Tripling of traffic forecast by Birch Bay planner

Published on Thu, Oct 25, 2001 by Jack Kintner

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Tripling of traffic forecast by
Birch Bay planner

By Jack Kintner

“Transportation is the supporting element of this plan,” said consultant Mart Kask at last week’s meeting of the Birch Bay community plan steering committee at Bay Horizon Park. Kask predicts a tripling of traffic volume in the next two decades to serve a projected population of 11,500 or more in Birch Bay, and since the steering committee wants to keep traffic away from Birch Bay Drive as much as possible, that means new roads.

Kask and consultant Pat Milliken introduced the first draft of a general land use plan for Birch Bay to the steering committee at their October 17 meeting, focussing on the transportation component of the plan.

“Birch Bay is the fastest growing area in Whatcom County, but I’ve been conservative about the predicted population increases,” said Kask when asked about his figures by Mike Ross, a new member of the steering committee representing the Terrell Creek neighborhood. In June the steering committee had adopted a working population projection of 11,500 in 20 years, but Kask said that “based on the rates of growth it could be closer to 15,000, based on some formulas, but we have used the lower figure.”

The 16-page draft included several maps of the Birch Bay area highlighting proposed land uses, the availability of utilities to support projected growth and traffic volumes on main arterials. The plan projects that on some roads, such as Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Harborview Road, traffic will triple in volume in the next 20 years if three major planned residential developments become a reality. Two Trillium projects and a concentration of multi-family housing around projected commercial development at Alderson and Blaine Roads have been proposed. Though currently adequate, the present road structure is not able to handle this increase, Kask said.

As a solution, the plan suggests widening four roads (Blaine, Grandview, Lincoln and Birch Bay-Lynden), connecting the segments of Lincoln between Shintaffer and Portal Way and adding three new arterials. One would run straight west from Blaine Road to Birch Bay Drive and the other would carry traffic southwest and then west from the Shintaffer Road-Lincoln Road intersection toward Birch Point, connecting with a north-south road between Birch Point Road and Semiahmoo Parkway. These proposals were made to avoid widening either Harborview or Birch Bay Drive and yet still serve projected traffic volumes.

Bill Grant of Gold Star Resorts handed out his own map and suggested modifications to the draft plan for the area to serve his proposed “eco-tourism theme park” of several hundred acres near the intersection of Blaine and Alderson roads. Grant projected annual attendance of a million visitors generating $40 million annually in tourist revenue. He also said that instead of new roads, some of which are environmentally unwise, Birch Bay-Lynden Road should be widened and improved sufficiently to become “Birch Bay’s front door.”

Steering committee chair Meg Grable reminded those present that if they wished to bring questions to the next meeting, set for November 1, they should consult with their neighborhoods and bring a written presentation as Grant had done. The November 1 steering committee meeting will conclude the discussion of land use, transportation and utilities, and a series of neighborhood meetings later in the month will begin discussion of governance, economic development and shorelines.

Kask and Milliken hope to have a comprehensive plan ready for county review by January 2002.
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