County council pledges progress on roads
Residents in Birch Bay may see some relief to traffic congestion on Birch Bay Drive and Lincoln Road as soon as 2008.
The Whatcom County Council voted unanimously this past Tuesday to approve the Whatcom County Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program for the years 2006 through 2012.
“We wish it could be this year, but the preliminary engineering takes a certain amount of time,” said Doralee Booth, co-chair of the Birch Bay transportation and public safety implementation committee, part of the Birch Bay Steering Committee.
County officials say the plan will improve Lincoln Road and extend it past Harbor View Drive to connect to Blaine Road, a project long advocated by citizen groups as a viable way to reduce traffic on Birch Bay Drive. The Lincoln Road construction had been mentioned on the county’s six-year road plan since 1993 and was planned for construction in 1998 but it never received funding.
“If the community hadn’t said time out, this may never have happened,” Booth said. “This time we decided to advocate and push for what the county has signed onto in the comprehensive plan. And we’re really pleased.”
Still, the council left unanswered the issue of Drayton Harbor Road that was washed out during winter storms of 2004.
Booth said she wished the council would have addressed the proposed construction of the Birch Point connector road, an 80 foot wide right of way connecting Birch Bay Drive with Lincoln Road for which developer Fred Bovenkamp has offered to pay for engineering and part of the construction costs.
“It’s a road that’s catching up from lack of planning from when they built Birch Bay Village. Commuters from the village need a way out of Birch Bay and Birch Bay Drive was never the answer.”
That particular section of Birch Bay Drive curves around the bay and past Birch Bay Village, a 644-acre subdivision with 950 homes. The speed limit of that section changes from 35 in the winter months to 20 in the summer because of heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
“It’s a very conflicted roadway because there’s so many things going on,” Booth said. “We have young children, rollerskaters, people walking. We would like to see the automobile take second place to the recreational activities on Birch Bay Drive.”
Until recently, drivers – often residents commuting to work – would often pass other drivers who obeyed the speed limit, she said. This past spring, the committee convinced the county to paint double lines in an effort to “calm” traffic.
“People were just getting frustrated and passing each other and it was very dangerous because of the recreational activities on Birch Bay Drive,” she said. “It was a safety factor. Now people are going 20 and there’s a long line of people behind them but they’re going 20, too!”
member Sharon Roy, a resident of Birch Bay, said
since the transportation plan was
written in 1993, Birch Bay has
nearly doubled. One recent traffic study she cited
found local commuters on Birch Bay Drive
drove an average of 3,400 trips per day combined.
“The issue is getting the traffic up off the shoreline,” she said. “It isn’t just to get a nicer road.”
The situation is also expected to get worse with hundreds of new homes planned around the bay and at the end of Birch Bay-Lynden Road.
“The issue out there is close to crisis,” Roy said. “We’re going to have to think outside the box real soon.”