmental justice populations.
The IWOW intersection is one of Washington state's busiest intersections in terms of freight movement by truck. The Port of Longview and other local industrial operations currently move up to 20 million tons of gross truck tonnage each year through the intersection.
More than 20% of the traffic volume that moves through IWOW each day is made up of freight trucks carrying goods to and from the Port of Longview, nearby industrial businesses, and businesses and consumers around the region.
The IWOW intersection supports more than 3,000 vehicles per hour today. That number is projected to grow to nearly 4,500 vehicles per hour by 2040, even without construction of this project.
Around two trains per day currently cross multiple lanes of traffic at the IWOW intersection. That number is projected to double to four trains per day by 2040.
Each time trains operating on the existing at-grade rail crossings pass through the IWOW intersection, they delay traffic more than a minute per vehicle. During the afternoon commute, traffic delays approach capacity limits because a train blocks the roadway for an average of 10 minutes. During that time, backups can reach 3,000 feet long and take 20 minutes or more to clear.
By elevating all roadways over rail crossings, the completion of IWOW eliminates delays caused by train blockages. This saves time and reduces costs for all modes of transportation and reduces emissions from vehicles idling while they wait for trains to clear and traffic lights to turn. Goods and people move more quickly and efficiently, contributing to lower costs for businesses, workers, and families, and better financial and environmental health for the community.
Although rail service would still increase to four trains per day crossing through the intersection, completion of IWOW eliminates impacts from these train crossings on freight trucks, commuters, transit, emergency responders, and other local and regional roadway traffic. Drivers, dispatchers, and businesses would have more predictable conditions to plan trips, and daily traffic becomes more reliable for all who depend on this intersection.
WSDOT performed a cost-benefit analysis in 2021, which shows that completion of the IWOW project would result in:
- An estimated 23.9 million hours of travel time savings, resulting in $76.7 million in cost savings for businesses, workers, and families.
- Increases in employment and economic activity, due to more than 1,000 jobs resulting from design and construction activities.
- An estimated $6.2 million worth of reduction in fuel consumption.
- Fewer collisions due to the grade separation, saving $7 million in human health and property damage and lost time.
- More reliable emergency response times and travel times.
- Increased quality of life due to better bicycle-pedestrian and multimodal access.
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