WSDOT, Blaine roadway project bears unique design

Published on Thu, Apr 24, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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WSDOT, Blaine roadway project bears unique design

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Washington state department of transportation (WSDOT) representatives recently visited Blaine city council to share its design scheme for the future truck crossing and border enhancement project, scheduled to start later this year.

�Obviously there is a problem with trucks backing up,� said Larry Scolten, a Bellingham-based designer and liaison. �This is designed to alleviate that.�

The proposed project includes improvements to state route 543 that are designed to increase the traffic capacity by adding two northbound lanes and one southbound lane, separate cars and trucks, improve traffic flow, and reduce potential for collisions at the Boblett and D street intersections.

Scolten, and state architect Alex Yun, stated SR 543 at D Street will become a left-off, left-on interchange. SR 543 will be lowered about 25 feet to pass under D Street. D Street itself will remain unchanged. Southbound SR 543 will be widened to accommodate two lanes north of Boblett Street, and the northbound lanes will be widened to accommodate two lanes north of Boblett street and three lanes north of H Street. Trucks will be assigned the outside lane, and general traffic will drive in the center and inside lanes.

Yun said the project will make traffic flow easier, but the project overall incorporates a one of a kind design scheme. �This has never been done before in the state of Washington. This is entirely unique to Blaine,� he said.

Yun pointed out that the intersection of D Street and SR 543 would look similar to the side of a building, including ivy plants. �We�ve never done anything like this before and I�m very excited about doing it,� he said.

WSDOT incorporated Blaine�s city design scheme guidelines to create this concept, and Terry Galvin, Blaine�s community development director, said he was very pleased with the result.

�I�ve never thrown out a concept and gotten this response,� said Galvin. �This really is an award-winning design.�

Steve Banham, Blaine public works director, said that with this kind of look, the maintenance will be minimal, and graffiti will likely be less of a concern.

�We�re hoping with this kind of look, there won�t be any graffiti,� he said. �And I echo what Terry (Galvin) said. This is spectacular.�

Project work began in 1990s
According to Jack Bartman, assistant project engineer, WSDOT has been working on this project since the mid 1990s, and is primarily focused on dealing with the congestion and safety.

The current SR 543 border crossing vicinity experiences heavy congestion, he said, resulting in long delays at the U.S./Canadian border. The traffic backups, due to waits for Canadian clearance, can extend all the way down the mile-long road, causing operational and safety problems at D and Boblett streets.

The project was scheduled to begin last year, however it has been moved up to later this year. According to WSDOT�s website, the completion date is now slated for 2008, five years from now. However, Bartman said that WSDOT is planning to start construction next February, and finish about 20 months later.

�We would do construction for two summers,� he said. �There are some things you can do in the winter, but most in the summer.�

Funding still needed
The project, however, will not start until WSDOT and the federal government come up with $27 million, the estimated construction costs.

WSDOT itself will need an additional $2 million to purchase acreage and homes near the crossing. Bartman did not know the amount of acreage needed, nor if communication was under way with affected property owners.

Whenever the project begins though, it has the backing of several city officials. �I personally like it,� council member Ken Ely said of the design scheme. �I say go ahead.�

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