Blaine gets grant money for Hughes Avenue improvements

By Steve Guntli

Blaine is set to receive an influx of cash from the Washington Transportation Improvement Board (TIB).

On November 21, the board announced the recipients of more than $95 million in grants throughout the state. Of that, $3.1 million will go to Whatcom County.

Blaine will receive $750,000 to go towards an intersection reconstruction project at Hughes Avenue. The restHughes_SG-1 of the money for the project, estimated to cost around $1.4 million, will come from federal grants.

Bill Bullock, Blaine’s assistant director of public works, was thrilled to hear that the city had gotten the grant.

“We were all pretty excited when we heard,” he said. “We applied for a number of federal and TIB grants so we could get this project done, and now we can finally do it.”

The project will widen Hughes Avenue and realign the intersection with Peace Portal Drive. Hughes and Peace Portal intersect at a 45-degree angle, which can be a difficult turn for northbound cargo trucks. The new project will move the intersection farther north and give the turn a 75-degree turning radius. The street will also be widened from 20 feet to 30 feet, with 5 feet of paved shoulder on either side.

The city will install 2200 feet of new sidewalk from the Interstate 5 exit to Peace Portal Drive. They will also add some bus stops, which would allow WTA buses to provide transit for the neighborhood.

Bullock estimates that the project will go into the design phase next summer. Once construction begins, the improvements will take approximately four months to complete. Bullock anticipates the project will be complete by June 2017.

The remaining grant money from the TIB will go towards improvements in Bellingham, Everson and Ferndale. Bellingham will receive the largest grant, $1.4 million to complete the roundabout at James Street and Bakerview Road.

Blaine and several other small cities have recently been aggressive about applying for TIB grants. Before 2011, Blaine had only submitted four applications, but have since submitted 16. Other small cities, like Sumas and Everson, have followed a similar pattern. Whatcom County has received larger grants as a result, going from only 1.6 percent of total statewide grants before 2011 to 2.6 percent after.

For more information, visit the TIB’s website at tib.wa.gov.

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