Cityexpresses concern about border crossing plans

Published on Thu, Jan 19, 2006 by eg Olson

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City expresses concern about border crossing plans

By Meg Olson

In the pre-Olympic rush to build a new port of entry, city manager Gary Tomsic is worried Blaine could get left behind.

“The pressure to get the facility part of the project going are going to force them into a half-baked interim road improvements that will end up becoming permanent once the project is done,” he told city council members at their January 9 meeting.

Roads were at the top of the list of city concerns with the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project outlined in a January letter from Tomsic to the General Services Administration (GSA). Tomsic stated that both state and federal highways officials had indicated that despite GSA efforts to keep the facility as far north as possible, “the current concepts still do not meet standards for both the northbound and southbound ramps at exit 276.” Short ramps and unsafe merges could make getting to and from downtown Blaine more difficult. “Degraded access to Blaine is unacceptable,” Tomsic wrote.

Tomsic also outlined city environmental concerns, from how the project will handle increased stormwater runoff to concerns about air quality, noise and glare. “The adjacent receiving waters of Semiahmoo Bay are a major habitat and feeding area for migrating bird populations and other marine life,” he wrote. “Elevated amounts of toxic runoff or related pollutants will adversely affect already stressed marine wildlife.”

The project will impact Blaine’s residential housing supply by taking a 5.3 acre bite out of the residential area to the east of the existing facility. Tomsic said the GSA needed to consider that while today that means eliminating 13 homes, at the 24 units per acre represented by full build-out of the area, it represents a potential loss of over 100 residential units.

To be fair to the 13 families that will be displaced by the proposed expansion, Tomsic said the GSA needs to use current data on house values. “The housing supply and values have changed significantly since 2000,” he wrote.

Tomsic also encouraged GSA designers to stay focused on preserving the park and views of the Peace Arch itself. “The final design should carefully consider the unique aesthetic issues and pedestrian activities associated with this particular location, he wrote. Better pedestrian and non-motorized transportation access to the facility and the park needs to be built into the final design, Tomsic said.

The GSA plans are to finalize design for the facility this year and begin construction in 2007.